post written by: Marc Chernoff

10 Irrational Thoughts Rational People Often Think


irrational thinkingIrrational thoughts occasionally occur in the minds of all people.  Intelligence does not make someone immune to irrational thought.  These thoughts typically clutter our minds with feelings of resentment and distaste.  Sometimes they are based on internal defense mechanisms we develop to mitigate personal anger in an attempt to avoid facing the truth about ourselves or our immediate circumstances.  If someone imposes stringent expectations related to a stressful issue on themselves or their close companions, irrational thought is likely to set in, and all parties involved will probably experience needless emotional grief.

Passionate perceptions of an event made by someone in distress can seem crazy from a third party perspective.  This craziness is simply the sum of stress and irrational thought.  These thoughts allow the distressed party to remain the victim while avoiding all situational responsibility.  One must learn to break this momentary negative thought process in order to achieve continuous stability in their life and in their relationships.

Here are 10 irrational thoughts that rational people often fall victim to at one point or another:

  1. Mistakes are never acceptable.  If I make one, it means that I am incompetent.
  2. When somebody disagrees with me, it is a personal attack against me.
  3. To be content in life, I must be liked by all people.
  4. My true value as an individual depends on what others think of me.
  5. If I am not involved in an intimate relationship, I am completely alone.
  6. There is no grey area.  Success is black and failure is white.
  7. Nothing ever turns out the way you want it to.
  8. If the outcome was not perfect, it was a complete failure.
  9. I am in absolute control of my life.  If something bad happens, it is my fault.
  10. The past always repeats itself.  If it was true then, it must be true now.

Your life will be more productive if you learn to avoid this type of negative thinking.

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28 Comments

  • In my experience, people who think those things are typically incapable of looking at themselves objectively. The advice is wasted on them.

  • Success should be white and failure should be black.

    Also, in general the past does repeat itself because human nature generally does not learn unless it is experienced by the individual. I’d say that way of thinking is more helpful and harmful.

  • Big D,

    Yes, the past can repeat itself, and surely the individual will learn by experiencing something firsthand. My position here is not to discredit that point, but to simply acknowledge the fact that negative (or positive) occurrences from the past do not always repeat themselves in one’s own personal life. Historically speaking about the masses of our society… certain things do repeat, and that’s a whole other story.

    Also, I strongly disagree with your opinion of success and failure. There is certainly a grey area in the quest for success. If I may, allow me to quote our buddy Steve Jobs:

    I was lucky, I found what I loved to do early in life. Woz and I started Apple in my parents garage when I was 20. We worked hard, and in 10 years Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a $2 billion company with over 4000 employees. We had just released our finest creation, the Macintosh, a year earlier, and I had just turned 30. And then I got fired. How can you get fired from a company you started? Well, as Apple grew we hired someone who I thought was very talented to run the company with me, and for the first year or so things went well. But then our visions of the future began to diverge and eventually we had a falling out. When we did, our Board of Directors sided with him. So at 30 I was out. And very publicly out. What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating.

    I really didn’t know what to do for a few months. I felt that I had let the previous generation of entrepreneurs down - that I had dropped the baton as it was being passed to me. I met with David Packard and Bob Noyce and tried to apologize for screwing up so badly. I was a very public failure, and I even thought about running away from the valley. But something slowly began to dawn on me, I still loved what I did. The turn of events at Apple had not changed that one bit. I had been rejected, but I was still in love. And so I decided to start over.

    I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.

    During the next five years, I started a company named NeXT, another company named Pixar, and fell in love with an amazing woman who would become my wife. Pixar went on to create the worlds first computer animated feature film, Toy Story, and is now the most successful animation studio in the world. In a remarkable turn of events, Apple bought NeXT, I returned to Apple, and the technology we developed at NeXT is at the heart of Apple’s current renaissance. And Laurene and I have a wonderful family together.

    I’m pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn’t been fired from Apple…

    You can find a link to the full speech by Steve Jobs here:
    http://www.marcandangel.com/2006/12/26/stay-hungry-stay-foolish/

  • No the black and white thing was a typo in your article. You have success is black and failure is white. I read that entire quote (good quote by the way) and then realized I was in agreeance with you.

    And history does repeat itself many times throughout an individuals life. And *generally* the outcome is the same.

    I go to vegas…I lose money
    I go to vegas…I lose money
    I go to vegas…I get bit by a vampire and lose money

    Fighting assholes in public = bad

    Rollercoasters are fun

    You see, the repetition of experiences (history) are extremely frequent within an individuals life. As such we *generally* know what an outcome of our choice to act or not act will be.

    When you combine people going through this process as a group, we tend to do the exact same thing with our interactions as a group. Hence the larger history (experiences) of mankind (the group) repeating itself.

    We’re stuck in a circle, a Nascar fan’s dream. :o)

  • […] and Angel presents 10 Irrational Thoughts Rational People Often Think posted at Marc and Angel, saying, “Irrational thoughts occasionally occur in the minds of all […]

  • Bryan L. Terhune
    July 4th, 2007 at 4:01 am

    All Roads lead to Rome!

    Systematically, that which exists; exists! All that serves an absolute; terminates.

    Nirvana does not exist in a world that evolves.

