Thought Mine #2: Irrational Labeling

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 #2: Irrational Labeling

Also called:

Negative labeling, Labeling is disabling


Using a label to define a person, place, situation, or yourself.

Negative self-talk example:

“I’m such a dummy!”

“I must be cursed… this keeps happening to me.”

“Why would she go out with me, I’m fat.”

Couple example:

“She is just like her mother.”

“He is a control freak.”

“She is so paranoid, she is driving me crazy.”

During a long car ride: “She is not talking to me, she must be mad at me again.”

Teen example:

“The teacher is a bitch!”

“I saw you talking to him, you’re such a slut.”

“Everyone thinks that they’re my boss!”

While sitting down to dinner, thinking to yourself: “I’m tired of chicken, Mom must be mad at me again.”

Work/school example:

“My supervisor is just hanging on ’till retirement, he’s simply useless.”

“Betty’s such a brown nose…”


Using a label tends to mean you have run out of words. When people run out of words they tend to show frustration.

Three-year-olds bite or tantrum when they run out of words to express their feelings. School age children tend to swear and hit when they run out of words. Adults tend to swear and irrationally label when they run out of words.

Abigail was a thirty-two year old mother of three. She was in my office because her oldest son was getting into trouble at school. To say the least, she was frustrated with her life.


Abigail: My husband is a complete moron when it comes to the children. He loves them, don’t get me wrong. But he doesn’t care about their education.

Dr. Phil: Excuse me for asking, but … does your husband have a learning disability?

Abigail: No, no, no—he’s really smart. He just acts like a moron around the kids.

Dr. Phil: I don’t understand, what do you mean by “moron.”

Abigail: You know what I mean. He won’t listen to me. No matter what I say, he won’t do it.


What Abigail was stating, with her irrational labeling, was that her husband disagreed with her. By using the word “moron” she didn’t have to deal with the fact that a person she thought intelligent disagreed with her. Once the irrational labeling was brought to her awareness, Abigail and her husband proved to be a formidable team to motivate change in their son’s school behavior.

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.


Back to the Relationship Archive