Hi, I’m Dr. Calbeck. Welcome to my virtual office. Today, I’m talking about mistakes in thinking, and it is important in cognitive behavioral psychotherapy to identify when people are making a mistake in thinking. So the mistake that I’m going to talk about today is called personalization. And this is a mistake that occurs when someone takes the blame for an external event. And when we start to take responsibility erroneously, that can lead us to blaming ourselves for things that go wrong when in fact we didn’t really have control over that.
Now, this might take a couple of different forms. And one of the forms that it can often take is when we accept our disappointment and our struggle as an indictment on our character, we personalize our struggle. And the truth is that we all struggle and that we are all going to have disappointments. But oftentimes people will make the mistake in thinking that this disappointment is personally their fault. Instead of taking into account the fact that most struggles, most disappointments are multifactorial, they are due to a lot of different concerns.
So, for example, if a friend tells you that, you know, they can’t come over because something has come up, and they have to attend to it instead of thinking, well, your friend is probably telling you the truth, that something came up that she has to deal with and maybe that’s going to be difficult for her. You automatically blame yourself. You tell yourself that you weren’t interesting enough to hang out with that. Obviously, she got a better offer and that it’s your fault that your friend can’t come over instead of considering what your friend might be going through or understanding that perhaps there’s something else going on that makes it very difficult for them to arrive.
So when we “over personalize”, we accept a lot of self blame. And when we accept a lot of self blame, that leads us to feel depressed and anxious. So I would welcome you and challenge you to notice your thoughts when things are disappointing or when you’re in the midst of a struggle. Are you blaming yourself? And if you’re doing that, I welcome you and challenge you to ask yourself what else could be going on in the context of that particular disappointment or struggle and then talk it out with a friend.
So thanks so much for tuning in today. And I hope this example of the mistake in thinking called personalization has been helpful.
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