Thought Mine #5: Magnification (often related to Catastrophizing)

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 #5: Magnification (often related to Catastrophizing)

Also called:

Irrational hopelessness


Believing that something cannot be done and avoiding any evidence that does not support your hopelessness.

Negative self-talk example:

“There’s no way I can do that, why bother?”

Couple example:

“My mom never owned a house, we don’t need to own our own home.”

Teen example:

“No one in my family has ever gone to college, why should I care about grades?”

“We’re all going to die, so who cares about smoking?”

Work/school example:

“I’d have to take a bus if I worked over there.”

“I’m not good at math. Why should I bother looking into a G.E.D.?”


I want to tell you a story of an amazing woman who was frozen by practiced hopelessness. On the surface this sounds improbable. How can a person be “amazing” and also “hopeless” at the same time?

Easily. We humans compartmentalize. We can be amazing in one area, and perceive ourselves as totally incapable in another.

Amanda came to see me because she was “stressed at work.” Amanda had built a law practice in fifteen years that was the envy of her friends and colleagues. In addition to her career, she was highly involved with two charities and her church.

After listening to Amanda for fifteen minutes I asked, “Why are you really here, you don’t seem all that stressed to me.”

“I don’t know what to call it…” she said as she looked at her shoes, “I know I can’t complain, but…”

After a long pause I said. “Amanda, just say what needs to be said, I can’t help if I’m not trusted.”

At this, Amanda sat straight upright, took a deep breath, and blurted out a speech that I suspect had been welling up inside for some time. “I need sex. I need a man! Not just a one night stand. I need a real man. I want a man who isn’t afraid of me. I want children, vacations and passion.”

“I take it that you’re finding it hard to date?” I asked.

Before I share her answer with you, I want you to be ready. I want you to notice how hopeless Amanda explained her situation. How well practiced her belief was that her situation was “hopeless”.

“Date? Who has time to date? And whom would I date? Either I have to dumb myself down for a knuckle dragging mouth breather, or I can hop into bed with a self-obsessed egotist who probably is married. Who would want me anyway? I can’t cook and I work constantly. I can’t see me in a mini van. And kids, I don’t know the slightest thing about kids. I don’t think it’s right for a child to know their nanny better than their own mother.”

Amanda laid out all of her fears and concerns. With this degree of internal conflict it was easy for her to feel hopeless. The more these thoughts ruminated, the more she practiced hopelessness.

Practiced hopelessness is a learned behavior. Anything that can be learned can be unlearned and replaced with a more functional 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.


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