Sensing what others might be thinking or feeling is a good social skill. But believing we know for sure what another person thinks, feels, wants, or needs is dangerous.
Four examples of mind reading.
1) If your spouse is silent and you say, “You’re mad at me!” that’s mind reading.
2) If your spouse is late getting home and you say, “You’re cheating on me!” that’s mind reading.
3) If your partner forgets to buy milk and you say, “You did that on purpose!” that’s mind reading.
4) If your partner cleans the kitchen and you say, “You don’t think I’m capable of doing this myself!” that’s mind reading.
Two factors that fuel this bad habit.
Two ways to look at this phenomenon:
1) negative mind reading leads to anxiety and depression. Who wouldn’t be depressed if we thought our spouse had such negative feelings, motives, or thoughts?
2) anxiety and depression lead to negative mind reading. Looking at our partner’s through a negative lens colors everything negatively.
Two things make this habit highly vexing.
1) the tendency for the mind reader to conjure up negative motives, negative thoughts, or negative intent in their spouse.
2) the tendency for the mind reader to believe they are absolutely, 100% correct.
Two reasons counselors find breaking clients of this habit very difficult.
1) Nobody likes to be told their beliefs might be wrong. The mind reading client then reads the mind of the therapist, “He’s minimizing my fears,” “He just doesn’t get it.” “He’s a jerk.” “He doesn’t know my spouse as well as I do. I KNOW I’m right!!”
2) If the spouse is not guilty as charged this means the mind reader has issues to work on. It’s much easier to blame others for our unhappiness.
Two ways to get out of this dysfunctional pattern.
1) drive each other so crazy with false accusations, negative spins, and erroneous mind reading that one of you leaves. You can’t mind read if there’s no mind around to read.
2) Get so fed up with poor communication that one of you admits, “My interpretation might be wrong.”
Two ancient Proverbs on this topic.
1) “Do you see a person wise in their own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for them.”
2) “Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil.”
Four practical things a mind reader can do to break this habit.
1) Check the accuracy of your speculations, “I have a feeling you’re mad. Am I right?” If they say no, believe them.
2) Get in the habit of coming up with alternative explanations why your spouse does what they do. “He’s silent because he’s problem solving.” “She cleaned the kitchen because it was messy.” “He was late for dinner because of traffic.” “She forgot the milk because the kids were distracting.”
3) Look inside yourself and see if mind reading is a subconscious plot to provoke your spouse, reinforce negative self esteem, feed your anxiety monster, or conjure certainties in a world of uncertainty.
4) Look at the lens through which you look at life. If it’s negative, change it. If we can’t change our spouse we can change our view of our spouse.