Irrational Ways of Thinking Which Keep You Angry
Projection, Blaming, Grudge Holding, Doomsday Thinking, Revenge Thoughts, Black and White Thinking
Author: Lynne Namka, Ed. D.
We all have irrational thoughts, which keep us caught in anger and neurotic behavior. Erroneous beliefs are beliefs and defenses we build up and replay with anger so we do not have to know the truth about our self They are called errors of thought or cognitions. These errors in thinking are defense mechanisms that we have learned at an early age, but do not work as we grow older. When people impose rigid expectations on themselves, other people, and the world because of their beliefs, they are likely to experience unnecessary emotional distress.
Irrational thoughts are crazy making! They keep us in victim mode and chaos. They cause us to avoid responsibility for our own actions. Happiness in life can be achieved when you learn to break into your negative thinking. Errors in the way you think perpetuate depression, helplessness and anger keeping you from being at peace. So first, learn about your own erroneous beliefs, and then you can learn to help your child interpret the world in realistic ways.
Catch yourself saying things that are illogical. Talk about your inaccurate ways of thinking with your family. Show them how happier your family would be if you break these bad habits of thinking and talking. Then you can challenge your children to point out crazy-making words. Tell them, ‘you can catch me in my own words when I think in absurd ways and I’ll try to catch you.’
Here are the most common errors in thinking that add to a lifetime of misery:
Over Generalized Thinking. Over Generalized statements are exaggerations. For example, ‘He NEVER considers my opinion. You ALWAYS interrupt me. She ALWAYS tells me what to do. I have to do ALL the work. I NEVER get a break. EVERYBODY picks on me.’ Watch your language for ‘never, always, should, everybody, ‘I can’t stand it and I can’t take it anymore.’
Making an Assumption and Running with it. What you assume is only what you assume. Assumptions may or may not be true. There may be other reasons why things happen. Generate multiple reasons why you think something has happened. Check out your assumption with others to get to the facts of the issue. Jumping to conclusions is another form of making an assumption and acting on it as if it were true.
Fortune Telling is projecting your assumption on future events based on what happened in the past. Fortune telling is assuming that what happened in the past will happen in the future. When you say, ‘I bet that this will happen,’ then you are predicting the future. You may or you may not be right.
Focusing on the Other Person’s Behavior in the Past not the Present. Some people live so much in the hurts of the past that they do not realize that another person has changed or is trying to change. They keep an old version of the person in their mind. Sometimes people do change, so do an update in your mind about them.
Piggybacking is bringing up old issues from the past during an argument, which diverts the argument into old unresolved hurts and pain while avoiding the current issue. ‘You have been doing this to me for years. Last year, you did this to hurt me so, I must bring it up again and again.’ This way of fighting brings in every thing but the kitchen sink to be angry about. Piggybacking spreads the argument so thin with so many accusations, that the main thing you are fighting about does not get solved.
Closed Mind Thinking. ‘Don’t tell me anything ‘I know best for me’ kind of thinking. Stubborn insistence on one’s own opinion without taking in information from others can be a set up for rigidity in life.
Black or white Thinking. There is no middle ground or gray in black or white thinking. Certain people are seen as either totally bad or good. Situations are either/or. There is no understanding of where the other person is coming from, only staunch judgment. ‘I’m right and you are wrong’ always leads to a ‘lose-lose’ situation.
Preoccupation with Right and Wrong and Perceived Injustice. Blaming others is a way of life for some people. If you hear yourself continually saying, ‘It’s not fair!’ then you are focusing on the negative instead of going into problem solving. Much of life really isn’t fair! So what? Keeping score of slights from others and dwelling on them creates a climate of hurt and suspicion. Having a list of ‘shoulds’ for the partner, which are inconsistent with his or her personality, will undermine a relationship. Focusing on unfairness keeps them caught in anger, resentment and grudges. (Hey, life frequently is unfair, but focusing on it only makes you more miserable!)
Grudge Holding is a habit that is hard to break into. People who harbor grudges have deeper issues of mistrust. Grudge holding is a learned behavior that is prevalent in some families. Grudges fan the fire of anger as a way of trying to feel safe by feeling powerful in fantasy. Grudge holding appears to be a way to attempt to control negative situations by retaining the angry feelings. Grudges are a habit of feeling self righteous and distance one’s self instead of dealing with the real problem.
