Mental filtering is a way of thinking where a person only sees the bad things in a situation and ignores the good. Some call it cognitive filtering, negativity bias, or selective abstraction. For instance, imagine a student gets a report card with mostly good grades, but one subject has a lower grade. Instead of feeling proud and happy, the student only thinks about the lower grade, feeling disappointed and overwhelmed. This is one of the examples of mental filtering, making the situation seem more negative than it really is.
People who do mental filtering focus on the bad parts of a situation, make the negative seem bigger and ignore the positive. This leads to feeling unhappy and stuck in negative thoughts. Those who often think negatively see things with a pessimistic view, thinking the glass is half empty rather than half full. It’s important to recognize mental filtering and try to see the good along with the bad to have a more balanced and positive outlook.
Continue reading to learn more about mental filtering and the best examples that best explain them.
What is Mental Filtering?
Mental filtering is when people mainly focus on negative thoughts, ignoring the positive aspects of things. It’s a common way of thinking that can make someone feel less confident about themselves. This type of thinking can lead to problems like panic disorders, anxiety, and difficulty managing emotions.
Mental filtering is a type of “assuming the worst” mindset, where people tend to expect the worst outcome. This includes thinking about things in a negative way, and ignoring the good parts. There are other ways this kind of thinking shows up, like overgeneralizing (ignoring the middle ground) and disqualifying the positive (ignoring the good things). When someone engages in mental filtering, they get stuck on negative thoughts without considering the positive ones.
In general, mental filtering is a common thinking pattern where people focus too much on the bad stuff and don’t give enough attention to the good things. This way of thinking can lead to various mental health challenges over time.
Examples Of Mental Filtering
1. Black-and-White Thinking
Henry and DeShawn had a fantastic summer vacation, enjoying sights, delicious food, and beach relaxation. The trip went smoothly until their return journey when they discovered their flight was delayed for a few hours.
Despite the overall positive experience, Henry became upset and fixated solely on the flight delay, overlooking the enjoyable aspects of their holiday. This narrow focus turned the entire trip into a negative event, leading to black-and-white thinking that also affected DeShawn, who felt upset by the sudden shift in perspective.
The incident highlights the challenge of maintaining a balanced view in the face of unexpected hiccups, emphasizing the importance of appreciating the positive moments even when faced with minor setbacks.
Also Read: Mental Health Tips For Students
2. A Focus on Mistakes
Marco dedicated himself to preparing for a tough physics exam, putting in a lot of effort. When he receives the results, he sees an A minus, a grade that generally indicates success. However, instead of feeling proud of his hard work in tackling a difficult subject, Marco’s attention shifts to the few questions he answered incorrectly. This is one of the examples of mental filtering.
Despite his positive achievements, Marco tends to overlook the success and concentrate on the small errors. Rather than acknowledging the effort he invested in studying for a challenging class, he becomes fixated on the minor setbacks. This tendency to discount the positive aspects of his performance prevents Marco from fully appreciating his accomplishment.
In general, Marco’s response to his physics exam highlights a common behaviour of focusing on mistakes rather than celebrating achievements. This inclination can hinder personal satisfaction and overshadow the hard work put into accomplishing challenging tasks.
In the workplace, Sam shares her quarterly report with her team. While most of Sam’s supervisors appreciate the presentation, they suggest a minor improvement. Sam fixates solely on this feedback, causing her to view the entire presentation as a failure. These negative thoughts persist for several days afterwards, influencing her perception.
During this time, Sam’s mind becomes distorted, as she consistently labels her work as unsuccessful due to the singular piece of constructive feedback. Despite the overall positive response from her higher-ups, Sam’s focus on this one aspect leads to an unwarranted perception of failure. This fixation on the perceived flaw affects her mindset for days, highlighting the impact that distorted thinking and labelling can have on an individual’s perception of their own accomplishments.
4. Social Events
Attending social gatherings can be challenging, as some individuals might feel like they don’t quite fit in, dwelling on awkward moments rather than the enjoyable conversations they had. To overcome this, it’s essential to shift our focus from just the uncomfortable parts of the experience to a wider range of inputs, both positive and challenging. By doing so, we can better appreciate the overall experience and avoid fixating on moments that make us feel like outsiders.
It’s important to recognize that social events offer a mix of enjoyable and less comfortable interactions, and by embracing the broader perspective, we can enhance our social confidence and fully participate in the fun conversations that unfold.
