2. The common thinking errors are divided
into three types; Avoidance of
Thoughts, and The Know-It-All. Read
through each statement and mark the
thinking error that you typically use. The
way we think is habitual and does not
change without great effort. Do not
attempt to change all your thinking
errors at once. Identify and address
each one at a time.
To change, each error must be
challenged for its validity.
› What part of this is my issue?
› How do I take responsibility?
› How might others see this differently?
› How am I setting myself up for failure?
› Is my way the only way to see it?
› How does this affect others?
4. After the thinking error is determined to be
invalid or faulty, it must be replaced with
understanding and gratitude. If we fail to
replace the thinking error, we run the risk
of it returning during a time of stress.
5. It is ease for this person to blame others
rather than acknowledge personal
responsibility. They are often reactionary.
Things HAPPEN everyone but this person
does not understand it not what
happens that matter, it is how they
choose to respond that determine the
6. Angelic Thinking: This is a victim stance, in
which the individual portrays himself as a
wonderful person, incapable of breaking
the rules or harming someone.
Blaming/Making Excuses: Putting your
problem off on someone else. Saying things
like " But - she made me mad‖ or ―But - he
was flirting with me". You hold other
people responsible for your pain, or take
the other tack and blame yourself for every
problem or reversal.
Blaming Others: The individual blames
the problem and his/her own
behavior, on someone or something
Blaming the Victim: The individual
blames the victim, as though he wasn’t
at fault, and somehow the victim
brought it on him/herself.
Change Error: In change error we strive to
change the views of others; we blame,
demand, withhold and trade to achieve
the change in others we require. Usually
the other person feels attacked and
pushed around and probably does not
change at all. We think we have to
change others to achieve our happiness.
For example, "You must get better results in
your exams than I did when I was at school;
I'll buy you a car if you do."
Control Error: We see ourselves as helpless
and externally controlled, we remain stuck,
unable to affect our own life or anything
else in the world. We see evidence of
human helplessness all around us.
Something else is responsible for our pain,
loss or failure. We find it difficult to find or
work on solutions. For example, "I won't get
financial stability or have a nice house until I
find a rich man to marry."
10. Denial: The individual pretends it didn’t
happen, and might even try to fool
himself into thinking it didn’t happen. If
he denies it ever happened, maybe it
will go away. Saying "I didn't do it" or ―It
wasn’t me‖ when you know you did.
Dismissal: The individual
disregards, ignores, or brushes aside
what happened or other people’s
feelings as though they don’t matter.
Fairness Error: In fairness error we tend to
judge peoples actions by what we think
is fair or not fair. We feel resentful when
someone does not act towards us in a
way that we think is fair. Their version of
what is fair is probably different from our
version of what is fair. For example, "If my
husband really cared about how I
felt, he would take on more responsibility
for the house and the children."
12. I can’t stand it: This kind of thinking helps me
to take action quickly. It helps me to
believe that I have thought about things
enough and it is time for action.
Innocence/Playing Dumb: The individual
acts as though he didn’t know it was wrong
or against the rules, or pretends he didn’t
know better. Saying "I don't know" when
you really do know and don't want to try.
Not trying hard enough to find the answer.
13. Justification: The individual find reasons to
explain the ―correctness‖ of what he did, as
though it was okay.
Labeling and Mislabeling: In
labeling/mislabeling we call ourselves and
other people by negative names for
our/their supposed shortcomings. These are
not based on the facts, but on only one or
two negative incidents. Example "I'm an
idiot", "She's a moron", "I'm stupid".
Minimization: The individual downplays
the importance of what happened, or its
meaning. Thinking like something is not a
big deal when it really is. Using words like
ONLY or JUST when talking about your
Personal Blame: In personalization and
blame if something bad happens we
assume it is our fault. We tend to blame
ourselves solely for situations and events
that we were not entirely responsible for.
The opposite example is we take no
personal responsibility; we blame other
people and situations. Example ―My
relationship broke up so it must be my entire
fault‖, or ―My relationship broke up so it
must be all his/her fault.‖
16. Poor Me: (Victim Stance) When you use this
Thinking Error, you want people to feel sorry
for you. You might do this when you are
trying to not get consequences.
Rationalization: The individual finds
reasons, explanations, and excuses for what
Shifting the Focus: The individual tries to turn
people’s minds and attention onto
something else, and distract them from the
17. Smoke Screen: (Side Tracking) This
Thinking Error is used when someone is
trying to talk to you about something you
don’t want to hear – so you change the
Victim Stance: The individual feels as
though he’s the victim of the whole
world, and that he’s the one who’s been
18. For this type of person, they defeat
themselves before they give others a
fighting chance. They easily become
anxious when things are not predictable
or go the way they plan.
