African Americans: 5 Toxic Ways of Thinking that are Destroying your Mental Health.




( The way we think is mainly based on our life experiences, and more importantly, how we interpret those events. In other words, it’s not what happens that leads us to a certain way of thinking, it’s how we view the situation at hand.

For example, if I were to get fired from my job, which led to me doubting my own intelligence, it isn’t the fact that I got fired which made me think this way. It’s more so the way I view being fired. Such as I must be stupid because I got fired.

Someone else could have the exact same experience and have a completely different thought; they might see being fired as a sign that this particular job just isn’t a good fit and conclude that it says nothing about them as a person.

There are many damaging ways a person can think. Below are some of the most common negative thinking patterns:

  1. Mind-reading—Mind-reading is when we think we know what someone is thinking. Most of the time, mind-reading leads to misunderstandings because our assumptions are usually wrong, yet we are sure that they are correct. We tend to only understand things from our own biased point of view and think everyone else sees things the same way we do.

This thinking style is especially damaging because our imagination often gets the best of us. And to add insult to injury, we don’t realize that it is our imagination which is causing us to see things the way we do when we mind-read. 

Example: “my husband is being quiet because he’s mad at me.” While this may be true, it could also mean that he had a bad day at work or that nothing is wrong at all and he’s relaxing.

  1. Black-or-white thinking– This is a “this-or-that,” “black-or-white” with no grey area thinking style. This type of thinking can lead to a lot of misunderstandings and disagreements because there is no middle ground or compromise; it’s just one or the other. It’s basically thinking that things can only be one way—the way that you believe it to be. It tends to lead to a “either you’re with me or against me” mentality which completely ignores all other variables and explanations in the situation. This style of thinking is extremely distorted and can lead to unnecessary stress.
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Example: Believing either your success or a failure, as if life doesn’t have its ups and downs. Thinking in this way can be very damaging to your self-esteem. When you’re down and beating yourself up or going through tough times, it’s easy to only pay attention to the things that confirm your negative feelings about the situation. Circumstances are rarely black-or-white. Virtually every situation has several variables. So it’s in your best interest to look the situation in its entirety rather than in a black-or-white this-or-that way.

  1. Control fallacies– Basically, a control fallacy is having an unrealistic expectation of control over various things in your life.  No doubt, some things in life you have (or had) control over. Like your behavior, for instance. Or the people you choose to spend your time with. But there are many things that you don’t have control over, and most people spend an unnecessary amount of time worrying about things that they have no power to change.

Example: Believing that you some can do something about situations that are out of your control, such as the way people think about you, or believing that everything that happens to you is your fault. It is also a control fallacy to believe nothing that happens to you is ever your fault.

  1. Emotional reasoning– This is the if I believe it’s true, then it must be true type of thoughts. Or that I feel like you’re a liar, so you are a liar, or feeling like your emotions trump logic– this is especially true in situations where there is an objective answer or solution.
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Don’t get me wrong, sometimes emotions do trump logic in situations such as understanding your spouse’s feelings about you forgetting your marriage anniversary, or understanding someone’s choice to pursue their dream career over a stable job. But emotional reasoning can really become a problem if you let emotions be the main factor in your decision making.

Example: Being suspicious of your spouse having an affair despite no legitimate reason to suspect it. In other words, being certain that a hunch without sufficient evidence is proof of something happening.

  1. Over-personalization– you make things personal when they aren’t. You think that everything that people do or say is a reaction to you or because of you. Truthfully, nothing that others do is because of you. People behave in the way that they do because of their own interpretation of reality. That is to say, people base their thoughts and reactions off of things that are happening (or have happened) in their life, which has very little to do with you on a personal level.

So next time you notice that your coworker has a little attitude, don’t be so quick to think it’s because you’re annoying or have somehow done something to offend her. Remember, chances are it’s something going on in her personal life–whether it be in her past or present–that causes her to act that way. What people do to you always says more about them than it does about you!

Example: Assuming that your friend, who has seemed distant for the past few weeks, is mad at you, yet you’ve done nothing to cause that friend to be upset. It’s true, indeed, that that friend could be upset with you. But most of the time the things people do and say have little to do with us, we just somehow convince ourselves that other people’s actions our because of us.

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There are many ways to deal without these types of thoughts. For starters, work on locating the source of the thinking error, then look for evidence that contradicts the thought. For instance, you may think in black-or-white ways when your friend doesn’t answer your phone call and say that they’re “acting funny” just because they didn’t answer. Although that may be true, it’s still a black-or-white style of thinking because it doesn’t consider the reasons as to why they didn’t answer. Maybe they were sleeping, or at work, or otherwise unavailable at the moment, but you just went against the grain and assumed they were intentionally shady, without considering the potential grey area of the situation. Thinking errors always contain a negative bias, as it’s much easier to think in negative ways than it is to really dig deep and analyze the situation and find more realistic, alternative explanations for the negative thoughts.

Staff Writer; Aaren Snyder

Also may connect with this brother over at; TheMentalHealthMatters.