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"Stinkin' Thinkin' "

Basically, “stinking thinking’” is negative internal conversations we have with ourselves.  Everyone has conversations with themselves inside their mind; we do this to work through our thoughts and feelings.  However, when our thoughts become predominantly negative and destructive, and have little or no basis in reality, it’s time to take a hard look at what we think, and how we can change it.

Stinking thinking is often described as a bad attitude. Those who engage in it are negative, blaming, and chronically dissatisfied.

Dr. David D. Burns, M.D. in his book “The Feeling Good Handbook” (1989) has identified 10 types of stinking thinking.

1. All-or-nothing thinking - You see things in black-or-white categories. If a situation falls short of perfect, you see it as a total failure. This is black-and-white thinking, with no room for shades of gray. People and things become good or bad, smart or stupid, brave or cowardly.

2. Overgeneralization - You see a single negative event, such as a romantic rejection or a career reversal, as a never-ending pattern of defeat. Overgeneralization often takes the form of absolute statements and uses words such as all, every, none, never, always, everybody and nobody.

3. Mental Filter - You pick out a single negative detail and dwell on it.  

4. Discounting the positive - You reject positive experiences by insisting that they “don’t count.”

5. Jumping to conclusions - You interpret things negatively when there are no facts to support your conclusion.  Don’t agonize about things that haven’t happened yet (and might never happen).

6. Magnification - You exaggerate the importance of your problems and shortcomings.

7. Emotional Reasoning - You assume that your negative emotions necessarily reflect the way things really are. This pattern occurs when you make snap judgments about others

8. “Should” statements – continually saying “I should have”. To overcome this pattern, try to have greater flexibility in the rules or expectations you feel compelled to live by. And when it comes to other people, it is important to accept their individuality and uniqueness.

9. Labeling - Labeling is an extreme form of all-or-nothing thinking. Instead of saying “I made a mistake,” you attach a negative label to yourself: “I’m a loser.”
10. Personalization and Blame - Personalization comes when you hold yourself personally responsible for an event that isn’t entirely under your control, or blame someone else for something that is entirely out of control.

We all have good and bad experiences and we need to balance our thinking about who we are, and how we relate to others. No one and no situation is always one way or another.

What can be done about “stinking thinking”?  Once again, you need to consciously practice controlling your thought life.  When these thoughts begin eating away at you, say no.  Then consciously replace them with positive, reasonable thoughts.  . If you continue to experience these negative feelings, talk to a mental health professional who can assist you in taking back control of your thoughts and teach you more positive ways of coping and processing your feelings.

Finally, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.  

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