Avoidance: The individual avoids thinking
about emotionally difficult subjects because
they feel overwhelming or insurmountable.
Black and White Thinking (All or Nothing): In
black and white thinking we tend to see
things, ourselves and other people as being all
wrong or all right, all good or all bad. We are a
total success or we are a total failure. We are
either completely 100% right or we are 100%
wrong. For example, if we make one mistake
we see ourselves as having failed.
Catastrophic Thinking: The individual
magnifies the impact of negative
experiences to extreme proportions. We
automatically think the worst is going to
happen, it will be awful and we will not be
able to cope. For example, "My
relationship broke up, so nobody will want a
relationship with me again in the
future." You expect disaster. You notice or
hear about a problem and start ―what ifs‖:
―What if tragedy strikes?‖ ―What if it
happens to you?‖
Discounting the Positive: In discounting
the positive we trivialize the positive
things about ourselves and others saying
that these positives do not count for
much. For example your partner says
you are good at something, but you say
they are only saying it because they are
Emotional Reasoning: In emotional reasoning we let
our feelings guide our interpretation of reality. We
think that what we are feeling must be accurate, so if
we feel we are a failure then we must be; if we feel
we are ugly then we must be. We do not look for
facts to support what we feel; we have a feeling and
just accept it. If we feel we are weak, useless, stupid
we just accept it. We may be so stressed that we
have difficulty with our emotions and therefore
conclude that our marriage is not working, when in
fact it is our blunted emotions that are causing the
problem. We reason from how we feel, I feel an
idiot, so I must really be one. You believe that what
you feel must be true—automatically. If you feel
stupid and boring, then you must be stupid and
23. Emotional Mis-reasoning: The individual
draws an irrational and incorrect
conclusion based on the way he feels at
Hopelessness: The individual assumes
that nothing will ever work out, and that
things will always go wrong.
Filtering: You take the negative details and magnify
them while filtering out all positive aspects of a
situation. We filter out all the good things that life has
an overly focus on negative parts of life. We pick on
a single negative detail and dwell on it. We overly
dwell on the negative and totally ignore the positives.
We make predictions about what will happen to us in
the future based on little information. For example,
someone says we have done well, but we discount
this because we say it was only said to be nice, it
wasn't really meant; or 100 good reviews and one
bad review and we focus on the single bad review.
Fortune Telling: We think that events will
turn out bad without having any
evidence to support this view. For
example, I'll fail my exams, or I won't go
for the job I want because I know I won't
get it. The individual predicts failure in
situations yet to happen because things
have gone wrong before.
26. Global Labeling: You generalize one or
two qualities into a negative global
Labeling: The individual labels himself or
someone else negatively, way, which
shapes the way he sees himself or that
other person, often for simplistic reasons.
Magnifying or Minimizing (Binocular
Vision): In magnifying/minimizing we
blow things out of proportion. We make
mountains out of molehills. We tend to
minimize the strengths and qualities of
ourselves and others and magnify and
exaggerate the supposed
weaknesses, mistakes and errors.
Over-Generalization: Something goes
wrong in one situation, and the individual
applies it to all situations. You come to a
general conclusion based on a single
incident or piece of evidence. If something
bad happens once, you expect it to
happen over and over again. We make a
mistake and we think we can never do
things right. We make conclusions based
on single events. For example "Everything I
do turns out wrong."
29. Negative Focus: The individual focuses
mainly on negative events, memories, or
implications while ignoring more neutral
or positive information about his self or
Polarized Thinking: Things are black or
white, good or bad. You have to be
perfect or you’re a failure. There is no
Over Responsible: We feel the opposite
of the above, we feel responsible for
everything, carrying the world on our
shoulders, we are totally responsible for
ours and others happiness. For
example, "It's my fault that she hates her
job, I'm not a very good boss."
Projection. The individual makes
negative assumptions about the
thoughts, intentions, or motives of
another person, which are often
―projections‖ of his own thoughts and
feelings about the situation.
Personalization: The individual treats a
negative event as a personal reflection
or confirmation of his own worthlessness;
thinking that everything people do or say
is some kind of reaction to them. They
feel as though the rules are applied only
to him/her, instead of everyone, and
that people and things are against
Unrealistic Comparisons: In unfair
comparisons we compare ourselves to
other people, work colleagues etc, and
view them as being more
successful, better at coping than we
are, are happier than we are, and better
at handling life than we are.
What ifs: In what if thinking, we keep
asking what if something happens, and
we are not satisfied by any of the
answers we get. ". . . but what if I don't
do the three point turn properly?" or
"what if I mess up the emergency
stop?", ―what if the examiner is a
tyrant?", "what if . . .
35. The know-it-all can be very insecure about
him/her self and goes to great lengths to
prove his/herself. These individuals have
little empathy regarding how their
behaviors affect others within their
environment. They believe others should
think like they do and if others do not
something must be wrong with them.
