Mind reading is a cognitive distortion—a thought pattern that reinforces our false beliefs, making it difficult to achieve desired 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.
I used to wonder why my husband never got my telepathic messages. I thought I sent them loud and clear (ha!). He didn’t receive them, he said, and asked me instead to start telling him what I needed. What an idea! And guess what? It worked. When I stopped sending my messages into the stratosphere and started using my voice, we got along better and our relationship grew deeper.
True intimate 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.
Using one’s voice effectively is an integral and non-negotiable part of having meaningful relationships. The good news is this can be learned (therapy can help).
Whether active in disordered eating or 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 and connection.
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 binge eating, 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 way that stays true to your values.
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.