What Are Trap Thoughts And How To Prevent Them?

Trap thoughts

The belief that human beings are a “rational animal”, with the ability to guide themselves through logic and reason, has been part of our way of seeing ourselves and interpreting our actions for many centuries.

For a long time, it has been an idea used to establish a clear dividing line between us and the rest of the members of the animal kingdom: we can live through making rational decisions, while “they” can only repeat themselves over and over again. actions dictated by their instincts and impulses, in a predictable manner and without having any type of long-term vision.

However, none of that is true; Human beings are closely linked to emotions and passions; we are not and cannot become purely rational organisms. What’s more, we often fall, without realizing it, into taking advantage of our intellect to disguise with the appearance of rationality the decisions that we have already made based on feelings and desires. AND Trap thoughts are a perfect example of that, of how we can create ideas specifically so as not to feel bad for giving in to a short-term impulse Let’s see how this type of phenomenon occurs and what we can do to reduce its negative influence on our lives.

What are trap thoughts and what are their characteristics?

As we have begun to see in the previous paragraphs, we are not meant for logical reasoning to govern everything we do: that is how computers work, not human beings. For better and for worse, Our emotional side is always mixed with the psychological processes that lead us to think and make decisions In fact, thanks to this we have motivation to do it.

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But one of the implications of this is that many times we make decisions that are not in our best interest based only on what we want in the here and now, and we only use our ability to reason as a way to legitimize those behaviors that are too impulsive or too little. adjusted to what really suits us.

This is a phenomenon that we have known for a long time: more than a century ago, psychoanalytic figures such as Ernest Jones and Sigmund Freud called it rationalization, and years later, cognitive psychology explained it through biases and heuristics. : we create apparently solid ideas to hide hasty decisions, a way of not focusing our attention on the true motivations that lead us to do certain actions, or to think and feel as we do.

As These pseudo-arguments provide an acceptable (although very weak) explanation about our way of being and behaving we do not feel the need to question what we do, and we can continue repeating decisions that harm us over and over again.

These are, precisely, trap thoughts: chains of ideas that resemble an argument about why we should do something, which are actually excuses that we put on 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 short-term discomfort (although it can generate more discomfort). long-term).

Thus, trap thoughts are a constant in any person who is trying to leave behind habits (such as taking a drug or stopping eating so much) or ways of thinking that do not suit them, because changing routines requires an uncomfortable effort, and is much more It is easy to make excuses to return to what we already know, which allows us not to leave our comfort zone.

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Manage trap thoughts

What can be done to limit the influence of cheating thoughts?

When it comes to stopping cheating thoughts, there are two key tips that you should keep in mind: boost your self-knowledge and create guidelines that structure your healthiest habits.

1. Establish clear guidelines

Clear behavior routines that specify what to do and at what times of the day to do it are a great help to prevent trap thoughts from tempting you with the idea of ​​deviating from what you know is best for you.

For example, if you are trying to follow a diet but do not specify what types of foods you will eat or when you will eat them, it is very likely that you will end up indulging in snacking on unhealthy snacks at multiple times of the day (even without being hungry, for the simple fact that relieve the discomfort generated by your disorganization when eating).

In other words, not organizing your behavior patterns will make what tempts you gain power over you, since you will not have a clear way of knowing if performing an action represents progress or setback.

For this reason, It is best that you establish schedules and know in advance what behaviors you should avoid If you become obsessed with rigidly complying with the rules at all times, keep in mind that they exist and help you know what you must do to reach your goal.

2. Improve your self-knowledge

The best ways to prevent trap thoughts from affecting our well-being too much is to enhance our self-knowledge skills so that they allow us to be more aware of the true motivations behind our actions, feelings and ways of thinking.

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This is a complex task and requires practice, among other things because cheating thoughts can take many different forms and it is necessary to develop a certain sensitivity to detect them. Ultimately, what is most difficult when it comes to limiting the power they have over us is recognizing them as such, distinguishing them from the rest of our thoughts.

How to achieve this? Although each person is unique and there is no single way to achieve this, generally what helps the most is to adopt the habit of decompose our recurring reasoning and thoughts into simpler units so that it is easier to check to what extent those beliefs from which we start stand on their own and can be used to build behavioral patterns, parts of our ideology, etc. on them.

For example, if you are trying to quit smoking and want to know if you are systematically falling into trap thoughts when using a technique to overcome addiction, you can break down into simpler ideas the arguments you use to create exceptions, cases in which you can smoke. a little: “I won’t smoke anymore unless they offer it to me, so as not to generate rejection.”

In this case, you can focus on the ideas of “being offered it” and “generating rejection.” Is the offer of tobacco really an element that comes from outside of addiction, if the people who invite us for cigarettes do so largely because we have accepted the other times? Is rejecting someone who doesn’t smoke a normal or healthy dynamic in a group of friends, if this is not one of the main causes of us continuing to smoke?

Closely examining the ideas that support the concepts from which we “argue” for ourselves helps us check whether these arguments are legitimate or not.