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Personalisation

Dr Elizma van der Smit. June 2019

· Mind

This is when you take a seemingly innocent event and take it to have a personal, negative meaning. When engaging in this type of thinking, you tend to take things personally. You may attribute things that other people do, as a result of your own actions or behaviors. This type of thinking also causes a person to blame himself or herself for external circumstances outside the person’s control.

If a friend doesn't call back, you may assume, "She must be mad at me," or if a co-worker is grumpy, you might conclude, "He doesn't like me." It’s probably because he had a bad night, is overwhelmed with work, or is worrying about something that has nothing to do with you.

But the reality is that people are not thinking about you as much as you imagine!

Personalization and it is the mother of guilt. You assume responsibility for a negative event or thing, even where there is no basis for doing so. You arbitrarily conclude that what happened was your fault or reflects your inadequacy, even when you are not responsible for it. Personalization causes you to feel crippling guilt.” It will also affect your responses and relationships in a negative way.

More examples:

  • You feel it's all your fault that your dog injured his foot even though you weren't at home when it happened but were out shopping. 
  • Assuming that someone who is not looking at you is intentionally avoiding eye contact because you did something to offend them.
  • “We were late to the dinner party and caused the hostess to overcook the meal. If I had only pushed my husband to leave on time, this wouldn’t have happened.”
  • when a mother receives her child's school report, plus a note from the form tutor indicating her child is not working well, she immediately concludes, "I must be a bad mother. 

In the case of personalization, you usually confuse influence with control over others. What the other person does is ultimately his or her responsibility, not yours. You can’t tell what someone is thinking, nor should you. Their thoughts are their own, as are yours.

What should I do?

·     Practice becoming mindful of your tendency to blame yourself when things don’t go as you wish, or as you planned.
  • When you catch yourself personalizing situations, take time to point out other possible factors that may be influencing the circumstances.
  • You may need to ask yourself why you feel responsible for things that you cannot control, or if you are holding yourself to a high standard that no one could realistically meet.  
  • Sometimes you may need to ask yourself “is this really about me?” to get a better understanding of a situation and understand how much control you really have. 
  • Distinguish between self-criticism and self-correction. What behavior could you improve? What could you learn? What could you do differently in the future?
  • Rather than personalizing and blaming, what if you were to ask what problems needed to be solved? For example, if you are going through a breakup in a relationship, rather than blame yourself or the other person, why not ask yourself what practical problems you need to solve right now? 

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.