Irrelevant, External, and “Hard-Luck” Thinking

I’ve been posting a series of articles on the erroneous ways disordered characters tend to think that lead to significant behavior and relationship problems. Some of the “thinking errors” I’ve addressed already include unreasonable thinking, possessive thinking, combative thinking, and prideful thinking:

There are three problematic thinking patterns that tend to co-occur and keep the disturbed character from developing a sense of personal responsibility and accountability. I call these erroneous ways of thinking irrelevant thinking, external thinking, and hard-luck thinking.

When disordered characters engage in irrelevant thinking, they will often focus on the small, petty aspects of situations but ignore the most important things or the “big picture.” They’ll take issue with their boss, the government, or with their partners on trivialities while not paying attention to the things that really matter. They’ll get hung-up on a “technicality” or small inaccuracy while ignoring the larger truth. For example, they might complain that a highway patrolman claimed they were exceeding the speed limit by a much greater degree than they actually were, while totally ignoring the fact that they were driving recklessly and endangering others. Their habitual attention to things not really relevant leads them to develop attitudes of pettiness and thoughtlessness.

Disordered characters will also often direct negative attention toward things outside of their ability to control. They will brood about the actions or opinions of others and invest a lot of emotional energy in things they can’t realistically exercise power over. I call this kind of thinking external thinking. When things go wrong, disturbed characters don’t spend nearly enough time or energy thinking about changes they can make in their own behavior to make things better. Rather, they focus on external circumstances. They make what mental health professionals call external attributions with respect to the causality of events. That is, they ascribe the causality of (i.e., blame for) events to external sources which fuels their penchant for blaming others and circumstances — when they should be taking a hard look at themselves. This kind of thinking is frequently involved in the responsibility-avoidance tactic of blaming others (more about this in a series of posts to follow the current series). Focusing on external events and external factors breeds an attitude of irresponsibility as well as pessimistic and negative attitudes about the world.

Finally, I’ve counseled many a disordered character over the years prone to what I call hard-luck thinking. The disturbed character often sees himself as a victim of circumstances instead of a person responsible for his own choices, his own actions, and the consequences of those choices and actions. Disordered characters frequently sit on their “pity-pots,” feeling sorry for themselves and the “raw deals” they imagine they have been dealt in life. This kind of thinking leads them to develop attitudes of bitterness and resentment and is one of the reasons why they enter into relationships with a fairly substantial chip already on their shoulders.

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