One error in thinking that can cause a lot of emotional as well as social problems is called "Mind Reading" by cognitive therapists.  Two days before I wrote this page I witnessed an example of mind reading and the negative consequences that can result.  A friend's aunt felt bad that the two of them hadn't talked for several weeks.  She wanted my friend to call more often so one day she called her niece and started the conversation by saying "We haven't talked for a long time".   Her niece interpreted that statement to mean that her Aunt was accusing her of not calling enough.  She told her Aunt that the phone is a two way instrument.  Her aunt then became upset and told her that she was trying to make her feel guilty for not calling.  Her niece hung up and said "I hate that woman".

  I will start by doing a little mind reading of my own.  My guess is that my friend's Aunt wants to be closer to her niece and that she wants her to call more often.  Yet the result of her call was my friend saying "I hate that woman".  I discussed what happened later with my friend.  I think one of the things that went wrong here was mind reading by my friend.  When her Aunt said "We haven't talked for a long time" she interpreted it to mean something like   "You are heartless and cruel, and have neglected to call me".  It's possible that interpretation is correct but it may not be.  It may have been an innocent statement without any hidden messages.  Or it may have been her Aunt's way of trying to get her to call more often.  Or what I think is most likely is that her aunt was trying to get her to call more often by making her feel guilty for not having called.  The important thing here is that my friend and I for that matter do not know what her Aunt intended.  My friend's assumption about an implied negative message led her to have bad feelings.  Her Aunt also did mind reading.  Her Aunt assumed that her niece was trying to make her feel guilty.  Her niece's main motivation for saying "A phone is a two way instrument" was to defend herself from what she thought was her Aunt's criticism

  The sad thing here is the intentions of her Aunt were basically good.  She wanted to get closer to her niece.  The consequence of the negative mind reading and perhaps of a small effort to make each other feel guilty, was my friend saying "I hate that woman" and her Aunt becoming upset.

c o p y r i g h t   ( c )   1 9 9 9 -2004 Karl Ericson Enterprises.  All rights reserved

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