What’s on your mind? Nevermind, I know.

February 2014 Newsletter

Dr. gloria wright

“What are you, a mindreader?” Most of us would answer no, but yet we “read” other’s minds – often.

I have a friend who often references his comments with, “I know you think this is silly….” This startles me, because that isn’t on my mind at all. Sometimes he goes further and guesses I think something is stupid or ridiculous, etc. That confounds me even more. I rarely think “stupid.” Then I have to take the time to tell him that wasn’t on my mind. Then he doesn’t hear my rebuttal. He believes what he thinks even when it isn’t what I think. Very confusing.

Even if we don’t say whatever it is we conjure up in our minds, we believe it – and then hold that thought as if it’s true. Our muses can impact our relationships adversely. If you think I’m upset with you or angry or…, you can hold it against me. Even when it’s not what I think. You could check it out. Just ask. “Were you mad at me the other day when…?” Hopefully most people will give you their honest thoughts.

We really get attached to our projections – and sometimes they may even be true. Another friend said, “I know your friend doesn’t like me.” I tried to interject some possibilities, but she wasn’t budging. She “knew” what my other friend thought. Oh, boy, she wasn’t going to turn loose of what she thought, so I gave up. She could not stay neutral and/or take the courage to ask for clarification. It made me wonder how much she had in her head that was pure speculation. And her thoughts didn’t favor her. Sad. She thinks ill of herself and then holds other people responsible.

I recently attended an Institute for Brain Potential program on calming the overactive brain. Mindreading was one of the symptoms of free floating anxiety. They further listed Cognitive Distortions: perfectionism, catastrophizing, mind reading (negative projected evaluation from others), forecasting and believing feelings are facts (erroneous beliefs). One of the course objectives was on how to practice Mindfulness and Positive Psychology to produce present-centered, non-judgmental states that increase positive emotions, facilitate sleep and calm the overactive brain.

It’s easy to make up what you think someone else thinks – but not really very productive. For some people this is an ongoing activity. They just assume that what they think you think is so and act accordingly. My daughter will tell me what I’m thinking. I quip back, “Honey, do you mind if I get in this relationship? Or do you want to have a relationship with me in your head without me?” She laughs, and then we have a two-way conversation, which I like a lot better.

And why do we project the worst case scenario? Why not give everybody the benefit of the doubt? Why not let others be innocent until proven guilty, rather than guilty until proven innocent? Bad habit is my guess. How about creating a new habit – try and check it out. “I was wondering what you thought about….” Stay neutral when checking. It’s much easier for me to respond to a neutral question than it is to go into my head to check and see if I thought what you thought I thought. “You think this is a bad idea, don’t you?” takes me a lot longer to process than simply seeking my counsel. Give me – and everybody else you know – the benefit of the doubt. Won’t that be refreshing?!