Thought traps are patterns of thinking or cognitive distortions that prevent people from thinking objectively about a situation or event, where they can create negative or inappropriate thoughts, draw wrong conclusions or make decisions that are not based on reality. There are many types of thought traps that can affect different areas of thinking, such as self-image, relationships with other people, the future or interpretation of events. Often one finds the confirmation bias, where one interprets information in a way that confirms already existing beliefs. It is therefore important to be aware that thought traps exist and to learn to recognise them in order to minimise their impact on thinking and behaviour. By recognising and overcoming thought traps, one can learn over time to think more objectively and make better decisions. Other thought traps that are usually deeply emotionally rooted:
- All-or-nothing thinking, i.e. being tempted to see all things as only black or white. To counteract this, one can replace the word “or” with the word “and”, e.g. by noting that the conversation had both positive and negative aspects.
- Jumping to conclusions, i.e. wondering whether you can know what other people are thinking. On the other hand, one can remember earlier hasty conclusions that then turned out to be wrong.
- Catastrophising, i.e. assuming a worst-case scenario based on a few facts. In contrast, you can ask someone neutral who might bring you back down to earth.
- Social comparisons are particularly harmful, especially if they lead to a resigned self-assessment. Here you can press the mental reset button, i.e. don’t compare, but simply be curious.