Change the View. Challenging your thinking filters.

filtersContentment is, in part, a matter of perspective. Those whom are content are more likely to be able to respond positively to change when it is required, accept that some events are beyond their control and allow situations to be different than their expectations. This is because they can approach challenges with a rational perspective.

It is possible to change your thinking and be happier.

Famous psychologist, Albert Ellis, identified a plethora of irrational beliefs that we develop as part of the way we are raised, see the world, and believe about ourselves and other people. These beliefs are filters that, like a pair of glasses, interfere with the way that we see situations. Wearing faulty filters may cause people to engage in self-defeating behaviours such as experiencing self-hatred, jealousy, self-harm, accepting abusive relationships, procrastinating, and anger.

You can stop help yourself and remove your faulty filters by creating a constructive dispute with yourself, or even have a counsellor lead this discussion for you. The dialogue will depend on the filters that you use most frequently. Experiencing faulty filters is quite common, if you discover you have been experiencing faulty filters, you can change the view.

Change the view from your faulty filters.


black and white thinkingThis type of thinking occurs when you look at situations in a polarised way – situations, people, activities are either good or bad, nothing in between. Most situations are neither complete disasters or beyond fantastic, often situation have both good and bad aspects. Most people have some attributes that you find challenging, but this doesn’t make these people totally bad or good.

When people wear these black-and-white-thinking filters they can respond in an inflexible way to challenges – “I didn’t get an A in that test and now my future is ruined “or “I submitted that assignment but I made an error in the first paragraph so the whole article is now rubbish”.

In particular people who have black-and-white-thinking in relation to people find themselves caught in judgement loops – these people are all bad, and therefore my poor behaviour towards them is acceptable, or they need to be brought down.

If one has black-and-white-thinking in relation to situations, a person can end up with lowered resilience. Every set back can become a tragedy, rather than a minor bump in the road.

Change the view: If you feel you may be one who experiences black-and-white-thinking actively force yourself to find the shades-of-grey in situations, or with people. Can you recall a time you thought something would be a tragedy and it ended up being ok? Perhaps you fall into the practice of judging a situation too quickly. The next time this happens, before you define a situation as a disaster, let your emotions, and the situation play out a little further. See where more evidence might lead you.

Should-ing and Must-ing.

This is perhaps the easiest filter to catch yourself or others utilising. It is irrational to believe that most things are absolutely necessary. Believing that acts should be performed in a particular way, at a specific time, or in an exact order, creates a tyranny of should – a condition where you live life dictated by a list of thoughts which are not really rational.

shouldWhilst everyone has lots of things that they should (or could) be doing, some beliefs are irrational in their detail and in their believed consequences. For example, if everything needs to be perfect, this creates a lot of pressure on a person to perform a task to a (sometimes) unrealistic standard. Believing that you need to be the perfect student, parent, worker, lover, or be in control of all events in your life, be slim and attractive at all times, always be interesting, always have a friction free family – are unrealistic.

Being influenced by excessive should-ing and must-ing can have a multitude of psychological consequences including:

Self-doubt: feeling like a failure because you can not maintain your own (self-imposed) impossible standards,

Procrastination: too frozen in fear to start a project without already being an expert, or knowing you will be perfect at it.

Strict expectations: that others will live up to the same standards of you, or should not settle for less than perfect. You may find, without really wanting to, that you bully others to live up to your expectations.

Change the view:  If you suffer from ‘must-tic-ation’, the cure is to create a dispute. Do you REALLY have to be a perfect parent/child/partner/etc? is this realistic? What happens if you are not perfect? Do activities need to be conducted in a particular order? What might happen if the order can not be observed? Try to substitute the word “can” for the word “must”. This will help you remember that you have a choice in every situation. If you find that you respond with a high degree of anxiety to a need for order, you may have some early symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder, and may benefit from talking to a therapist.

Jumping to negative conclusions.

negative conclusionsWe all have the tendency to occasionally jump to conclusions. We may assume that someone deliberately performed an activity that hurt our feelings, or event assume and intent to their inaction (e.g. they don’t like me). In these situations, limited information or evidence can be used to support negative conclusions. This may be the case when we fail to get success at work, thinking that others are not supportive, when they are sometimes just too busy or not focused on our priority.

