Category Archives: Flawed Thinking

Conquer the Frustration that Leads to Anger


  • Freeze frame that moment.  What are you actually thinking? The truth is it’s all in your head. Before you “fly off the handle” a thought process takes place, related to the situation you find yourself in. This thought can either increase or lower the chance of you becoming frustrated.

Examples of irrational beliefs/thoughts:

  • I can’t take this.  Really? What will happen if you have to endure another hour of sitting in traffic or waiting in a queue? Will you collapse and die? Suffer a mental breakdown? More than likely nothing so drastic will happen but you won’t be doing your blood pressure any favours by getting worked up over it. You do have a choice though. You can continue to work yourself up over the source of your frustration or you can find some way to make it more bearable, like listening to music, planning what you are going to do tomorrow, catching up on calls or doing some reading.
  • This is too much.  Too much for you to bear? If the answer is yes then remove yourself from the situation before you actually blow up. Make a quick exit and find something else to do.  On the other hand, if it’s an inconvenience, frustration or annoyance that you are finding difficult – you need to weigh things up. For instance if you’ve waited for hours in a queue you need to decide whether it’s worth it. Can you leave and come back at a less busy time? If not then consider the benefit of what you are standing in the queue for and try to find some way of spending the time productively. You always have choices. No one is forcing you do anything. You choose to do it.
  • I can’t wait that long. You can’t wait or you don’t want to wait? There is a difference. If you really can’t wait then leave and come back later when you have more time. However if you just don’t want to wait, then you have a choice to make. Does the benefit of continuing to wait in the queue outweigh the frustration? It’s up to you to decide.
  • It shouldn’t be this way.  Maybe not but it is this way. So what can you do about it? If this is the way it is then you can’t change it. The only thing you can do is choose how you react to it. Don’t forget. It’s all about choices.
  • It shouldn’t be this difficult or complicated.  Yes but it is. So how do you deal with it? You have to deal with the reality of the situation. It is not the ideal situation that you would like it to be so it is pointless to think that it should be. What is the best course of action considering the situation? Since you don’t have the power to change the difficulty or complexity you are faced with all you can do is deal with it. For instance let’s just say you are trying to fill out a complicated form and feel out of your depth. Could you find someone to give you advice or help you complete it? Or could you leave it until later when you are less tired and in a better frame of mind? If you have to do it yourself then think about the free time you will have once you’re finished, when you can enjoy yourself by doing something you really want to do.
  • I should always be happy and content.  Really? Or what? Where is that written? Is that true for everyone or just you? It is natural to want to be happy and content, but is it realistic to expect it to be that way all the time?
  • Things must go my way and I can’t stand it if they don’t.  It simply isn’t possible for things to go your way all of the time so you will have to find a way to bear it. We can’t all be first in line in every queue or crossroad in life. So what are you going to do when it’s not your day? Find ways of building up your tolerance level and make the best of situations that are less than ideal.
  • I can’t stand being frustrated. I must avoid it at all costs.  If you really feel that way then of course it is possible to avoid certain situations. Do bear in mind though what you may be missing out on through avoidance. Only then will you be able to make an informed decision as to whether it’s worth it to you or not.
  • Other people should stop doing things that annoy me.  Or what? You have no control over what other people do. You can only control how you react to it. What could you do differently to make the situation better? Think about it. You are wasting time and energy getting frustrated over things that you have no control over.

Another way to deal with frustration is to increase your tolerance level by exposing yourself to it more often.

  • Exposure – Gradually expose yourself to frustrating situations. Make a list of situations that you recognise as difficult. Then commit yourself to increased exposure. If your frustration is very severe then maybe only do this once a week. If it’s less severe then try to endure it at least once a day. Then increase your tolerance slowly. If you can tolerate your daughter leaving her bedroom in a mess, then try to go a day without tidying it up, then two days, then three, etc.
  • Rate It.  Put your frustration into context. If you are thinking, “This is dreadful!” ask yourself  “How dreadful is it?” Is it as dreadful as being in a car crash? Going through a divorce? Where does it stand in the greater scheme of things? Look closely at the source of your frustration. Compare it to your other life experiences. This will help you put things into perspective.
  • Develop Skills.  Discover more about what really gets you frustrated and develop skills to deal with it. What are the issues that lie behind your frustration? Do you feel trapped, powerless, bored? Then work at ways of doing things differently in order to eliminate these feelings. Write these feelings down and ask yourself what you can do to feel less trapped, powerless, bored or whatever. Make active choices instead of merely reacting. This will give you a better sense of control over your life and put you back in the driver’s seat. 

