top of page
  • Writer's pictureJen Weaver

Breaking free from the thinking patterns that may be holding us back

Inaccurate thinking patterns can distort reality, relationships, and make it easy to hold onto bitterness and hurt or angry feelings. These patterns can also get in the way of progress, change, and even our dreams. Here are some helps for overcoming them.

Has a negative assumption ever affected your decision about something or someone, then you later realized things weren't as you thought? Negative thoughts can lead to impulsive decisions, and result in feeling badly about ourselves or others. A little of this with good rebound is normal, but extended stays in a darkened abyss is not. Consider how the patterns listed below may play a role in disrupting life, goals or relationships.

*Common Inaccurate Thinking Patterns:
  • All or Nothing: Seeing something or someone as all good or all bad. Look for phrases with words like “always” and “never.” Example; “He never listens when others talk."

  • Mislabeling: Taking something that happened and making a broad or incorrect statement. Example; “She never invites me. I’m must not be good enough.”

  • Jumping to Conclusions: Interpreting others' thoughts or assuming the worst possible outcome. Example; “After that incident, everyone probably talked about me.”

  • Personalizing: Blaming yourself or someone else for a situation that in reality involved many factors. Example; “They didn’t call me back, so they must be mad at me.”

  • Emotional Reasoning: Judging a situation based on how you feel. Example; “When she acts cold and unfriendly, I feel guilty. I must have done something wrong."

  • Overgeneralization: Applying one experience to all experiences. Example; “That didn't go well. I shouldn't plan anymore group social things.”

  • Negative Mental Filter: Focusing on a negative detail and dwelling on it. Example; “She complained about where we went, then after that, the whole night was ruined.”

  • Discounting the Positive: Rejecting all positive experiences because you don't feel like they count. Example; “We finished the entire service project, but that didn't matter, because they only cared about the poor paint job on the shed."

  • Magnification: Exaggerating your weaknesses or comparing them to others' strengths. Example; “I can barely prepare a lesson, and when I do, it's nothing like her lessons!"


Frequently living out the above patterns can disconnect us from the simple truth that we have a God-given power to choose something different. I've heard our ability to "choose" referred to as "agency," which is defined as:

...the capacity of individuals to act independently and to make their own free choices. ... One's agency is one's independent capability or ability to act on one's will.

- Barker, Chris. 2005. Cultural Studies: Theory and Practice. London: Sage.

Inaccurate thinking patterns can prevent us from believing that we can choose a healthy response when faced with a difficult challenge. Below is an exercise to explore breaking the cycle of inaccurate thinking patterns, and the knee-jerk reactions that so often come with them.

Using Agency to Act Responsibly

Even when bad things happen around us, we still get to choose how we respond. Taking responsibility for how we react, in the face of challenges, brings peace and power.


Not getting the job you wanted

Natural Response: Other Response:

Blame others -or- Ask for feedback

Make excuses -or- Make a goal

Give Up -or- Apply for jobs

Get angry -or- Get experience

Find fault -or Find a new skill

Doubt abilities -or- See strengths


Overwhelmed/ To much to do

Natural Response: Other Response:

Rebel -or- Re-evaluate

Procrastinate -or- Tasks & breaks

Complain -or- Seek + outlook



Natural Response: Other Response:

Allow fear to rule Seek God's love

Self-justification "What lack I yet?"

The list of inaccurate thinking patterns and table above has been taken from the workbook, Emotional Resilience For Self-Reliance, chapters 1 and 2. Minor modifications have been made, and examples have been changed.



bottom of page