So, friends, are you depressed? A little self-loathing? Is the world getting you down? I thought I might give you a little primer on this cognitive behavioral stuff ... from a rank layperson. I had a major MAJOR change in my emotional/psychological life from a brief encounter with this stuff. I thought I'd go through the list of cognitive distortions (what Stuart Smalley might have called "stinkin' thinkin'") that, from what I understand, form the basis for a lot of our bad feelings about ourselves. For more, you can see the book Feeling Good by David Burns, which is sort of the bible of the CBT folks ... and/or find a good CBT therapist to work with.
Today's stinkin' thinkin' is Mindreading. Do you ever get the feeling that someone isn't telling you something? And that thing must be something negative about you? For example, you're having lunch with a friend you normally have a great time with, but she's really quiet that day. Do you start to wonder if it has anything to do with you? Do you think maybe you might have offended her, and now she's having second thoughts about your friendship? Despite any actual evidence to support this, you start to feel concerned and anxious? That's Mindreading.
Another way Mindreading has affected me (and I used to do that first one a whole lot too) is to want someone I care about to know what I need without my telling him/her. For example, if you loved me, you would anticipate that I needed help with a household chore and pitch in without my having to ask you. If you can't read my mind, well, maybe you just don't love me enough.
Apparently, sometimes people have things on their mind other than wondering what's on mine. Sometimes it just has nothing to do with me at all. It helps to ask for help, for example. (I've also learned that, if someone is helping me, I shouldn't criticize the way they're doing it!)
So try paying attention to when you're doing this kind of thinking. See if you can reframe the thought. For example, "Gee, Pam is awfully quiet. I asked her how she was, and she just said 'ok'. I guess she's not ready to talk about whatever's going on. I'll let her be. She might not have gotten enough sleep, for all I know. Who knows? She'll tell me when she's ready, if there's anything to tell."
This mindreading stuff has kept me up nights. I hardly ever do it anymore; it's a big relief!
A lot of times, when you're really stressing about something, it seems like a lot of these distortions are going on at the same time. It's so useful to look at a feeling that just seems like fact, and then reconsider it. As they say, feelings are not facts.