Revenge Thoughts are grudges plus wanting to get even with the other person. Revengeful thoughts are basically selfish in nature with the belief of ‘I have the right to hurt him because he injured me.’ which is based on beliefs of ‘It’s not fair.’ Revenge is ‘I can enjoy thoughts of hurting another person in my mind to get back at him.’ Revenge creates a pseudo self esteem of feeling good about one’s self by relishing ideas of harming another person. Vengeful thoughts can actually trigger endorphin’s in the brain which associate hurting others with feeling good. Grudges fan the fire of anger as a way of trying to feel safe by feeling powerful in fantasy. Grudge holding and revenge are way of putting up walls to guard the self against further hurt. Revenge is challenging to break into because of their positive value of enjoyment and feelings of entitlement (I have the right to hurt him and feel good about it.) Acting in ways that make you successful is the best revenge for any hurt that has been done to you..
Catastrophe Thinking. People who engage in this error take the problem to the worst-case scenario then worry that it will happen. This type of assumption looks for the worst-case scenario. This is doomsday thinking where they person worrying about the worst thing that could possibly happen. Doomsday thinking causes you to live with the threat of impending disaster. This type of thoughts escalates during times of fatigue or depression.
Egocentric thinking. Taking things personally is a sure-fire set up for unhappiness. Thin-skinned people usually have a big pool of hurt inside. If your feels get hurt more than others, get into therapy to find out why and what to do to toughen up. Suffering in silence or saying ‘You make me feel….’ is the most common error here. No one can make you feel anything. Your feelings are entirely your own.
Entitlement thinking. This way of viewing the world is to believe that your way is right and is the only way. If others do no agree with you, anger comes up. The belief is ‘You must agree with me and do things my way or I have the right (I’m entitled) to get angry. Empathy is the ability to see things from the perspective of another person and feel compassion. The only person we can change is our self–to dwell on how others do not meet our needs keeps you in anger or depression.
Irrational Emotional Reasoning. Fear beliefs and accompanying emotions need to be checked out. Much fear is irrational having no basis in danger. Feelings are important but it we interpret all feelings are TRUTH then we are at the mercy of our fear and anger thought. Example: ‘If I feel you don’t love me, you don’t love me. If I feel like a victim, I must be a victim.’ Get past your overly sensitive feelings of the moment to see the bigger picture.
The False Consensus Effect. They are in error when they assume that others think the same way that they do. Gullible people cannot understand how devious others can be, because they do not have that negative framework in their brain. Angry ,manipulative people make up the worst about others in their minds. They see others as bad while excusing the same traits in themselves. People often see their own attitudes and behavior as ‘normal’ and overestimate the best or the worst in others.
Minimal zing One’s Own Contribution to the Problem at hand. Some people belittle the problem saying it is not important. They deny personal understanding and remorse regarding their actions. This way of thinking avoids personal responsibility thus limiting emotional growth.
Projection is a common defense mechanism where a person gets upset with a trait in someone else that he wishes to deny in himself. They suppress the knowledge that they have the same trait and externalize blame on the other person. They are highly sensitized to the unwanted behaviors in others and transfer their horror and anger at their own unwanted inner trait to an outside person. Much of their internal thought or words during an argument is focused on blaming the other person. We all have a bit of projection in us, but some people have the need to blame others big time, thus obstructing their own growth and learning.
People who project blame often feel a hidden stigma and shame at possessing a disgraceful personality trait so they ‘project’ or transfer anger on others to distract themselves from knowing the truth about their own self. They become so highly sensitized to the presence of their unwanted traits that it interferes with their social informational processing. So they don’t see reality as it is and then operate out of their misperceptions. How do you know if you are projecting your anger on others? Preoccupation, judgments and anger about others’ behavior are projection. If you spot it, you got it!
Another form of projection is to transfer the arrows and slings of life onto ‘bad luck’ or ‘fate.’ People who project often have other defenses such as Overgeneralized Thinking, which is the habit of making statements that emphasize that things are always that way. Examples of this type of thinking are: ‘He never considers my opinion. You always put me down. She always tells me what to do. I have to do all the work. I never get a break. Why can’t you ever get it right? and ‘I can’t stand it. I can’t take anymore.’ Over-generalization language uses words like ‘never, always, should and everybody or nobody.’
Always Putting the Blame on Others. For some people, the first reaction to a problem is to find someone to blame. Blaming is a defense mechanism to avoid taking personal responsibility for the situation. The blamer rapidly finds fault in the other person and criticizes them. Trying to find a solution to the problem is much better than looking for someone to blame. Blaming is a pattern in some families that keeps people from becoming closer. People who blame others or situations without taking responsibility for their contribution to the problem never get the sense of satisfaction of growth. By refusing to see their own errors, they lose the opportunity to change the very aspects of themselves that keep them stuck.
So to create more harmony and happiness in your life, catch your errors of thinking and break into them. As the saying by Kahil Gibran goes, ‘If your heart is a volcano, how shall you expect flowers to bloom?’
We Are As Healthy As We Are Ready To Take Responsibility For Our Own Thoughts And Behaviors!