The way we infer about what is happening around us or within ourselves

The way we infer about what is happening around us or within ourselves

Imagine the following scenario: We enter a room full of people among whom a group begins to laugh out loud. Do you automatically think they are laughing at you?

In the first days in the new school, you get a bad grade, much lower than you expected. Do you automatically think that you will never finish that school? Or are you preparing for a catastrophic failure?

We can transfer the same scenario to the workplace and the possibility of making a mistake. Do you automatically think that your colleagues will consider you completely incompetent?

If you are prone to such automatic conclusions, you will most likely be upset, which will also affect your behavior, which will certainly not help you. And the most interesting thing is that there is a significant probability that you have concluded everything wrong.

The way we conclude about what is happening around us or within ourselves has a big impact on how we will feel and how we will act in certain situations.

In this text, I would like to draw your attention to some typical mistakes we can make in interpreting reality, which lead to emotional difficulties, or maintain them if they already exist.

These mistakes were noticed by the famous American psychiatrist Aaron Beck, the creator of cognitive therapy, in his work with depressed patients. He noticed that people who suffer from depression in a characteristic way falsify reality, interpreting it in a negative, self-sabotaging way. But these inference errors are not unique to people suffering from depression – we can all succumb to them more or less, but the problem arises if it is many and frequent.

The way we infer about what is happening around us or within ourselves

These are typical errors:

Jump to the conclusion

Here we make a mistake by drawing a conclusion from an individual case and interpreting things negatively without the existence of facts that can support it. In general, two subtypes of this error are recognized:

Fortune-telling: “I failed the driving test, I will never be a driver”, “My boyfriend left me, I will never get married”, “If I am not invited to a party, I will never have company”

Reading thoughts: “The boss certainly thinks I’m not professional enough because he noticed that I messed up”, “People must think I’m missing something because I’m sitting alone in the cinema”.

Jumping to a conclusion as a pattern of thinking/concluding is especially characteristic of people who suffer from anxiety disorders, and who anticipate the terrible consequences of what is happening to them or could happen (but without a foothold in reality).

Focusing on the negative (so-called “mental filter”)

The person who makes this mistake in reasoning, focuses excessively only on the negative details, while he does not perceive or ignore the positive ones. This person counts mistakes and failures while noticing positive situations. For example: “Since he/she left me, there is nothing bright in my life”, “I better not go to school at all, because someone always provokes me there”.

One example is certainly the situation where you receive a lot of positive feedback about the presentation you gave to colleagues at work but obsessively cling to one of the comments that are negative, or even slightly negative (with a dose of criticism). You can turn it in your head for days, and consequently feel very bad about it, ignoring all the positive comments you have received about your work.

The way we infer about what is happening around us or within ourselves

Disqualification of the positive

This error is closely related to the one described above. A person who focuses on negative details is often inclined to disqualify the positive experiences he is experiencing. For example, if he experiences some success, he believes that it is a matter of instant happiness, or that anyone could have achieved it. “The fact that this person gave me a compliment only means that she is too kind,” “The fact that the commission praised me only means that the members were in a good mood today,” and the like.

Focusing on the negative and disqualifying the positive is especially characteristic of depression. By repeating this pattern of thinking, a person feels inadequate and unrecognized.

Emotional reasoning

We make this mistake if we interpret reality in relation to how we currently feel (although it may be independent of what is happening around us). For example: “The fact that I have been feeling bad for days means that my life is bad.” “I feel upset, something bad has to happen,” “I feel hopeless, I’m a hopeless case”.

Polarized (dichotomous) thinking

It is also known as “black and white” opinion or opinion in terms of “all or nothing”. Here, things in one’s own life and in relation to oneself are experienced as “either-or”, which is usually not realistic, or is too extreme. Let’s say: “If I fail to get a new job, I am a complete loser”, “My life is worth only if I give birth to a child because if I don’t have a child, I have nothing from life”.

The way we infer about what is happening around us or within ourselves

Excessive generalization

This is a well-known error of reasoning that is not unique to emotional difficulties. When she is attached to other people, we recognize her as a stereotype (for example: “Men are unfaithful”). In this case, he refers to the generalization of negative events in his life: “I am always deceived”, “I always get the thick end”, “They always blame me”, “I will never be happy”, and so on.


