Do you find yourself wondering what others think of you and feeling anxious? Or worse, feeling that you ‘know’ what they’re thinking, and it’s negative? If you answered yes, to either of these, you are engaging in a cognitive distortion called mind reading.
Mind reading is a big one for anxiety, particularly social anxiety. We see someone with a scowl on their face and assume that scowl is because of us. Or the boss seems distracted during a presentation and we assume he’s bored. Someone doesn’t text us when expected and we assume they are uninterested.
The reality is that even the best psychic may sometimes be wrong and, let’s face it, this isn’t usually a psychic thing we’re doing. It’s more that we are making assumptions based on what’s in our subconscious.
To shift this one, you’ll first need to catch that you are doing it. So the next time you feel anxious with another person, notice what thoughts you are thinking and pick out which ones are assumptions about what the other person might be thinking. Then, use ‘it’s possible’ statements to force your brain to also think of the positive possibilities of what is going on in that person’s head.
For example, your boss is zoning out with your presentation and you recognize that you are assuming that he thinks you are boring. Now, stop and think of the positive possibilities of what could be in his head. It’s possible he had a rough night and didn’t sleep. It’s possible something you said sparked an idea that he’s thinking about. It’s possible you’re doing such a good job that he doesn’t have to listen too closely to get the main points.
Another example, someone doesn’t wave to you on the street and you start feeling badly about yourself – think it’s possible they have a big issue going on at home and they are caught up thinking about it, it’s possible they didn’t see me. It’s possible they are slow and will remember they know me a second after I pass.
Thinking of the positive possibilities works because the reality is that we don’t know. So why not use this week to force your brain in the direction that would feel better, the positive possibilities?
If you’d like to know more about how you react to difficult situations and get a free recording and tips to empower you to shift the way you feel, take my Free Quiz
Alicia Ruelaz Maher, M.D.