Self-awareness and resilience – automatic thoughts

Today, let’s explore the most common types. Which types of common automatic, distorted thoughts can you spot in your own thinking?

  • Black-and-white thinking, or polarised thinking: this describes a mental habit of thinking in absolutes, e.g. “all or nothing”. For example, an idea or situation is either completely bad or the perfect, fault-free solution to all problems. It also leads to distorted conclusions such as “If I am not a total, 100% success, I must be a failure”. Real life is mostly somewhere in between.  
  • Catastrophising: or magnifying: the tendency to see one negative word, one slight set-back, as the harbinger of misfortune, impending loss and possibly the end of your career (or relationship) as you know it.
  • Filtering: when confronted with a mix of good and bad information – for example, a performance review, or a client feedback conversation – we can latch on the negative and ignore or discount the positive aspects. Anything that went well is forgotten quickly, and the only aspects that stick in your mind are what didn’t.
  • Mind-reading: do you believe you know what other people are thinking and feeling, and why they act the way they do, even if they have not told you so? And in particular, do you think you know what they think and feel about you? If you mostly assume that others hold you in a negative regard, you are likely to adapt your behaviour accordingly and approach them with reservation and suspicion – which can create self-fulfilling prophecies.
  • Emotional reasoning: because you are feeling miserable or hopeless, you conclude that these feelings are accurate reflections of your situation. If you feel like a failure, you must be one – regardless of observable evidence. Or you feel vaguely guilty and conclude you must have done something wrong, when in reality you have set unattainable standards for yourself and nobody would accuse you of any wrong-doing.

Over time, these thinking styles will undermine your wellbeing and resilience. Try to spot them and readjust your thinking. Ask yourself if there are there any objective facts that would support your conclusions, how a third party would see the situation, or what advice you would give your best friend if they had the same thoughts. 

If you think you may be affected by distorted, automatic thoughts, don’t hesitate to contact LawCare for a confidential and free conversation, or reach out to the QLS Solicitor Support on, or p 3842 5843 to speak to someone in a judgement-free and supportive environment.

Rebecca Niebler is QLS’ Organisational Culture and Support Officer, QLS Solicitor Support (QLS Ethics and Practice Centre)

16 January 2020

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