This type of faulty filter can lead to inaccuracies regarding our perception of people and situations.

Change the view: If you find yourself typically jumping to negative conclusions ask yourself the following reflective questions, “do I have solid evidence that my beliefs are true?” and, ”Is there a possible, alternative, view of this situation?”. If you jump to negative conclusions quite frequently you may even start to feel quite paranoid about other people’s motives. You may like to consider counselling in that situation. At least start a daily practice of reflection such as journaling so that you can capture and explore your emotional relationship with events at a time that may be willing to appraise your reactions.


overgeneralising.jpgOvergeneralising is a special type of jumping to conclusions – both negative and positive conclusions. Overgeneralising is often reflected in our language choices – we use extreme frequency terms to describe behaviours – “they ALWAYS forget”, “Things NEVER go right for me in love relationships, EVERYBODY is happy except for me”. “Now that I am separated, ALL my married friends won’t want to see me”. Occasionally we may even do this after a single instance – one rejection letter leading to the assumption “I will never get a job”.

Change the view: When we overgeneralise, we can make decision that are self-defeating such as giving up on applications, feeling bad about ourselves, and limiting our experience of life.  Try to ban words such as always, never, and everyone from your vocabulary, especially during self-talk. It is highly unlikely that an absolute term will be an accurate description of a situation.


mindreadingMind-reading is a special type of jumping to negative conclusions. Not only do we make an assumption about people in the absence of complete evidence, but at some level we feel certain we know what they are thinking. Whilst on some occasions we may guess this right, we may also get this wrong. I often talk with clients who assume people talk about them negatively or think a particular way about them. In my experience we greatly overestimate how much people talk about us, and how judgemental of us they may be. Most people are usually worrying about their lives and what they need to do, rather than the role we play.

As a consequence, mind-reading can lead to self-limiting or self-defeating behaviours. We may not sign up for an activity because we know what people may think. For example, we may not go to join a dating event because you think others will think you are desperate. Or go to a family dinner because your cousin may negatively judge you.

Change the view: People who practice mind-reading will benefit from an automatic Anti-mindreading reminder that people do not think about you as much or as negatively as you think. Additionally, worrying about what people think may be indicative of your own challenges with self-esteem. When you love yourself enough, what other people think will not matter so much.


catastrophisingCatastrophising refers to the faulty filter we apply when exploring the future of situations in regard to negative outcomes. Whilst it is typical to occasionally feel a negative outcome, when we go for medical checks and such, excessive worry is of no help. If you tend to catastrophise regularly you cause yourself immense distress. Imagining that all situations will end in disaster is exhausting. Worrying that people will die or leave you will not make those situations any easier when they do happen, it just makes you experience the situation, virtually, again and again.

Change the view:  People who catastrophise need to challenge their thinking with more ‘realistic’ thoughts, and remind themselves how many times in the past situations have turned out OK. Often the worry caused by catastrophising may move people to seek out reassurance from others, and this in itself can become a problem. Try to do nothing for a while first. Whilst the anxiety you feel is unpleasant you can work to distract yourself from that experience with anxiety relieving activities.


personalisingWhen we personalise we feel responsible for events or situations that are not our fault, or we assume that it is our fault. It can lead to us feeling offended when it isn’t necessary. If a friend ignores your text may not mean that you’ve offended them, instead it may mean they are busy. They may not be trying to offend us, or even be having an emotional reaction to something we have done.

Personalising can be a component of co-dependency in relationships. I once had a grumpy boss, and many of us who reported to him walked around on eggshells, torturing ourselves over what we had done wrong to upset him. Rather than wasting valuable energy on this worry, it might have been more constructive to let him have his time being grumpy (after all his emotions are his responsibility) and get on with the work that needed to be done.

If you have performed an act, either selfishly or unwittingly, where another person was hurt. You can take responsibility for your role in a situation, and apologise or try to make amends, but leave it to that situation. Whilst we can take responsibility of for our own behaviour and thoughts, we do not need to take responsibility for the choices of others.

