by Lea Sicat Reyes

Last issue, we talked about some of the so-called “thinking traps” that stop us from successfully rebounding from painful experiences or challenging situations. Let’s continue this discussion by discussing the next five.

Taking Things Personally

My aunt who works in the States as a nurse gave me a concrete example. In her work place (in New York where dreams are made), her co-workers are as frank as they come. If they have issues with your work, they’ll tell you straight up. When they leave after their shift, they’ll bid you a heartfelt goodbye as if nothing happened. They seem to live out the maxim “Trabaho lang, walang personalan.” Now I’m not saying that being personal is necessarily bad but if you take each and every thing too personally, it becomes a thinking trap. Let’s say your superior says you need to improve on a certain aspect of your work, you take it against him/her and say you’re being singled out. Here’s another example. You hear a not-so-good comment about yourself or a loved one. Instead of shaking it off (because most of the time, it’s flat out not true), all hell breaks loose. It’s sugod na mga kapatid with rational thinking obliterated to smithereens.

Wishful Thinking

Man seems to be an insatiable being. I wish I were taller, thinner, prettier, smarter, stronger, richer…and it goes on and on. Chronic dissatisfaction will keep you feeling lost, frustrated, and disappointed. You’ll never reach what Abraham Maslow calls “Self-Actualization.” You’ll feel like you’re missing out, that you’ll never amount to anything because someone else will be something more than you. This thinking trap will consume your resources until there’s nothing left. Think about keeping up with your neighbors. Better yet, up them even if you lack. They’ve got a 40 inch TV. I’ve got to get a 60 inch. They just repainted their house. I’m going to have a full blown renovation. Wishful thinking is a bottomless pit. You’ll never feel satisfied with anything. Nothing and no one will be enough.

Mental Filter

Mental Filter happens to a person who is at the receiving end of the following statements: “You only listen to what you want to” or “You’ve taken me out of context.” Mental filter happens when you focus on one part of the statement just to feed your pre-conceived notions. For example, your superior tells you, “You need to present the receipts so that everything will be transparent.” You stopped with “present the receipts.” Your superior is basically telling you cannot be trusted; that you’re a thief and a liar. The truth is, your superior is just telling you to be transparent with your financial reports which is SOP pretty much everywhere.

Discounting the Positive

The glass is always half-empty. Why stop at half? It’ll always be empty. People who think this way are the bane of the conversations. They always find the smallest red dot on a huge, immaculately clean paper. They are the eternal perfectionists and when something doesn’t fall according to plan, a major meltdown ensues. Change will always be an imminent threat.

In the next issue, we’ll talk about how to effectively counter these thinking traps. Here’s what we can do until then. Let’s keep tabs about our thinking patterns. What traps are we most susceptible to? Recognizing our susceptibility is half the battle.

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