The belief that human beings are a “rational animal”, with the ability to be guided by logic and reason, has for many centuries in the way we see ourselves, interpret our actions. .
For a long time, this was an idea used to draw a clear dividing line between us and the rest of the animal kingdom: we can live off rational decision making, when “they” can only repeat once and for all. actions dictated by their instincts and impulses, predictably and without any long-term vision.
However, none of this is true; human beings are very attached to emotions and passions, we are not and cannot become purely rational organisms. In addition, we often unknowingly fall into using our intellect to disguise in a rational guise the decisions we have already made based on feelings and desires. I Trap thoughts are a prime example of how we can create ideas specifically so that we don’t feel bad about giving in to a short-term impulse.. Let’s see how this kind of phenomenon occurs and what we can do to reduce its negative influence on our lives.
What are deceptive thoughts and what are their characteristics
As we have started to see in the previous paragraphs, we are not made for logical reasoning to govern everything we do: this is how computers work, not humans. For better and for worse, our emotional side is always involved in the psychological processes that lead us to think and make decisions. In fact, thanks to this, we have the motivation to do so.
But one of the implications of this is that we often make decisions that don’t suit us just based on how we feel here and now, and we only use our ability to reason as a way to legitimize these behaviors too. impulsive or wrong. adjusted to what really suits us.
This is a phenomenon that we have known for a long time: over a century ago, figures in psychoanalysis like Ernest Jones and Sigmund Freud called it rationalization, and years later, from cognitive psychology, it was explained by biases and heuristics: we create seemingly solid ideas to hide hasty decisions, a way of not focusing our attention on the real motivations that push us to take certain actions, or to think and feel as we do. let’s do.
How? ‘Or’ What these pseudo-arguments provide an acceptable (albeit very weak) explanation for how we are and behave., we don’t feel the need to question what we are doing, and we can repeat decisions that hurt us over and over again.
These are precisely the deceptive thoughts: sets of ideas that look like an argument for why we should do something, which are actually excuses that we put ourselves and help us fall into something that tempts us, something that we are predisposed to fall into out of habit, because it gives us instant pleasure or because it allows us to avoid discomfort in short term (even if it can cause us discomfort more in the long term).
So, trick thoughts are a constant in anyone who tries to break out of habits (like taking a drug or giving up eating so much) or thought patterns that don’t suit them, because changing a routine takes awkward effort, and it’s much easier to find excuses to go back to what we already know, which allows us to stay in the comfort zone.
What can be done to limit the influence of trick thoughts?
When it comes to fighting trick thoughts, there are two key tips to keep in mind: improve your self-awareness and create guidelines that structure your healthier habits.
1. Establish clear guidelines
Clear behavioral routines and when to specify what to do and at what times of the day are a big help to prevent deceptive thoughts from tempting you with the idea of straying from what you know is right for you.
For example, if you try to diet but don’t specify what types of foods you are going to eat or when you are going to eat them, there is a good chance that you will end up pecking at unhealthy snacks over and over. times of the day (even when you’re not hungry, just to relieve the discomfort generated by your disorganization while eating).
In other words, not organizing your patterns of behavior will cause what tempt you to take power over yourself, as you will not have a clear way of whether performing an action is progress or failure. .
For this reason, it is best to set schedules and know in advance what behaviors you should avoid. If you become obsessed with sticking to the rules at all times, keep in mind that they exist and it helps you know what you need to do to achieve your goal.
2. Improve your self-knowledge
The best way to prevent deceptive thoughts from over-conditioning our well-being is to improve our self-knowledge skills so that they allow us to be more aware of the real motivations behind our actions, feelings and ways of thinking. .
It is a complex task and requires practice., among other things because trap thoughts can take many different forms and a certain sensitivity must be developed to detect them. After all, what costs the most when it comes to limiting the power they have over us is recognizing them as such, distinguishing them from other thoughts.
How do you get there? Although everyone is unique and there is no one way to do it, usually what helps the most is getting into the habit of break down our reasoning and recurring thoughts into simpler units, so that it is easier to see to what extent these beliefs that we start from are self-sufficient and can be used to erect patterns of behavior, parts of our ideology, etc.
For example, if you are trying to quit smoking and want to know if you consistently fall into thought traps using a technique to overcome addiction, you can break down into simpler ideas the arguments you use to create exceptions. , cases where you can smoke a little: “I will no longer smoke unless they suggest it to me, so as not to generate rejection”.
In this case, you can focus on the ideas of “giving it to me” and “generating a rejection”. Is the supply of tobacco really an element that comes from outside the addiction, if the people who invite us to smoke do so largely because the other times we have accepted? Is rejecting who does not smoke a normal or healthy dynamic in a group of friends, if this is not one of the main causes of continuing to smoke?
Examining the ideas behind the concepts from which we “argue” for ourselves helps us to verify whether these arguments are legitimate or not.
- Baumeister RF, Bushman BJ (2010). Social psychology and human nature: international edition. Belmont, United States: Wadsworth.
- Morewedge, CK, Kahneman, D. (2010). Associative processes in intuitive judgment. Trends in cognitive science, 14 (10): pp. 435 – 440.
- Tversky, A .; Kahneman, D. (1974). Judgment under uncertainty: heuristics and bias. Sciences, 185 (4157): p. 1124 – 1131.