When I was teaching, I often instructed my class to write a persuasive essay--that is, each student was to select something he or she would like to change and present arguments why the change should take place. I remember one young woman who was upset that her home town was giving some land to a university. Her reason for objecting? "They shouldn't do that!"
"Why not?" I asked.
"They just shouldn't!"
We discussed the matter for several minutes, and she couldn't tell me why the town decided to give the land away, nor could she tell me why the town shouldn't do so. Nonetheless, she was very angry about it.
Over the years I've witnessed several occasions in which someone got angry over the behavior of another--(But we always have Thanksgiving at my house! How dare she decide to go to Florida with a friend?") (How can Dad sell the house I grew up in?")--failing to recognize that the other person has every right to his or her decision. These individuals are acting on the premise, "Other people are supposed to do what I want!" If you think about it, this is how babies and young children think; it's why they have tantrums when they don't get their way. People who think this way are often very unhappy because their reasoning has remained immature.
Another source of distorted or unclear thinking comes from not recognizing misinformation, particularly when it comes from someone in authority. If a parent tells a child that all people who belong to a certain race or religion or political persuasion are evil or dangerous or somehow inferior, the child may grow up firmly believing that to be so. Unless the child questions that information, he or she will never think differently. But it's scary to question a parent or a teacher or anyone we see as an authority, so misinformation often continues to color our lives, causing us needless grief.
Distorted and unclear thinking also result from automatically making negative assumptions. I've discussed this subject in earlier blogs.
Stephanie Kay Bendel is the author of EXIT THE LABYRINTH: A Memoir of Early Childhood Depression – Its Onset and Aftermath, MAKING CRIME PAY: A Practical Guide to Mystery Writing, and A SCREAM AWAY, a romantic thriller published under the house name, Andrea Harris. She has also written numerous short stories and articles on writing.