26 May, 2015

Thinking Traps

How to Recognize and Combat Thinking Traps That May Be Controlling Your Life

As a human being, you probably will have noticed that what people think and say often bears little relation to how they act. Is it because individuals think what they say is accurate when it isn’t?

According to the concept of The Thinking Trap, this is the case. We have a misguided view of what we do and why we do it. What we say is not a guide to our real selves and what we do is a much clearer insight into who we really are. Disassociation of what we say and do operates in almost all aspects of existence from what we perceive to how we behave.

The Introspective Illusion

The introspective illusion is the ideology that we like to know about ourselves and how we do things, but it is actually misplaced confidence. We think of ourselves as sensible and rational but we actually make up stories about ourselves and others about what we think is going on. These stories act as implicit theories that explain our own decisions. These explanations are not to do with our ability to accurately introspect, but we tell ourselves and others these stories, not knowing that they are actually not real.

Factors are Hidden from us that Prevent Conscious Rational Choices


The fact that most people do not consciously know what affects their decisions and behavior is a strange and somewhat frightening concept altogether. In decision making, there are many factors that are hidden from us that prevent conscious and rational choices. We are essentially blind to our own choices and preferences even though we think that we are fully aware of them. This is why we often want things not compatible with what we need. 

Self and Societal Deception

Part of the reason why our brains deceive us is down to the fact that memory is a constructive process and not a trustworthy record of the past, it makes us prone to biases.
The organizations we are governed by such as the Government, public health organizations and corporate organizations are aware that we, as people, collectively do not do what we want to do or should do in the most practical sense of the word and this is at the core of many societal and health problems.
We also blindly live with prejudices; the atrocities carried out globally highlight the extent of the prejudices and incoherence that we may carry without knowing.

As people, we all do have a lot in common but still have variables, and the differences between these variables are greater than manipulations from bigger organizations. These differences can most likely be found in how people behave not what they think or say. The inherent built-in traits of us all means that although we have a vested interest in believing what we think and say interprets our view of the world, we don’t understand the limits of our thinking, and this is essentially at the core of failures in many government and corporate institutions, as well as in our individual decisions.

What do our Conscious Thoughts Do?

The functions of conscious thoughts that may or may not be projected into speech are generally limited to giving people a sense of self-identity. To change the way we behave requires interventions of the non-conscious self. At best we only have a small degree of self-control over the self that we display in public, we are more biased and less rational. It also means that most kinds of education, training and development are not as useful, and health information and education are unlikely to get people to change their lifestyles for the better.

Re-framing your Thinking Traps

To summarize, what we do has a greater importance than what we think. To change thoughts in order to change a related behavior, will have much more power than putting effort into thinking in a different way. The harder that we try to get out of the Thinking Trap, the firmer the grip. Instead, we should always be aware of it and that it is operating on us. Re-frame your thoughts for peak performance.

Sometimes we are prone to interpreting events, situations and behaviors in ways that lead to weaker performance than we are capable of, particularly in the workplace. Try to combat this by being mindful of the way the trap might affect you. Dedicate time and practice to combating these thinking traps and how you can promote more productive thoughts and behaviors.

Dedicate time and practice to combating these thinking traps and how you can promote more productive thoughts and behaviors. It won’t do any good to jump to conclusions or to second guess, instead avoid all or nothing thinking and slowly work on changing negative thoughts to positive ones.

Emotional Intelligence Consulting

People with higher emotional intelligence are more equipped to take on their Thinking Traps. Emotional intelligence means realizing your own strengths, weaknesses, limits and where you can work harder and pairing it with interpersonal intelligence which recognizes the same in other people. Tools can be used to help to increase emotional intelligence by determining workplace personality styles that will open up a person’s eyes to the way they themselves work and those around them. Becoming more emotionally intelligent also increases productivity and minimizes the risk of conflict because when you have empathy for yourself you are more able to apply it to others and their situation.

Be Your Own Voice of Reason

Another way to stop yourself from falling head first into the thinking trap is to engage in self-talk. Scientists believe that saying the right words to yourself can free us from our fears and make us wiser about ourselves. Ethan Kross is a psychologist who has studied the phenomenon of self-talk. His studies found that by addressing yourself by name will increase your level of self-advocacy whereas talking to yourself with the pronoun ‘I’ can be a flustering experience and lead to lower performance in stressful times.

The inner voice will first develop in early childhood, as a companion and a creative muse. It can mean we become detached observers of our own life and self-talk is one of the least utilized tools we have within ourselves to master the psyche.

Use language to create a distance that feels real to ease your workload on the brain and talk yourself through a challenge or something that you are worried about to avoid falling down the thinking trap. Introspection is powerful, but by questioning our thoughts sometimes we can make wiser choices.

Laura Morrissey is a passionate writer/blogger and her specialist areas are self-improvement and personality development. Beside this, she writes for Disc Assessment – a personality testing tool used to test human behaviours. You can check her blog and get in touch with her on LinkedIn.

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