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- By A.J. Paris
Christian self-help identifies common thinking errors and how they hold us back.
Distorted thinking happens every day in various ways in many different circumstances. Distorted thinking in an inaccurate or skewed view of a person, place, thing, or circumstance. More commonly known as thinking errors, it is born within the mind, often because others have planted the seeds of misguided thinking. For example: Some might think it perfectly all right to take from those who have more than they do. They justify their actions by telling themselves either that they won’t miss what’s stolen because they have so much, or that they deserve to have it taken because they are so well off but unwilling to give.
Then there are those who are well off and believe that because they were smart enough to earn or at least nurture their fortunes, others ought to earn theirs, as well, and stop looking for hand-outs.
While neither are exactly right, they both feel that their thinking is absolutely valid. Both the well-off and the needy learned their opinions from their families and had them reinforced by their community. Or, they have learned their distorted thinking from their own distorted feelings.
There are several kinds of distorted thinking. This is not an exhaustive list, but rather a brief summary to plant new seeds of thought.
Extreme Thinking is more or less all-or-nothing thinking. There is no middle ground. “My life is a mess; I just can’t do it anymore.” Many people who are extreme thinkers turn to substance abuse and/or battle depression.
Over-generalization is putting things, people, or situations into categories. “All white people are . . .” “This always happens . . .” Over-generalizers have a tendency to be closed-minded or “doomsday thinkers.”
Personalization is making everything about one’s self. Personalizers often become isolated and/or paranoid when the world fails to acknowledge that they dwell at its center.
Magnification and Minimization is making situations either big or small, depending on one’s view or the need for others to view things the same way. These thinkers are rarely accurate in their assessment of any given situation, which too often results in over-reaching.
Jumping to Conclusions is unlike magnifying and minimizing. Conclusion jumpers are unable to accurately define a situation or person(s) because they focus on deciding what they think before making the effort to gather all the information. Thus, they tend to act on what they think rather than what is true.
Concrete Thinking is that “You can’t tell me anything” attitude. Concrete thinkers are unable to hear new ideas or see other’s perspectives. They are stuck in a viewpoint that may no longer serve them.
Actor vs. Observer Bias is never bothering to look at one’s own actions or the part that they have played in any given situation. These thinkers only look at the results of others, and judge them without ever taking responsibility.
Closed Thinking is being unable to submit to anyone else. Closed thinkers are often bad employees because they are unable to take direction, and have difficulty with the give-and-take of successful relationships.
Emotional Reasoning has many of the other thinking errors intertwined. Emotional reasoners live with their emotions “on their sleeves.” They tend to react to how they feel without bothering to consider the facts or the consequences of their actions.
There are kinds of thinking that we have not considered, yet they are all inter-related. Many men of the Bible have taken detours from what God had planned because of distorted thinking. They have suffered with depression, feeling hopeless and helpless. Many have let anger and sorrow detour them from God’s best.
Every one of these thinking errors has appeared in each of us at one time or another. How do we stop them? We probably never will completely, but we can take control, and be more aware of when they do influence our perceptions and behaviors.
First, understand what a thinking error is.
Second, realize that you do have them, that you are not in denial.
Third, when thinking errors come, acknowledge them, then correct them.
Fourth, do not grow weary in doing this, for good things come to those who wait. As you fight the good fight, remember that practice makes perfect.
Fifth, pray for wisdom and understanding. Ask God to open the eyes of your heart so that you can receive His guidance.
Sixth, be thankful. Always be thankful for what you are doing, what you are facing, and what you are learning from the situation.
The more you cast down those thoughts that you know are thinking errors, the easier it will become. You will start to see patterns in your thinking that can now be corrected.
Always remember that when you ask God to open the eyes of your understanding, He will. You might not always like what you see, but with His help, you can begin to see your way to greater command of your world.
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