Control your frustration and anger. Don’t let it control you.

Jane Hipkiss Counselling – Darlington


Flawed Thinking?

Give it the rock-solid test. Can you identify with any of these distorted thinking patterns?

1.      I feel guilty, stupid, boring etc. Therefore I must be guilty, stupid, boring etc. Drawing conclusions based on our feelings is called emotional reasoning. Feelings are triggered by thoughts and if your thinking is inaccurate then you can feel bad about yourself without just cause. Good examples are:

a. Filtering – When you filter out the positives to concentrate on the negatives then you make the negatives seem worse than they actually are.

Example: Jenny sits an exam and when she finishes she continually worries about the two or three mistakes she knows she has made. The fact that she answered most of the questions well is of little comfort to her as she is too concerned with the ones she answered incorrectly.

Jenny can achieve a more balanced perspective by looking at her answers as a whole and giving equal attention to the ones she answered correctly. This way of thinking can be applied to all aspects of life and will give you a more realistic outlook.

b. Polarizing – Polarized thinking leaves no room for middle ground. Things can only be good or bad, black or white with no grey in between. If we use the example above, polarized thinking might lead Jenny to conclude that she is a failure. With polarized thinking Jenny only has two options: she is either perfect or she is a failure. Since she has made some mistakes she cannot be perfect. In this instance Jenny has no choice other than to conclude that she is a failure.

This all or nothing view can make you a harsh judge when it comes to evaluating yourself.

c. Overgeneralisation – This happens when you take one incident or factual piece of evidence and use it to draw a general conclusion. If Jenny were to fail her exam she might then conclude that she will never succeed in passing another exam. This distorted way of thinking can restrict personal growth, especially if it means you begin to avoid situations where you’ve had previous bad experiences. Overuse of the word ‘always’ and ‘never’ are clear indicators that you are overgeneralising.  As a result of Jenny’s failed attempt at passing her exam, she might overgeneralise and say, “I never do well in exams” or “I always make a mess of things”. This is a get out clause that says, “I might as well not even try”. This type of thinking can lead to a sense of overall failure, which may stop you from trying altogether.

 A more realistic (and healthier) way for Jenny to view her experience would be to say, “I didn’t do well on this exam”. This way she can learn from her experience in a way that will better prepare her for the next time she sits an exam.

2.      I expect something awful to happen to me every time I pick up the newspaper and read about problems happening elsewhere. This type of thinking is an indicator that you don’t trust yourself enough to deal with the ordinary challenges of life. This habit of catastrophising serves to convince you that you are forever at the mercy of something far bigger than anything you could possibly handle, which essentially lets you off the hook (nothing I can do) when things eventually go wrong.

Learning to react to the situation at hand rather than what you imagine to be the worst-case scenario – is a good way to keep things in perspective. This will also help build confidence in your ability to meet life’s everyday challenges head on.

3.      I imagine that people feel and think the same way I do, which means that I don’t need to listen to what other people have to say. Actually mind reading is inaccurate at best and dangerous at its worst. You can miss out on important messages that tell you how someone feels if you don’t open your mind to the possibility that other people may see things from a different perspective.

The best way to find out what someone is thinking or feeling is to ask.

4.     Everything I observe around me (what people are doing and saying) is a reflection of what people think and feel about me. The world does not revolve around you so don’t assume that everything that happens relates to you. This unhealthy way of thinking means that you put your own value in question. You may unfairly compare yourself to other people and worry about what they are thinking about you. Learn to trust your own internal evaluation. It’s the only one that really matters.


5.     I resent the fact that people treat me unfairly. Your view of what is fair does not necessarily agree with other people’s idea of fairness. People have different views about what is fair and until you recognise this you will continue to feel resentful that – in your eyes at least – you are being treated unfairly.


6.     I blame other people for how things have turned out for me. Take responsibility for the fact that you have freedom of choice and can make changes if you really want to.


7.     My happiness depends on other people’s actions so I spend a lot time trying to change them to suit me. The problem with this way of thinking is that you cannot change or control what other people do. The key to your own happiness depends on your own life choices. You alone are responsible for your own happiness and it is a fruitless effort to try and change other people.


8.     I believe in certain rules of behaviour (for others as well as myself) and it makes me angry when other people don’t follow these rules. And if I don’t follow them I feel guilty. Everyone has his or her own values and beliefs, which may or may not agree with your own. Sticking to a rigid set of rules means that you are constantly finding fault with yourself and others. Don’t be controlled by the rules. Trust in your own judgement and go with what you feel is right at the time.

       Jane Hipkiss Counselling – Darlington