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Mind reading. 

Dr Elizma van der Smit. May 2019

· Mind

This type of thinker may assume the role of psychic and may think he or she knows what someone else thinks or feels.Even though they haven't told you and you didn't even ask.

We know that certain behaviors, words, and reactions can give us clues about what someone is thinking. For instance, when we tell someone something and his/her jaw drops, we automatically assume the other person is surprised. This is a kind of mind reading that is helpful in interpersonal encounters, and not an example of a cognitive distortion. However, when used too much, or without much evidence to go on, mind reading can be problematic.

This is really just bad guessing. This is when you decide in your mind what other people must be thinking, without checking the facts, and then you act on that (quite probably incorrect) assumption.

Examples of mind-reading statements include:

  • “My boss hates me.”
  • “My colleagues don’t respect me as the group leader.”
  • "He must have thought I was stupid at the meeting," 
  • Suppose a friend passes you on the street and fails to say hello, because he doesn't notice you. You might erroneously conclude, "He is ignoring me so he must not like me anymore".
  • Or perhaps your spouse is unresponsive one evening because he or she was criticized at work and is still too upset to want to talk about it. Your heart sinks because of the way you interpret the silence. "He (or she) is angry with me. What did I do wrong?"

These negative thoughts can become so pervasive that they cripple your interpersonal relationships and professional life. Mind-reading, when unstopped, can lead to isolation because you have concluded that no one is ever going to be kind to you. The reality is, you simply cannot know what other people are thinking without you them telling you.

By collecting the evidence for and against our mind reading, you can determine which side has more evidence, and more importantly, consider the quality of the evidence you have.

What should I do?

  • First, identify what exactly it is you predict the other person is thinking. Sometimes just writing down or saying the prediction out loud can help you see the holes in logic and get you a little distance from the unhelpful thought.
  • What are the costs and benefits of believing this thought? Although we usually don’t think about thoughts in terms of their costs and benefits, they all have costs and benefits. With mind reading, you may think that you are protecting yourself from some bad outcome, or some kind of a surprise. These would be benefits. Costs are things like increased anxiety, more self-consciousness, and ruminating. Now compare the potential benefits to the actual costs, and ask yourself, “Would you want to buy these thoughts given their price?”
  • Examine evidence for and against your mind reading. What is the quality of the evidence that supports your mind reading?
  • Use the STOPP technique(https://success-achiever.com/stop-mind-reading/)

STOPP is the cognitive-behavioural therapy in a nutshell. Learn this one SKILL and you can start to take control of your emotions and your life. There are five stages you go through while working with mind-reading

STOP. In other words, just stop for a moment. No assuming, reasoning or anything else, just discontinue your thinking.

Take a Breath. Breathing is a great tool to fight anxious thoughts because you focus on your body and the present instead of generating negativity. Take five breaths. Inhale each of them for seconds, then hold your breath for the same amount of time and then exhale, again for 15 seconds. After the fifth breath, your mind will calm down

Observe. Now time has come to notice your thoughts, focus of attention and reactions. It will be also easier for you to recognize your sensations in your body.

Pull Back. Now you can try to find a different perspective of your mind reading. Here are some questions which you can ask:

What thoughts are going through your mind right now?

· Where is your focus of attention?

· What sensations do you notice in your body?

· What is the worst thing that can happen if they think of me this way?

· What would my best friend say to my thoughts?

· How important will this opinion be in a months’ years’ time?

Practice What Works. Now you can decide what kind of action to take, the action which works, which will eliminate mind-reading.

This post is for informational purposes only. It should not be considered therapy.This blog is only for informational and educational purposes and should not be considered therapy or any form of treatment. We are not able to respond to specific questions or comments about personal situations, appropriate diagnosis or treatment, or otherwise provide any clinical opinions. If you think you need immediate assistance, call your local doctor/psychologist or psychiatrist or the SADAG Mental Health Line on 011 234 4837. If necessary, please phone the Suicide Crisis Line on 0800 567 567 or sms 31393.

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This blog is only for informational and educational purposes and should not be considered therapy or any form of treatment. We are not able to respond to specific questions or comments about personal situations, appropriate diagnosis or treatment, or otherwise provide any clinical opinions. If you think you need immediate assistance, call your local doctor/psychologist or psychiatrist or the SADAG Mental health Line on 011 234 4837. If necessary, please phone the Suicide Crisis Line on 0800 567 567 or sms 31393.