We make this mistake if we tend to relate what is happening to ourselves, even if there is not enough basis for such a thing. If the boss at work is in a bad mood “I must be annoying him”, or what we have already stated at the beginning of the text – if some people laugh when we enter the room, we interpret that they laugh at us. If the therapist’s client does not come to the next scheduled meeting, he can conclude that it is necessary because he led the first meeting badly.


This mistake is reflected in the tendency of a person to over-generalize people and events, giving them a global characteristic, the label: “I am a loser because I have no job”, “My life is a failure”, and the like. Here, then, we evaluate our own or someone else’s identity and the whole person on the basis of imperfections and mistakes, so instead of characterizing the procedure, we label the whole being. This way of thinking does not leave much room for constructive solutions, because when we attach a bad label to someone, we do not see a positive potential that can fix things.

Exaggeration and minimization

The tendency to perceive some situations as more significant than they really are, and others to be insignificant, is close to disqualifying the positive. An example is: “My successes are a matter of happiness, and failures are my personal responsibility.” We can also exaggerate the importance of mistakes we make in the workplace and believe that they do irreparable damage to us, while downplaying the importance of well-performed interventions or results. Or, we can exaggerate the importance of negative traits and completely ignore the importance of the positive traits we possess.

The way we infer about what is happening around us or within ourselves

Requirements (“requirements”)

These are actually our beliefs about what “must”, “shouldn’t”, “should”, which we most often used to motivate ourselves, others, or life or rebuke, because something we hoped for has not been achieved, that it will be. For demanding statements, there is usually no basis in reality. If something absolutely should have happened, then it certainly would have happened, and this type of thinking only additionally contributes to the intensity of negative feelings when wishes or hopes are not realized.

How to “correct” the way of thinking?

In general, in the cognitive therapeutic approach, the focus is on identifying and changing the wrong, that is, “distorted” conclusions and messages that we send to ourselves, that is, distinguishing our own thoughts from reality. In that way, it changes the change of non-functional emotions and behaviors. Also, the therapy is focused on the present and is limited in time, because the goal is to teach the client strategies that will help him prevent the recurrence of symptoms or alleviate them, that is, to teach himself to help in those situations.

If you are wondering what are the ways you can help yourself to reconsider your own opinion, I can offer you a few simpler ways:

• Identify your reasoning mistake by writing down your negative thoughts on paper and finding out what type of mistakes, from the ones listed above, they belong to. Many inference errors occur together and intertwine (as can be seen from the given examples).

• Examine whether you have sufficient evidence for this type of conclusion and what is the nature of that evidence?

• Talk to yourself about how you think in a similar way as you would with a loved one whose well-being you care about.

• Instead of thinking about your problems in extreme proportions, evaluate them on a scale from 0 to 100, you are more likely to have a more realistic picture of them. When things don’t go as well as you hoped, the question is whether you can judge them on this scale as a complete failure.

• Instead of automatic self-blame, consider what other factors contributed to the problem?

• Instead of automatically labeling yourself as a “loser” and the like, define for yourself exactly what that word means and can anyone belittle yourself to that extent?

• Examine how much it pays to think in a certain way, what are the advantages and disadvantages of such a way of thinking and concluding?

• Avoid making demands on yourself in which something “must” or “must not”, especially for those things that have already happened or are not under your control. It is much more realistic to rename your demands into wishes and desires, or what you think should not have been in “it is better that it did not happen”…

• Experiment with what you believe in so that you are not upset by unsustainable beliefs. For example, instead of reading other people’s thoughts, ask them questions, check their opinions.

These are just some ways in which you can help yourself and improve your emotional life and psychological well-being. However, I note that professional help in the form of consultations, conversations, psychotherapy, is irreplaceable if your emotional distress is intense, disruptive to daily functioning, and lasts a relatively long time.

The way we infer about what is happening around us or within ourselves


I hope you liked the content about ways to conclude?

If you have any questions or suggestions, please leave them in the comments!

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