anxiety, emotional reasoning, unhelpful thinking, chaning patterns

How to change unhelpful thinking styles: Part three

In the final instalment of this three-part blog series (see part one and part two) we will check out some of those common unhelpful thinking styles that we all get trapped by at some point or another. These thinking styles can contribute to low mood or anxiety and can lead us to behave in unhelpful ways. 

In this series we’ve provided a description, example, and management strategy for each type of unhelpful thinking style. These strategies are taken from either cognitive therapy or acceptance and commitment therapy. In the former, unhelpful thoughts are challenged and replaced with more helpful thoughts. In the later, the way we relate to unhelpful thoughts is changed rather than changing the content of the thought itself.

Magnification and minimisation

This unhelpful thinking style generally involves magnifying other people’s positive attributes, achievements, and successes while minimizing your own positive attributes, achievements, and success. You can think of minimization as that explaining away process. For example, if a friend is awarded a promotion at work you might think “they have a great work ethic and are right for the role” whereas if you are awarded a promotion you might think “no one else wanted to role that’s the only reason I got the promotion”.

To challenge this unhelpful thinking style ask yourself “what would I say to a friend in the same situation?” and see if you can say this to yourself in the same kind, compassionate tone.

Emotional reasoning

Emotional reasoning occurs when we base our view of a situation, ourselves or someone else entirely on our emotions. For example, have you ever felt anxious or had a gut feeling and thought “I feel like something bad is going to happen, so I won’t go out with my friends tonight”. Or, “I feel angry, so this person must have been rude”.

To this unhelpful thinking style try looking at the evidence for the thought and the evidence against the thought. Remember, this evidence should be able to stand up in a court of law.


Involves relating external negative events to some action you have or haven’t done, and taking 100% responsibility for anything that goes wrong (even if you may only be partially responsible or not at all responsible). For example, you attend a party with a group of friends which wasn’t as lively as normal and think “nobody had a good time at the party because I wasn’t my usual cheerful self”. Or your husband forgets to take their lunch to work and you think “it’s my fault because I forgot to remind him in the morning”.

Next time you notice yourself engaging in this unhelpful thinking style try asking yourself “was this entirely my responsibility?” or “what other factors may have contributed?”. You might like to draw a pie chart dividing the responsibility between the various parties/factors involved.

We hope this information has helped you to recognise and change some of your unhelpful thinking styles. And remember, we all get caught up in them from time to time, but if you’d like more help on learning to change your unhelpful thinking styles, check out part one and part two or get in touch by calling or emailing us via our contact page.

Written by Dr Gemma Healey, Clinical Psychology Registrar

More information

If you would like to learn more about identifying and changing unhelpful thinking styles or to book an appointment with Dr Gemma Healey or another one of our experienced clinical psychologists, contact our friendly client team by calling 6143 4499 or email via our contact page.

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