Mandy Kloppers

Am I being irrational?



Am I being irrational?

There is a well-known list of examples of irrational thinking (known as cognitive distortions). Many counsellors and therapists refer to this list when dealing with clients. The sentence, “am I being irrational?” Is one that I hear on a daily basis. So how do we know if we are being irrational? I have put together a checklist of common types of irrational thinking.

These examples should give you a good idea of when you are engaging in irrational thoughts. If you find that you do think along the lines of any items on the checklist, give yourself permission to completely ignore these irrational thoughts. Irrational thinking leads to negative emotions. Stop the irrational thoughts, or at least be able to identify them and your content quotient will increase.

1) All-or nothing thinking

Self statements such as “I will never amount to anything” or “I will never feel better” or “no one likes me” or “I will always be single” are good examples of all or nothing thinking. This type of thinking is very rigid and ‘black and white’. There is no room for grey areas. The trick here is to challenge the irrational aspect. In all likelihood you will be able to find examples in your life where something that you did was significance or a time when you did feel happier or they must be at least one person that you can think of it does like you etc. Always find examples that do not fit with this type of irrational thinking.

2) Negative filtering

I know I do this a lot of the time. I will focus on what could go wrong all the possible negative consequences instead of maintaining a more balanced view.This is when a gratitude journal comes in handy. It reminds us to also look at the positives. very little in life is all about, in fact I have come to learn that every experience and every situation has a positive and negative aspect to it. Granted, some times the positive aspects may be hard to find that they are there… Lurking. Get into the habit of finding them.

3) Emotional reasoning

Am I being irrational when I use my feelings to measure whether something is true or not? absolutely! In the past I have avoided going to a social event because I felt bad about myself on that particular day. On the occasions when I did go out despite feeling at odds with myself I have more often than not ended up having a good time. This is proof that feeling a certain way does not predict the outcome. Often the anticipation and the expectation of very different from the actual event itself. Learn to separate your feelings (which are subjective) from the reality of the situation. They are often very different.

4) Overgeneralisation

“All BMW drivers are dangerous”. My mother had a theory that all BMW drivers and Alfa Romeo drivers were aggressive and dangerous on the rights. This is a massive overgeneralisation and of course it cannot apply to every single BMW and Alfa Romeo driver out there. This is definitely irrational thinking. If you can find an exception to the rule you just might have to answer “yes” to the question, “am I being irrational?”.

5) Personalising

This is a very common form of irrational thinking. “What have I done now?”, “It’s all my fault”, “they are behaving that way because of something I’ve said”. When we personalise, we irrationally blame ourselves for things that we have no control over. If you invited friends to come over to your house and it seemed they were not enjoying themselves, if you blamed yourself, you would be engaging in this type of irrational thinking. Everyone is responsible for themselves, you cannot make a person feel a certain way. You can influence the situation but how another person responds is up to them. Know where your boundaries lie and stop taking on the responsibility of other people’s lives.

6) Catastrophising

Making mountains out of molehills is something that I have been very good at in the past. I had to ask myself how this was helping me. It wasn’t.Blowing things out of proportion is unhelpful and causes unnecessary anxiety. Now if I catch myself doing this I try to challenge my thinking.


Learning to know the difference between rational (evidence based) and irrational thinking (emotion based) has helped me to feel happier and less worried…most of the time!

Mandy X

Photo by Carlotta Roma

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