Change the view: If you personalise you may want to review your thought process to see how a situation could be viewed differently. If you are taking responsibility for someone in addition to yourself you may want to ask yourself if you have become co-dependent –. When we are co-dependent, we see ourselves through the views of our significant others – if they say we are ok, then we are ok. IF they are angry or not operating properly in life, we need to change our behaviour in order to save them. Counselling is a great way to break out of co-dependent patterns.


We all filter sometimes. Imagine you are in a group and each is providing feedback on your work. Nine of the 10 people say you did a wonderful job. One person says they thought your contribution wasn’t good enough. Which do you remember – the 9 positive remarks, or the one negative. That is filtering.

filtering.jpgFiltering becomes a threat to our self -esteem if you use this faulty thinking style frequently. In the era of the internet where people can feel more willing to troll other people and say horrible things on line, selecting what you choose to believe and reinforce as regards you sense of self, is extremely important. This is especially true for teens who use internet vehicles to test reactions to their world views – and perhaps do not yet have the resilience to rebuff negative feedback.

Change the view: it takes time to build a solid sense of self, and it is a worth while activity. Catching the filtering you do in your life is one way to eliminate negative self-perceptions.  If 9 people say you are great, say thank you 9 times. To the person who gave negative feedback, say thank you as well (provided the feedback was given in an honest and with improvement in mind), but move on. One negative review does not define you, but it can help shape you. You will make mistakes in life. That is actually part of the journey. If one person says you are ugly, stupid, lame, vulgar, it is the opinion of ONE person, and quite possibly says more about them than it says about you. Be realistic, you will not receive 100% consensus on any topic, even how fabulous you are. There is only one vote that counts, and its yours.


comparingIt is common to consider our own attractiveness, status, success, and personal worth relative to others. Comparing oneself constantly can become quite negative, especially when we assume elements about the other person and ourselves. For example, thinking a person who gets a better pay rise than you is an overall better person than you is not only unrealistic, it is unproductive. Please see our article on the strong relationship between comparing and feeling miserable.

Change the view:  Catch yourself comparing and making assumptions about others. If your friend has a success, this says nothing about you. Repeat to yourself, “ I am enough, I do not need to compare”.


blamingOccasionally people let us down, even hurt us with their actions. Sometimes these actions are intentional. Many times, they are not.  It is good to be able to accept disappointment and imperfections in others. If you find that you become stuck and blame others for your position in life, or in a situation you give away some of the power to fix that situation. Accepting someone’s behaviour is not an endorsement of that behaviour, it is simply acknowledging that bad realities exist, and that life can be unfair.

People can get become stuck in the hurt they feel – for example if they are forced out of a job, or their romantic relationship ends. It is up to us to help ourselves move on from painful events, even if they were initiated by the action of others.

Change the view: keep moving forward in life. There will be set backs. Overcoming them is a part of life and building resilience. If you are having trouble getting past a pain caused at work our article on career crisis might help {blog career crisis), whilst if you are stuck from the pain of a hurt in a personal relationship our blog on recovery may be of assistance.


We all make mistakes or act foolishly sometimes. When we label ourselves, rather than our behaviour we diminish ourselves. For example, if you made a mistake on a report you could say, “I made a mistake”, or you could label “I’m so stupid”. The latter response does nothing for your self-esteem. Acknowledge mistakes and bad choices as part of life, that can be forgiven.

labellingIt is also illogical to label others, on the basis of one inference or observation. One fight with a colleague does not make her a “bitch”. When we label others, we not only diminish them, we provide rationalisation for further retaliation, “its okay to do xyz, because she is a bitch”. This is clearly not rational, and can often become prejudicial.

Change the view: Catch yourself when you use labels for yourself and others. Label acts and behaviours as problematic, not the person. We all need forgiveness sometime.

Where to next – did you notice if you have been wearing filters? Its time to take off those shades, and change your view. Follow our advice and I hope you will feel more self-accepting and content.

#catastrophising   #commonthinkingerrors  #faultythinking #blackandwhitethinking  #comparison  #blaming  #filtering  #personalising    #mindreading #reddoor  #mentalhealthessentials

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s