Kim Molnar
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Thinking Errors

This lesson will focus on how we think. As wrong thinking leads to wrong behavior it is important to be aware of our thinking.

How do those who hurt others think? In order to violate society’s legal and moral rules a person needs to change their way of thinking. They change their way of thinking so they do not have to think about how they are hurting others. When they change their thinking, they are using thinking errors. Thinking errors are “mistakes” in the way someone thinks. They use thinking errors so they are really not bad, or not hurting someone. Thinking errors are used in both criminal and non-criminal situations. Thinking errors let a person blame other people, not take responsibility for their behaviors and stops people from ever getting better.

In order to reduce the chance that you will hurt others again, you must lean how to recognize thinking errors in yourself and in others. Everyday you will need to recognize your own thinking errors. When reading the following list of thinking errors see if you can identify which thinking error(s) you use in your every day thinking. If you are able to identify your favorite thinking error(s) you will be able to start changing your thinking.

Although everyone uses thinking errors, those that do not hurt others use intervention thoughts to stop their wrong thinking and thus stop their wrong behaviors. If someone uses thinking errors without using intervention thoughts, it is likely that they will violate rules and boundaries. When we violate rules and boundaries someone is getting hurt. Below is a list of thinking errors that people may use in order to avoid taking responsibility for their behaviors. See if you can identify the ones you use most often.

See if you can identify the ones you use most often.

1. Justifying
In avoiding responsibility for their behavior a person finds a reason for what they have done.
      “He yelled at me so I had to hit him.”
      “They all did it so why can’t I?”


2. Blaming
In order to avoid accepting one’s own faults, a person will find fault in another person and attempt to put responsibility for their own behavior on others.  They find someone else or something else to be responsible.  They blame others for what has happened to them.
      “The principal had it out for me that’s why I got kicked out of school.”
      “If my sister didn't leave her toys out, then I wouldn't take them.”


3. Excuse Making
A person will avoid being accountable for one’s actions by blaming situations or things for their own behavior.
       “I was drunk when I lit that house on fire.”
       “I couldn’t do my chores, because I had so much homework to do.”


4. Hopovers
In order to avoid taking responsibility a person will avoid the issue. They will shift the focus from oneself to someone or changing the topic of conversation to something else.
“Did you complete your homework?”  “Did you know that in Arizona, they don’t have to do homework?”
“Why weren’t you home on time?”  “What’s for dinner?”


5. Lying
This tends to be one of the most common thinking errors.  A person will be deceptive and dishonest by falsification or altering the facts.  There are three forms of lying:

Omission:  Telling part of the truth, but omitting important information in order to have a better outcome.

“Did you go to school?”  “Yes”.  What he's leaving out is that he did not stay or he spent all day on the roof of the school.

Commission:  Saying something is true when it is not, or denying that something is true when it is.

“I completed my chores.”
“I did not smoke”

Assent:  Faking agreement with someone in order to get them to leave you alone.

“Yeah, I will get my chores done today.”  And he has no intention of doing so.


6. Victimstance
When a person is held accountable for their behavior they will portray them self as the victim.  They act as though the world is against them.  When playing the victim the person does not take responsibility for changing any behaviors, as they believe they are helpless to do so.
      “These assignments are too hard for me.”
      “I can’t play football because therapy sessions are during practice.”


7. Anger
When a person is held accountable for their behavior they will become angry in order to get the focus off of their inappropriate behavior and on to the anger.  This allows people to focus on calming them down, or leaving them alone so they will not explode.  Everyone has anger, however when someone uses anger to avoid taking responsibility for his or her behaviors this is a thinking error.  It is similar to a hop-over in that the person is attempting to remove the focus from their behaviors.
      “You told me I had to be here, I didn’t have to be happy about it.”
      “I don’t want to talk about what happened last night.”


8. Puzzlement
If a person, acts puzzled or confused then others will help them, or not hold them responsible.  People become confused, however when a person understands what is expected and acts confused in order to avoid their responsibility then this is a thinking error.  For example, when you ask your adolescent to take out the trash and they only take out the kitchen trash.  When asked the reason they took only the kitchen trash out their response is:  “I did not know you meant to take all the trash out.”  They are acting confused but they are aware of what you meant.


9. Uniqueness
The rules don’t apply to me.  The person believes that they are different, or above others and do not have to follow the same rules as everyone else.  People who use this thinking error have behaviors such as cutting in front of the line, not following simple rules.  They believe the rules do not apply to them.                 


10. Catastrophizing
The person makes a situation bigger then it is.  Thus it is too big for them to handle or resolve.  This thinking error is similar to victim stance in that the person cannot resolve the problem.  For example, if the boss is coming over for dinner and the person burns dinner.  They immediately believe that their boss will think that they are incompetent, fire them and tell other potential employers of their incompetence and they will end up homeless.  With this thinking they are unable to problem solve and do not take responsibility for their behaviors.


11. Minimizing
The person will make the problem seem smaller so they can avoid being accountable for their behaviors.  By reducing or limiting the true significance of a hurtful behavior by comparing it with “worse behaviors”, the person is filtering out the effects on others and does not recognize the effects of their behaviors.  When you hear the words only and just this indicates that this thinking error is being used.
       “I was only ten minutes late.”
      “It was just a little bit beer.”


12. Closed Channel
By secret keeping, closed mindedness, and self-righteousness, the person filters out incoming information.  This thinking error is used to avoid facing information and opinions, which would require a change in attitudes or beliefs.  When you are talking to someone and it feels like they are covering their ears, this thinking error is being used.

13. Vagueness
The person answers questions without giving information.  Their answers are not specific and require additional questions to gain information.
      “Did you complete the assignment?” 
                  “Most of it.”
      “Where have you been?”


14. Super-Optimism
A person is unrealistic about what could happen in the future, and does not see any problems.  By using this thinking error the person will not plan for problems, will not develop coping skills or will not develop interventions.
      “I don’t need to study as I am going to the NBA.”

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