Robin D. Webb
What is distorted thinking, and how can it affect you? That’s what we want to explore together today. Distorted thinking is something you can overcome with the truth of God’s Word and the help of a Christian counselor.
What Is Distorted Thinking?
Distorted thinking is any kind of thought process that leads you away from the truth. It can be linked to stress,
emotional turmoil, or crises in your life. It can also be a long-term pattern that was formed in childhood as a coping mechanism against pain or one that was modeled to you.
The problem with distorted thinking is that it holds you back from God’s revealed will for your life. He wants to grant you peace, wisdom, and grace in your Christian life, including your thinking. When you learn how to change those patterns of toxic thinking, you’ll experience greater peace in your daily living.
Here are common areas of thinking patterns that get distorted.
Taking things personally
It’s quite common for people to personalize something that has nothing to do with them. But there are often simple explanations for the problem that make the answer clearer.
Example: A husband comes home from work in a bad mood. His wife thinks he is upset with her about their argument from the night before. Instead, he is frustrated with himself for not meeting a work deadline.
Attempting to read someone else’s mind
Have you tried to guess what someone was thinking, then assumed the wrong thing? This is why mind reading is not a good idea. It’s better to ask questions that get at the right answer.
Example: A mother tries to figure out why her teenage daughter withdraws to her room after school. The mother assumes it’s due to their differences in opinion. But the daughter is an introvert and simply needs alone time to decompress.
Some people have an all-or-nothing mindset, which can be expressed in many ways. They do not see the nuances in situations and go to extremes. Sometimes they catastrophize, elevating a situation that others see as challenging to something highly threatening.Example: A woman works for weeks to plan a family reunion. When several family members cancel at the last minute, the woman thinks the entire reunion is ruined, which upsets the family members who can attend.
Hyperfocus on the negatives
People who see the glass as half-empty can struggle with this mindset. They tend to overlook the positive aspects of a situation and focus only on the negatives, even when the positives are easy to spot.
Example: A high school junior wants to go to medical school. He receives a high score on his standard testing, which earns him scholarship opportunities. But he obsesses over the questions he got wrong on the standard test rather than many correct answers.
Having elevated expectations
When people have expectations that are too high for the situation, disappointment is inevitable. It’s much better to adjust expectations downward and be happy when they are exceeded, rather than setting them too high and constantly being disappointed.
Example: A woman hears her boss compliment her for her hard work. But she expects a promotion and secretly feels slighted by the compliment.
This mindset is based on the idea that you don’t have to follow the same rules or start at the same place as other people because you are on a level above. Humility is the antidote to this type of thinking, which can easily annoy other people.
Example: A new nurse, fresh out of college, demands a daytime schedule at her first job. But the protocol is working night shifts for the first year.
A person may know the rules of a situation. But they will justify their own choice using excuses they make up to fit their liking.
Example: A husband busts the hobby portion of the budget he agreed upon with his wife. He explains that he needs expensive equipment for his hobby because he works hard and deserves to reward himself, even when more affordable options are available.
A person who is a perfectionist wants everything to be just so. Though it’s good to care about quality, a perfectionist takes it to the extreme, putting overly high standards on themselves and others.
Example: A woman insists that her family members load the dishwasher in the exact way she specifies because she feels the dishes get the cleanest that way. If her husband or children load it differently, she criticizes them.
When someone only looks at things from their point of view, this indicates narrowmindedness. They may think that their opinion is the only right way to view the world.
Example: A husband is at odds with his wife because she prefers the traditional worship service at church. He thinks the contemporary service is the right way, not just his preferred way, to worship God.
This is when you believe something to be true, though there is much evidence for the opposite. Other people will concur that the opposite belief is true.
Example: A woman is of a slight build and is underweight for her height, age, and all other factors. She believes she is overweight, though no one else thinks she is, including her doctor.
It’s easy to assign labels when you don’t relate to others. You may attach labels to people that aren’t truly representative of their entire personality. But the label doesn’t adequately address any nuances.
Example: You see the generation younger than you as lazy, entitled, and incompetent. But there are several young workers within your company who are hardworking and responsible.
This is one of the oldest sins of mankind, as Adam immediately blamed Eve, and Eve blamed the serpent (Genesis 3:12-13). Blaming shifts your own responsibility onto someone else.
Example: An addict tells his wife that he wouldn’t drink as much if she would just do things the way he wants them done.
A person with magical thinking believes that if they repeat the same behavior, they will eventually get different results. They may also think that working harder on something that failed will begin to yield positive benefits.
Example: A mother nags her teenage son about cleaning up his room. She believes that if she nags him enough, he will finally respond by cleaning his room with a cheerful attitude. However, nagging him more only increases animosity between them and tempts him to tune her out.
Instead of directly asking people what they think or want, you may make assumptions based on preconceived ideas you have about them. But this can lead to relationship clashes.
Example: A husband assumes that his wife wants jewelry for her Christmas present every year. As a practical woman, she would prefer something she could use in the kitchen or garden instead.
Dealing with Distorted Thinking
All of us have distorted thinking to some degree in one or more areas. Perhaps you saw yourself in several examples above. This doesn’t mean you have a giant psychological mess to clean up. It simply means there are some areas of thinking that can be tweaked so you can live the abundant life God has prepared for you.
Dealing with distorted thinking involves being mindful of your thoughts, which is called metacognition. Pick one of the areas that stood out to you above and write down each time you have a thought in that area. If you do this for several days, you’ll notice just how often this problem pops up, and how much investment you need to make in overcoming it.
If you need help dealing with distorted thinking, consider meeting with a qualified Christian counselor. Your time with a Christian counselor will involve getting those distorted thoughts out into the open, so you can examine them with the help of an unbiased, objective professional. Once the thoughts are on the table, you can take practical steps to overcome them with biblical principles.
Contact us today to learn how we can help you overcome distorted thinking. We’re ready to help.
“Distorted Picture”, Courtesy of Dasha Yukhymyuk, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Diamond Distortion”, Courtesy of Kaleb Niimz, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Distorted Photo”, Courtesy of Dasha Yukhymyuk, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Tree”, Courtesy of Kyrylo Kholopkin, Unsplash.com, CC0 License