5. Romantic Relationships
In difficult times in a romantic relationship, a person might only see the bad parts and forget about the good ones. This isn’t fair to the partner, who is suddenly portrayed in a one-sided and negative way. It’s important to remember that every relationship has both ups and downs. When things get tough, it’s easy to overlook the positive aspects and concentrate only on the problems.
However, it’s crucial to be fair to our partners and not unfairly paint them in a negative light. It’s like looking at a picture from only one angle, missing the full view. To have a healthier and more balanced relationship, we should acknowledge both the challenges and the positive moments. By doing so, we can work together to overcome difficulties and appreciate the good things that make the relationship special.
6. Difficult Work Situations
In demanding work situations, employees facing a tough day might concentrate solely on the downsides, overlooking the positives of their job. It’s advisable for them to take a breather, perhaps a week, to ease stress and refocus their thoughts before making any decisions, like handing in a resignation letter.
This break allows individuals to regain composure and approach their boss with a clearer perspective, fostering better communication and potential solutions to work-related challenges. Taking time to reflect can help prevent impulsive decisions driven by stress, giving employees the chance to weigh the pros and cons of their current situation. By creating a buffer between a challenging workday and significant decisions, individuals may find a more balanced outlook and make choices that align with their overall well-being.
Also Read: 15 Self-Discipline Examples
7. Physical Fitness
When you’re not satisfied with your body, it’s easy to overlook the strides you’ve taken in your fitness journey and only dwell on setbacks. Instead of fixating on the distance still to cover, a helpful approach is to concentrate on acknowledging the distance you’ve already conquered.
Shift your focus from the remaining path to appreciate the progress you’ve made so far. By doing so, you can find motivation and satisfaction in the positive changes you’ve achieved, fostering a more optimistic outlook on your physical well-being. This shift in perspective allows you to celebrate small victories, reinforcing your commitment to your fitness goals.
Remember, it’s not just about the destination; recognizing and appreciating the journey can make the path to physical fitness more enjoyable and fulfilling.
8. Rejection and Failure
Facing rejection or failure can be tough. Often, people tend to forget about the times they succeeded and only think about the bad stuff. But here’s a simple solution: try journaling. By writing down your thoughts, you can consciously think about all the different experiences you’ve had, not just the negative ones.
Imagine this: you didn’t get the job you wanted or things didn’t go as planned. It’s easy to feel down and forget all the times you actually did well. Journaling helps you see the bigger picture. You can look back and remember both the ups and the downs. It’s like zooming out on a camera – you get a wider view.
So, next time you’re feeling rejected or like you failed, grab a journal and start writing. It might surprise you how many good things you’ve forgotten about.
9. Long-Term Pain
Living with constant pain can make a person overlook the good things that happen in their day. For someone experiencing chronic pain, the focus often remains on the discomfort, overshadowing any positive moments. This persistent pain can be challenging, as it tends to dominate attention and diminish the recognition of enjoyable experiences.
People dealing with chronic pain may find it difficult to appreciate the positive aspects of their daily life. The continuous discomfort can create a tunnel vision that excludes moments of joy or accomplishment. It’s important to acknowledge that even in the midst of persistent pain, there are still positive experiences to be found.
By actively seeking out and recognizing these positive moments, individuals can improve their overall well-being. This shift in focus allows them to better cope with chronic pain and not let it overshadow the potential for joy and satisfaction in their lives. Embracing a positive outlook, even in the face of ongoing discomfort, can contribute to a more balanced and fulfilling daily experience.
10. Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)is own of the examples of mental filtering. It is a condition where a person tends to ignore positive events and instead dwell on the negative aspects of a situation. People with GAD have developed a habit of thinking anxiously, and breaking this cycle requires conscious effort to shift their thoughts into more positive patterns.
Individuals with GAD find themselves stuck in a loop of anticipating the worst outcomes, overshadowing any positive aspects of a situation. To break free from this pattern, they need to actively train their minds to think differently. It’s like redirecting a well-trodden path in their brain to explore new, more positive routes.
Over time, repetitive negative thinking becomes a default mode for individuals with GAD. To counter this, they must deliberately engage in activities that challenge these negative patterns. By doing so, they can gradually rewire their thought processes, allowing for a more balanced and optimistic outlook on life. Understanding GAD involves recognizing the need for intentional efforts to reshape thought patterns and foster a healthier mental perspective.