What do we really think of ourselves

Get out of our thought traps

Thought Traps - Is It Really True? Or does it just take place in my head?

"We're used to trusting our perception, and that's why we believe what we think," says psychology professor Wolfgang Hantel-Quitmann. He has just written a book about the fact that this is not always correct and sometimes even self-deception. Many of us are currently concerned with how we can bring our mindset to change our lives and our emotions. Positive thinking or negative thinking - our attitudes exert an enormous force on us.

Professor Hantel-Quitmann, you are asking us not to believe everything we think. Why?
Most people just think their own thinking is natural or even objective - which is a fallacy. It is influenced by coincidences, self-delusions, glossing over, errors and the irrational. And it is not uncommon for us to become victims of our thinking.

As the?
We deceive ourselves because we believe certain things and don't want to believe others. The main purpose of our thinking about ourselves is to maintain a stable, friendly relationship with ourselves. In return, we then think of ourselves as good, kind, sincere, successful, and so on. Our early experiences not only shape our self-concept, but also all further experiences. And sometimes we think the same thing over and over again, simply because we are so used to it.

Can it not be that we have learned something from which legitimate beliefs have developed?
The world is becoming more and more complex. That is why we try to make life easier for ourselves with convictions. Instead of constantly rethinking everything, we fall back on old experiences and simple explanations. The danger is that I only perceive reality through the glasses of my convictions. There is a saying: Everything is a nail to a hammer. That means, you keep finding the same thing because you already have the convictions in you.

When are we particularly prone to deceiving ourselves?
When it comes to your own intentions and the expectations of others. They are always difficult to assess: does he love me or not? Does he want to be close or do he prefer to be alone? Does my child cry because they are hungry, need attention or need changing? Here we need thinking as a guide for our feelings - and to orientate ourselves in relationships, especially in intimate relationships.

How does thinking help at this point?
It's about worrying about the thoughts and feelings of others. So to look at others from the inside and yourself from the outside. This is what we call mentalization in psychology. The better we succeed in this, the more others feel understood and the better we are understood ourselves. Incidentally, this is the prerequisite for real intimacy in couple relationships.

Is it about empathy?
Empathy is very important; at least if one does not persist in empathizing with the other. You cannot help a griever if you let yourself fall into the same grief. To do this, you have to return to yourself and reflect on the situation, otherwise empathy is more likely to lead to helplessness. Mentalization also means something else: We have our first experience with it when we are four or four and a half years old. At that age a child realizes for the first time: Others think differently about me and I have different thoughts about others than they do myself. This is an essential experience from which our self-concept slowly develops, i.e. a thinking about oneself in which but always others are included. Because the question always resonates: Am I loved the way I am?

How do I know that I am not the way I see myself? In the reactions of others.

Wolfgang Hantel-Quitmann, professor of psychologyTweet

Your book is called "The Othello Trap". Othello obviously didn't feel that his wife Desdemona loved him for who he was. He grows into a maddened jealousy and kills first her and then himself.
The usual reception is: Othello has become the victim of an intrigue. Iago persuades him that Desdemona is having an affair. From a psychological point of view, however, the question arises: Why does he fall for it? He realizes that Iago's story is inconclusive. But because of his feelings of inferiority and his negative self-concept, he is convinced that he does not deserve his wife and that it cannot therefore be long before she leaves him. The intrigue could take hold because it corresponded to Othello's thinking about himself.

How do I know that I've lost my mind?
In the reactions of others. In particular, when people who are important to me often experience things differently than I do, the alarm is called for. Strong feelings, especially negative ones, should definitely be reflected on before acting. Is my emotion justified? How do I react appropriately? It may be that my feeling is justified, but the reaction to it has too strong consequences. This is often the case with love affairs. It's hard reflective work. Although it's great if you even allow the thought that something could be wrong in your own thinking. That is part of a self-reflexivity.

Do I need this external impetus?
No. It may well be that an internal suffering is the impetus. You can suffer from yourself just as much as you suffer from others. Often there is a connection: I am not satisfied in my relationships and also not with myself. In my therapies I also often experience that people maintain negative thinking about themselves because they think of someone who originally thought badly about them. to be right. It's a form of loyalty.

For example?
When a woman keeps hearing from her mother that she is stupid, it becomes part of her self-concept. To change this also means a confrontation with the mother or with the inner image of her. To say goodbye to this thinking about yourself is then also an indictment against the mother: You made me think about myself, and that was wrong. There is a lot more in me than you thought I could. Then you are confronted with aggression and have to deal with it first.

Self-deception is mental hygiene

Wolfgang Hantel-Quitmann, professor of psychologyTweet

With your own aggression? Or with the mother's aggression
As well ... as. The woman can get angry with her mother, but she can also get angry with herself because she is suddenly annoyed that she has adopted this thinking.

An internalized mistake in thinking?
Yes. There are many examples for this. Often times, people suffer from the discrepancy between their ideals and reality. Many singles prefer to stay alone with their ideal of love than to get involved in a relationship that doesn't come close.

What is the difference to self-deception?
There is often something subconsciously deliberate about self-delusion, because we avoid fearful topics with it. Everyone knows their very special shame issues, their conflict issues and weak points. We feel more comfortable when we present ourselves to others as someone who only has good things in mind. But we are not like that. Then we start to show feelings that we don't actually have in order to protect the feelings behind. For example, when we feel envy, a feeling that is not socially accepted. To hide my envy, I pretend to be happy for the other. Feigned feelings and faked thinking serve to protect myself from my own shallows - and that helps me to be in relationships. Self-deception is part of our mental hygiene.

That is, we deceive ourselves and others in order to get along
Yes, this is the only way we can deal with some mistakes, deficits, problems, venom and pettiness. The truth about ourselves can be really uncomfortable. But we need a positive self-image in order to be lovable and productive. Deceiving yourself is ultimately a form of fear management.

What if I faced my fear anyway?
Then you can analyze them and often refute them in their effect. This is the chance for a life free from fear.