Depression 7 Jumping to Conclusions
How to deal with the Cognitive Distortion of “Jumping to Conclusions”
Do you “Jump to Conclusions?”
I’ve been guilty of “Jumping to Conclusions” many times in the past. This “Cognitive Distortion” has caused me more grief, anxiety and depression than perhaps any other.
I “Jump to Conclusions” whenever I “Mindread,” or “Fortune-Tell.” “Mindreading” happens when I convince myself that I know what you’re thinking about: essentially, I believe you’re thinking bad things about me. It arises from an over-inflated sense of self. As one wise person once said to me: “Mike, I know that you believe that others are thinking bad things about you, but you’d be surprised at how little they actually think about you at all.”
Funny guy . He was right, though.
“Fortune-Telling” happens when I arbitrarily predict that the future is going to be bad. It’s a form of playing God, and it’s a misappropriation of a natural human instinct. As humans, we’re programmed to survive. Because of this, it’s natural to plan against unfavourable future outcomes, to be prepared for all contingencies, to “worry” a bit about the future.
But this instinct needs to be counter-balanced with a certain degree of optimism. We need to “hope for the best, yet be prepared for the worst.” And to that I would add, we also need to “act as if” everything is going to work out perfectly.
Who Am I?
My name is Mike MacKinnon, and I’m a personal trainer in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada. I serve the Greater Toronto area and beyond, offering 1-on-1 personal training, as well as online training programs. I’m also a life coach and weight loss coach, offering both face-to-face coaching, as well as distance coaching via phone or Skype.
Mindreading, Fortune-Telling, and Anxiety/Depression
It’s easy to see that both “Mindreading” and “Fortune-Telling” are negative states of mind that, if left unchecked, can easily lead to increased levels of anxiety and/or depression. So, what can we do about them?
For “Mindreading,” consider using “The Survey Method.” Simply ask people questions about their thinking to see if your assumptions are correct. If you’d rather not directly ask the person whom you believe is thinking bad things about you, then ask someone else who knows both you and them. See if a neutral third party agrees with your analysis. Often you’ll find they don’t.
For “Fortune-Telling,” consider “Examining the Evidence.” Fortune-telling is usually something we do repeatedly. It’s a bad habit, a pattern, that we seem to fall in to. Simply look back over your history and reflect on the number of times you assumed things were going to turn out poorly. Then ask yourself how often things turned out the way you had assumed they would.
We usually discover that it’s not nearly as often as we think that things turn out “bad.” And, if we’re honest and reflect further on the few instances where things didn’t go well, we usually realize they didn’t turn out as poorly as we had thought they would.
Based on evidence from our past, then, we can assign a probability to the likelihood that what we’re currently worrying about will in fact not work out. That probability, if we’re completely honest, is usually quite low.
Pessimism versus Optimism
For we who struggle with depression and anxiety, it’s hard at times to not be pessimistic. Sometimes we just “give in” to the negative thinking, because it’s “too much effort” to try and overcome it. We just seem to be programmed to think that way, and it’s too much of a fight to try and think otherwise.
When we’re riddled with anxiety about a future we believe is going to be bad, or when we’re depressed because we believe that “they” don’t like us, it’s hard to be positive.
It’s at times like this that we may feel like “It’s just not worth” taking out our toolkit of solutions and objectively analyze our thinking. Yet it’s at times like this that we need to do just that.
It’s like the Nike slogan: “Just do it.” I had a football coach who used to say “Don’t think! React!” For the game of football that’s key. It also might be good advice here, with one small change: “Don’t think! Act!” The minute I find myself either “Fortune-Telling” or “Mindreading,” I might want to bypass any further thinking and just pull my toolkit of solutions out and apply one to the situation.
What’s in my toolkit? “The Survey Method.” “Examining the Evidence.” Don’t think about it, just do it.
Take Positive, Constructive Action
You’ll hear me say these 2 things a few more times before this blog series on depression is complete. I’m going to capitalize and block it here, because I want you to remember it:
YOU WILL NEVER THINK YOURSELF IN TO RIGHT ACTING, BUT YOU CAN ACT YOURSELF IN TO RIGHT THINKING. (i.e. “Don’t think: Act!”).
YOU WILL NEVER SOLVE A PROBLEM USING THE SAME MIND THAT CREATED IT. (Again, cease thinking, and just follow directions, which are the tools listed above).
“But I Don’t Know How to do This Stuff!”
That’s ok. Maybe you need a coach to help. That’s where I come in. I’m a life coach, remember, and can help you work through – and overcome – negative thinking. I can help you to see patterns and trends that maybe you can’t. Having an objective outside observer in your corner may just be the thing you need.
You might be surprised at what a second pair of ears and eyes can do to help you learn more about yourself!