In a new series of posts, we’re examining cognitive distortions – thought patterns that reinforce our false beliefs and can make it difficult to achieve lasting change.
Mind reading is the pattern of believing you know what someone else is thinking, particularly what they’re thinking about you. This can lead to assumptions, miscommunications, hurt feelings, or insults.
True relationships are built on honest two-way communication, where each person listens intently and responds to what is actually expressed, not what they imagine the other person is thinking or feeling.
Whether active in the eating disorder or active in recovery, relationships can have a powerful impact on your behaviors with food. When you’re caught up in mind reading and blocking real communication, you can cut yourself off from much-needed support.
When the other person doesn’t like hearing about what you think, mind reading can worsen underlying relationship issues that could increase your stress and have you looking for coping mechanisms such as overeating, restricting, purging or over-exercising.
It can be challenging to take people’s words and actions at face value and let go of assumptions of what they’re really thinking, but it is such a relief when you can do it! Instead of playing conversations and outcomes over in your head and trying to plan and predict what will happen, you can relax and be in the moment, trusting that your new coping tools will help you respond to people and situations in a healthy way.
If you find yourself absolutely certain of what someone else is thinking or feeling, or worrying about the various possibilities, stop! Talk it over with a therapist or sponsor, open an honest dialogue with the other person, or simply let go of the situation for now and focus on today’s recovery actions.