Why some people think they are losers when making a mistake and other people do not?
One of my clients tended to think he was a loser whenever he made a mistake at work or in interpersonal relationships. One day, he came to me and told me, “I shouldn’t let my colleague know my lack of motivation at work due to demoralization within the team. I am so stupid. I am such a loser.” When he told me what had happened in the team and what he thought other colleagues talked behind his back, he seemed to fully believe in his thoughts and immersed in the content of what he was saying. In fact, he had no recognition that the situation could be other than how he was perceiving. That is, he was speaking as if he knew the truth of what actually happened and what his colleagues talked behind his back.
This client tended to use absolute terms when he told me about his thinking. For instance, he said, “I must not tell any of my colleagues about my lack of motivation at work from now on. I should protect my privacy by avoiding to tell anyone about my inner condition.” This client did not recognise that what he had said was just his thoughts and it might not apply to all the situations. He was unable to appreciate that relationships with colleagues are diverse and he could have some trustworthy colleagues whom he might be able to share his inner conditions more. When he fully believed in what he thought, he was led by his dichotomous thinking and he also acted in a black-and-white way. That is, he either choose to disclose all of his inner conditions to his colleagues or choose to keep all his inner conditions to himself. As a result, when this client had a dichotomous thinking that he was a loser because he had made a mistake, he strongly believed in this thought and could not appreciate that this was only a thought and might not be a fact.
For those who are able to recognise that ones’ thoughts are only thoughts and might not be facts, their use of language in their sharing of thoughts are different. For example, if the above client was able to recognise his thoughts are just thoughts, he might say, “I think I may be a loser because I told my colleagues about my mental condition”. In fact, he might also use humor to describe his thoughts about being a loser in this case. He might say, “I am thinking about myself being a loser again, my old buddy inside came back to me, haha!” The content of the client’s description might be the same, but the way he talked about it was different.
Everyone of us has experiences of thinking in a black-and-white terms. We might have felt ourselves failed by making a mistake. We might also regret for doing something that making us look stupid. It is important for us to be able to recognise that our thoughts about ourselves are only thoughts and our temporary perception of ourselves. When we heard ourselves speak in an absolute term, we need to pull ourselves out of this dichotomy. We needed to be able to recognise that our thoughts about a certain situation or ourselves are only possible interpretation or perception. In this way, we would not be stuck in our dichotomous thinking and strongly believe in our extreme thoughts.