I've talked about learning to be aware of your thoughts and feelings and how they affect your moods. Today I want to talk about a faulty thought process called personalization. If I think in this way, I see everything that happens as being about me. If someone is late for a meeting, I conclude he is failing to respect me. If a friend forgets my birthday, she doesn't care about me.
In reality, there may be any number of valid reasons why someone doesn't do what you're expecting, but if you're a personalized thinker, you never consider alternate reasons, and you're likely to end up angry, hurt, or indignant--in other words, unhappy.
A true example: I was driving on a highway with my then teenage son in the passenger seat when a speeding car passed us and cut us off sharply, nearly hitting my left front fender. My son responded, "What an idiot! Give him the horn, Mom!"
Fortunately, at that point in my life I had learned about personalization, so I quietly replied, "That driver is obviously not paying attention to what he's doing, but we don't know what's going on with him. He may have just lost his job, or learned that someone in his family has been seriously injured. Maybe his wife told him that she's leaving him. If I honk the horn, I may startle him and cause an accident. Better to simply give him plenty of room."
I think my son learned something that day, because he turned out to be a very safe driver.
Recently I read an article that said 80% of drivers surveyed admitted to experiencing road rage. I suspect that shows how common personalized thinking is.
FOR YOUR INFORMATION: My book, EXIT THE LABYRINTH: a memoir of early childhood depression, its onset and aftermath, will be available from Amazon on Kindle for the special price of $2.99 on Saturday, September 24, for one day only.
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.