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  • Writer's pictureEric Kruse

How to Treat Your Thoughts as Guesses

It has been estimated that humans have anywhere from 30,000 to 70,000 thoughts per day and that up to 80% of these thoughts can be negative. It should be no wonder why so many members of the population struggle with anxiety and depression. It’s impossible to stop ourselves from having negative thoughts, which is why we call them “automatic thoughts,” but we do have control over the thoughts that follow our “automatic thoughts.”

An effective tool for controlling the thoughts that follow our automatic thoughts is to treat our automatic thoughts as guesses. For example, you see people in your office whispering and looking at you and your automatic thought is, “they must be making fun of me.” Instead, try framing that thought as question by altering it to, “Are they making fun of me?” Then follow it with another question, “Are they saying nice things about me? Are they talking about someone or something else and just looking in my general direction?” There are so many conclusions that are positive or neutral that we often miss the chance to consider.

The next step is to write down all the guesses and arrange them into a pie chart. Consider the evidence that supports each guess (i.e., hypothesis) and then assign probability percentage to each guess. For example, the fact that you cannot hear what your colleagues are saying about you and the fact that you don’t know if they are actually looking at you is evidence to support the guess that “they are talking about something or someone else and looking in your general direction” so you can assign I high percentage of the pie chart to that guess. Furthermore, the fact that up to 80% of our daily thoughts can be negative is evidence against the possibility that your colleagues are making fun of you because you now know that statistically there is a high chance that your first automatic thought will be negative.

Your pie chart can be drawn out by hand our done as a mental image if writing things down is not your thing. The purpose of this exercise is to slow down and consider that your thoughts may not always been accurate, especially when they are tainted by a smoke-colored lens. Treat your thoughts as guesses and make an active effort to follow your negative guesses with neutral and positive guesses.

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