Thought Mine #10: Tunnel Vision

Each Thought Mine is followed by a definition and a list of examples. Please note that the following examples are representative statements. The same sentence may represent numerous Thought Mines. I list examples mainly to give you a starting point. Often individuals blend two or three “favorite” Thought Mines together into their own type of social misreading.

Thought Mine #10: Tunnel Vision


Seeing only a small aspect of the whole situation, usually the biggest negative.

Negative self-talk example:

“If she liked me she’d sleep with me.”

Couple example:

She: “I work too—you never let me buy jewelry.”

He: “The rent is due in three days. And I work hard too, why can’t I buy another dirt bike?”

Teen example:

“I can’t get into college, the counselor said that the ‘schools are choosy.’”

Work/school example:

At a meeting, the supervisor said, “Over the next three months there will be a few changes, mainly in the accounting paperwork. This should help us keep to the budget.” Mary heard, “changes” to mean she was getting laid off.


Erma, at thirty-two, was a highly motivated gourmet chef working at a high-class restaurant. After seven years with the same owner, her world became intolerable when the restaurant was sold to an international corporation.

Erma: I don’t think I can take it anymore. The new boss is a tyrant. He is watching everything I do. He micro manages. He is always hovering. He told me to watch my plate presentation. Me… I can’t believe he is watching me. I know my way around the kitchen. You know he doesn’t even cook! He just watches.

Dr. Phil: The new boss doesn’t cook?

Erma: He doesn’t lift a finger to help. He watches me all day. He is a corporate suit. He doesn’t care about anything but making money.

Dr. Phil: How do you know.

Erma: I know!

Dr. Phil: How do you know?

Erma: I know because he said that he was there to make everything run smoothly. And all he does is watch me. As if I’m the problem. I can’t take this any more.

Erma was upset for weeks about being watched by the new boss. Often, she would tell me wonderful improvements at work due to the change in ownership. She got better health insurance, longer paid vacation, and stock options, but she still focused on the “…suits watching me.” Erma did not like working for a large corporation. She didn’t like having suits in the kitchen. Eventually, she took a different position with lower pay and far less perks. Her new job was working for a small college as the resident chef. She told me that she liked the new job, but she missed the excitement of a first class kitchen and the camaraderie of foodies.

The part I left out of the story was, that according to Erma, the “suits” spent about 30 minutes a week in the kitchen, but in her thoughts they were there most of the time.

More: Understanding Thought Mines

Thought Mines are social misreadings that get in the way of communicating clearly. They are thought stumbling blocks that allow us to misread, and often misjudge, the intention of others. By misreading others intentions, we can often get sidetracked from getting our needs met.


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