Friday, August 10, 2012

Are You A Mindreader?


When you walk into a room filled with strangers, what are your initial thoughts?

Do you think the best?  “These people are interested in me and can’t wait to meet me!

Or the worst?  “These people think I’m fat… boring… stupid..."

Believing other people are thinking the worse of you can be subtle, as in the following examples:

  • Arturo sat on the couch in my office, telling me about his weekend.  He’d seen a couple of movies and spent time with his girlfriend.   I nodded, listening.  He sighed.  "You're right, I should have done some work this weekend.  I can’t believe how lazy I am."

  •  Corinne wept in frustration as she described a recent problem at work.  She blew her nose and shook her head, apologetically.  "You probably think I'm such a crybaby."

  • My friend Kellie and I had dinner recently, and she ordered dessert.  She gave me a sheepish look.  "I know what you're thinking.  I have no business eating tiramisu."
Each person in these examples projected his or her own critical thoughts about themselves, into me, and then felt guilty or ashamed.  

Arturo’s father always accused him of being a slacker, and he had internalized that view of himself.  He thought I was viewing him through his father’s eyes. 

Corinne grew up in a family that did not tolerate emotions or tears, which were viewed as signs of weakness.  She imagined that I was viewing her tears contemptuously. 

Kellie’s mother constantly monitored her weight, and Kellie thought I was doing so, too.


What do you think others are thinking about you?   Are they critical?  Kind?  Indifferent?  Angry?

Who viewed you that way in the past?   How have you identified with them?

What is another way to view yourself and the situation?  What would you say to someone else in your position?    

“Arturo, it’s important to relax over the weekend and recharge your batteries.  That's practicing self-care, not slacking” 

“Corinne, it’s healthy to cry if you’re upset.  Feelings are a reaction to a situation, not a reflection of your character.” 

“Kellie, it’s okay to eat dessert, or anything, in moderation.”

Thoughts and beliefs lead to emotions, which influence behavior.  When you think the worst, you feel terrible, and may turn to an eating disorder to cope.  

When you believe others are interested in you, rather than critical of you, you feel less anxious/upset/guarded and are less likely to turn to disordered eating.

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Legal Disclaimer:  The content on this site is for educational and informational purposes only.  It is not intended as psychotherapy or as a substitute for psychotherapy advice, diagnosis or treatment.


Rachel said...

I have gotten into trouble in relationships with people because of worrying too much what they think of me. This is a disease I need help with, and now I'm learning they probably think far less bad than I do of myself.

Larry said...

I think you'll find a lot of encouragement from this blog. I know I already have.

Renee said...

I've been feeling empty lately, and have been binging more often. This post helps me understand why I do what I do.

Food Addict said...

I binge and purge. If this is what doing drugs is like, this is my drug-food. I'm just now discovering why I do this.

Natalie said...

Individuals struggling with eating disorders tend to have such high, unrealistic expectations of themselves that they tend to project this unto others. So many of our patients base their happiness off of what they "think" others are thinking of them; however, many times their thoughts are nothing more than the negative thoughts they are telling themselves.

Sweatpea said...

You're right, as well as others who have posted. I realize that sometimes I think worse of myself than others do.

Charli said...

I'm always told I think of myself a lot worse than others do, but I don't understand how anyone else can see anything differently?

I've started a blog on my eating disorder recovery, hopefully people can take a look and maybe give me some advice.

Theresa said...

This form of mind-reading is a poisonous form of assumption, because it really isn't mind-reading at all. It is a form of worry about what other's think of us that can kill us if we let it.

Lester said...

This insight is fresh and new for me. People always say don't worry about what others think of you but they never go as in depth into the discussion as this.

Julie U.S. Writer said...

Mind-reading is evil, especially if it is not really mind reading but rather is just assumptions.

Nora said...

I'm realizing how important it is to recognize what is real and what is not real in terms of what people think of us. I have often thought people were thinking thoughts about me that never crossed their minds.

Nora said...

This really is tough. I myself have wondering this many times. However, I hope that I too will find the answers as I continue on this journey.

Kendra said...

This blog post describes me so well! I don't know how many times I would think people are thinking bad of me when usually they are not.

Miles said...

I know that it's okay to eat desert in moderation. However, what exactly 'is' moderation? (I bring this up because I'm hard on myself when I eat more deserts than I should at a social gathering.)

Julie U.S. Writer said...

I think it depends on what kind of desert it is. However, the overall point is to make sure you do not get too hard on yourself if you do eat too much desert. On the other hand, do not give up trying while not trying too hard.

John said...

You're right, Lester. This gives a far more educational outlook on "mind-reading" which is not really reading someone's mind at all.

Kerry said...

I didn't even notice how easy it is to assume what people are thinking. I've been doing this all my life.

Harry said...

Sometimes the above examples are said in fun. However, it does reveal how people might actually believe they know what people are thinking.

Kerry said...

You're right. It's hard to actually know what someone is thinking. We can only know to an extent by body language.