Being Right: You are continually on trial to
prove that your opinions and actions are
correct. Being wrong is unthinkable and you
will go to any length to demonstrate your
rightness. In being right error we think we
are correct in our thinking; we discount
other evidence and the ideas of others.
(This is about our thinking). For example, "I
know I am right, so I won't read the leaflet
about the other political party."
Egocentric Thinking: In egocentric
thinking we think that it is important that
we persuade others to think the same
way we do. (This is about other people’s
thinking) For example, "I must persuade
him to want to vote the same as me if he
is going to be my friend." Or "People must
think the way I do."
38. Entitled: The individual feels as though he
deserves good things, even if he doesn’t
have to work for them.
Grandiose: The individual feels as though
he’s better or more important than other
people, or others should and do look up
39. I Want It Now: Asking for something over
and over again instead of waiting
Fallacy of Change: You expect that
other people will change to suit you if
you just pressure or cajole them enough.
You need to change people because
your hopes for happiness seem to
depend entirely on them.
Fallacy of Fairness: You feel resentful
because you think you know what’s fair
but other people won’t agree with you.
―That’s not fair.‖ This kind of thinking helps
me think someone is trying to get over on
me. It helps me think I need to do
something to get even or get back at
someone. The individual feels that life is
just too hard, and somehow owes him
Heaven's Reward Thinking: In heaven's
reward thinking we do the right thing to
gain our reward, we sacrifice and slave
imagining that we are collecting brownie
points that we can cash in some
day, making our decisions and actions
around what others need, often ignoring
our own needs. For example, "If I look after
my own needs I am being selfish." You
expect all your sacrifice and self-denial to
pay off, as if there were someone keeping
score. You feel bitter when the reward
Hindsight Thinking: In hindsight thinking we look
back at decisions we made in the past and
make judgments about the decision we made.
We often think we should have handled things
better, but hindsight thinking is always 20/20.
Looking back with the benefit of hindsight we
may now make a different decision with our
current knowledge, however we made the
decision at that time with the
evidence, knowledge and experience we had
at that time. For example, "When I left
University I should have gone for a different
type of job, all the work problems I've got now I
wouldn't have if I had taken that job."
43. I don't care about you: (No Empathy)
Not caring about other people. Only
caring about self. Not caring about the
things you do to other people and how it
I'm Slick: Thinking you can get away with
negative behavior and not get
consequences. Many times this involves
sneaky behavior and lies.
44. I'm Special: When an offender plays the
―I'm Special‖ game, he thinks rules do
not apply to him, or rules are not for him.
He also thinks he should not get
consequences for his behavior.
Intellectualization: The individual tries to
use ideas and intellect to sidetrack issues
and out-think the opposition, finding
excuses and explanations.
45. I've Got A Secret: (na-na boo-boo)
Keeping secrets because you think it is
fun. Sometimes you might keep a secret
because you want to be friends with that
person. Making your victim keep a
Jumping to Conclusions: In jumping to
conclusions we tend to make a negative
interpretation even though we don't
have all the facts to support our view.
Mind Reading: The individual feels that
others should know how he feels or what he
wants even though he doesn’t tell them. Or
we think we know what other people are
thinking about us, for example, that they
think we are stupid, incompetent, and may
disapprove of us; we do not bother to
check this out. For example, if a friend
walks by on the other-side of the street we
mind read and think I've offended her, so
she must be ignoring me.
47. One-Ups-Man-Ship: The individual feels
he has to do better than everyone
else, and show everyone that he’s the
Revenge: The individual feels as though
he’s been wronged and is allowed (or
entitled) to get his revenge.
That’s Stupid: This kind of thinking helps
me believe I’m smarter or more
important than others. It helps me not
listen to what others say.
Shoulds: You have a list of ironclad rules
about how you and other people should
act. People who break the rules anger
you and you feel guilty if you violate the
rules. The individual feels life ought to be
a certain way, or he should do
something, or things must go the way he
wants them to.
49. Stinking Thinking is designed to heighten your
awareness of common thinking errors that
keeps you emotionally stuck. One cannot
change until he or she identifies the error of
his/her way. What and how we think can
set our self up for failure. The way we think is
a learned behavior. We learn them from
our family of origin, friends, past
experiences, education, values, and
current environment. When things are going
well we look normal and all tend to think
alike. Our stinking thinking tends to surface
when we are anxious or stressed.
50. John Maxwell famously wrote,
―When you change your thinking you
change your beliefs.
When you change your beliefs you
change your expectations.
When you change your expectations
you change your attitude.
When you change your attitude you
change your behavior.
When you change your behavior you
change your performance.
When you change your
performance, you change your life!‖