Mind Traps - What They Are And How To Get Out Of Them!

I was on my Counselling Skills Course when I first learned about mind traps. It was one of those amazing light bulb moments where everything changes. I wish I had been taught them at school!

What is a Mind Trap?

A mind trap is a way of thinking. The subconscious works in repeating patterns and learns ways of thinking and behaving from other people and past experiences. Some of these are well established and have names and processes that I am going to share with you in this blog. 

Each one is like driving down the wrong road when you’re on a journey. The sooner you notice you’ve gone off track, the quicker you can get back to where you want to be, without too much disruption. If you don’t notice, you could go for miles and who knows where you might end up!

As always, awareness is the first key to change. Here is an overview of the most common mind traps and tips on how to come out of them:

All or Nothing: This is like black or white thinking. “If you’re not with me then you must be against me.” “I win or lose, you win or lose.” “If this happens, then that will happen.” It’s very narrow minded and opportunities can get missed easily as you are closed off to them. You think there is only one way - your way!

Way out: Notice your language and ask yourself “How could this be different?” Write down ten different alternatives to get your creative mind coming up with new ideas and thoughts.

Over-generalisation: You can spot this trap by the language of “Why does this always happen to me?” or “It never goes right for me!”. It’s taking one negative event and deciding that’s true of every experience of your life. 

Way out: Find examples of experiences that have gone well, for you or others.

Mental Filter: You spot a negative detail and can’t see anything else. Like focusing on the fly in the ointment.

Way out: Find the positives in any negative experience, for example what is it teaching or showing you?

Discounting the positive: Typical language of this trap would be “Yes, but…. “ Good experiences and things that go well don’t count because “it was a fluke” Or that it might have gone well but it wasn’t good enough, or “I could have done this better”.

Way out: Stop! Find and acknowledge the good things that you did do. Turn up the volume on them and keep bringing your focus back to the achievements.

Jumping to conclusions: Your interpretation of other people’s behaviour. “He cancelled because I was late last time we met” for example. Assuming other people’s reactions are the same as yours when there is no evidence. Your mind will fill in the gaps!

Way out: Remember there could be a very simple explanation that has nothing to do with you.

Mind reading: similar to jumping to conclusions. You decide what someone else is thinking about you and it’s not good!

Way out: Everybody has their own way of being in the world and you will judge people by your own standards. Remind yourself that you are not them and step back from judgements: “I wonder how someone would feel to make them say that?” is a good question to ask yourself.

Fortune-telling: Predicting a negative outcome without any evidence. “It’s going to be a nightmare!”

Way out: Tell a different story, for example: “It might be successful/fun/easy.”

Magnification: Exaggerating your problems and shortcomings and reducing your positive aspects. This can feel like a ‘poor me’ victim view point.

Way out: Shrink the problems and big yourself up! What’s the benefit of your apparent shortcoming? There is always a silver lining if you look for it.

Emotional reasoning: basically believing that because you feel bad, then it is bad - but a feeling is not a fact. 

Way out: Are your fears/bad feelings true? For example, if you feel guilty about something - is it really your fault? Or is it as bad as you think? Using tapping to reduce an emotional response is brilliant in this case.

“Shoulds”: Telling yourself that you should do something or things should be a certain way can distort your expectations and lead to disappointments.

Way out: Replace ‘should’ with ‘could’ and feel the pressure coming off! It’s much more forgiving.

Labelling: Instead of learning from a bad experience, you decide that “I am guilty” or “I am a bad person”

Way out: Question your thoughts and your feelings - another good one for EFT/Tapping. A deeper look at your beliefs would be really useful if you do this regularly.

Personalisation and blame: Holding yourself responsible for an event that is nothing to do with you. Somehow you were to blame.

Way out: Remember that you are only responsible for yourself and your own feelings. You are not responsible for the world and everyone in it.

Recognise any of these patterns? We all do all of them at one time or another and you might notice some that are your favourites!

The first step to changing a pattern is to notice where you use it. Be really honest with yourself and think back to a time when you might have been one of the traps described above. Some patterns are so deeply ingrained that you will have no idea you are doing them. Ask the people close to you what they think - notice how you feel about what they say and stay as open as you can to feedback.

Once you are aware of what you are doing - stop doing it! Literally stop what you are saying and take a few breaths. Is there something you could think or feel differently? Tapping whilst doing this can be really helpful, partly to calm and release any response and also to start re-programming something more helpful.

I would love to hear from you and your experiences with mind traps and getting out of them too! Please comment below or email me on jemima@stressfreelifeacademy.com.

If you want to know more about your own patterns, why not go deeper and book in your free 20 minute consultation? You can discuss your issues and get some insight into your hidden patterns. Click here to book.

Jemima Eames