  • I found this to be realy useful, I suffer with GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder), Worry and an extremely low self esteem and am currenlty in therapy with a Cognitive Behavioural Therapist. I was abused physically, emotionally and mentally by my mmm as a child and although this subsided a little the emotional and mental abuse continued right up to me cutting her out of my life about 18mths ago, I am almost 32! I am at stage where I am afraid to let go because I dont know anything else, almost like I dont know how to behave I guess and also for the fear that if I do my mom will be let off the hook so to speak. Its very hard but also very rewarding and I know my life will change and its thanks to people out there not thinking I’m a looser, lunatic or loosing my mind!!!

  • @Bryan:
    I completely agree. The gradual evolution of time changes one’s perception of nirvana. Excellent insight.

    @Pam:
    The simple fact that you can put your thoughts down in writing says something about the strength of your character. Even with the abuse present in your past, you seem driven to press forward into a better tomorrow. Keep your head up, set goals for yourself, and focus on what makes you feel good. I wish you the best of luck in your process of healing.

  • Do you really know someone who thinks like this? These are more like irrational thoughts. Rational people would rarely think this way.

  • I think like this. It takes quite a bit of internal self control to overcome each of these thoughts when they happen, but I am getting better at realizing what they are and stopping them before they consume me.

  • […] May be you cannot.  But you certainly can recognize the irrationalities that led you to those mistakes.  Here’s a good post that I’ve come across at marcandangel.  […]

  • A beautiful post, whose timing is perfect.

    I thank you for this. I will post it in a place of honor at home for others and myself to read, for the advice is sage.

    Nothing ever turns out the way you want it to. - I fall to that one from time to time, as well as “I need to be liked by everyone.” I’ve gotten over the latter, still getting over the former. :-)

    Kenneth Udut, simplify3

  • Ha, would you believe I’ve fallen into all 10 of these (especially as a freshmen in college).

    I’ll try.

  • Well OJ2 is definitely off if they think that their experience with people is reflective of what everyone is like. At times people can just get caught up.

  • To Big D:
    “Success should be white and failure should be black.”

    Why do you think so? I thought the article made the point rather aptly already.

  • I don’t know about the intimate relationship one. It’s hard to not feel like something is wrong with you when you don’t have a significant other and are always single. Yes, I am speaking from experience. I enjoy my own company but coming home to an empty apartment day after day and when your friends are always too busy for you, it does hurt and make you wonder . . .

  • Shiri, I was like you when I was younger. Here’s what I did that helped me deal with loneliness and feelings of being isolated from my “friends”. First, get a pet. What you are experiencing is NOT simple loneliness, it’s also low self-esteem. When you take good care of a pet, it naturally boosts your feelings of worth. And for those times you are lonely, a pet gives you some company. If you want to meet men, join a martial arts club or go to the gym and learn how to pump iron. These are places where women are in the minority, so the guys will be interested in meeting you while helping you learn a valuable skill. If you want to meet women, join a social club or athletic club. Women who have the same common hobbies tend to make close friendships. Finally, you may wish to consider becoming a “big sister” or doing other volunteer work. People who volunteer their time are usually nice caring people who make good friends. The reason I suggest the “big sister” organization is because helping a youngster will boost your self-esteem, earn you a lot of respect, and you will be helping a young person who is desperate for adult companionship. The friends who are now “too busy” will hear about your good works and want to be closer to you because “good vibes are contagious” (sort of like the flu, but in a positive way). Good luck, Shiri. I wish you the best.

  • The majority of people i have ever met think like this.

    Esp people such as my in laws. They believe people who dont act a certain way arent living life correctly.

  • Great article! Just shows that many people have the same hangups but believe they’re the only ones.

  • Tell me about it, these are just some of the million irrational thoughts that fling through my head like asteroids, leaving a scarring impact on my personality. But I know that the world is full of people who care, and you just have to fight really hard to get these irrational bad thoughts out. I’m still fighting my bad thoughts everyday, seeing how unconsiderate people can be in their daily lives and it hurts…and impacts my thinking. I’m 17 and school is usually a struggle, that I think will turn out for the better (I hope) and teach me how to deal with people.

  • These are just common irrationalities, I get some ridiculous irrational thoughts and i have no reason to because I’ve never been through trauma. I used to have it under control and completely turned into a different person, but lately it has just taken me under. it’s awful and I am such a motivated person. and to just not be able to get through or be able to control it just makes me helpless.

  • Nice Post,
    it will be soon mentioned in my blog!

  • Great! I re-posted this to my blog in Spanish today.

  • tsss tssss it is portuguese, not spanish! BTW what is the adress of your spanish site?

  • This is an awesome article. What’s truly amazing is the fact that almost everything in the list hit a bull’s eye in my life, particularly at this moment in my life.

    I’m currently going through a really awful phase where the struggle is making me stronger one day, and killing me the next. It’s been such a roller coaster ride and I realize that most of this has been brought about by the irrational and negative thoughts that prevailed in my head as things started falling apart a few months ago.

    The thing is, sometimes, we only think in black and white, yes or no, all or nothing. We think too much in extremes that when we are faced with something that we never expected, our minds automatically think it’s either TOO GOOD or TOO BAD and our primal defense mechanisms go into overdrive.

    I can honestly say it’s a huge struggle to control ourselves, most especially when you’re caught off guard.

    Nevertheless, these things happen and when these irrationalities win in our heads and in our minds, we can’t do anything to erase them once it’s done. Only thing we can do now is pick up the remaining pieces and move on. What’s most important is that we learn from these mistakes.

    Looking back, I realize all these thoughts were running rampant in my head all the while. And in retrospect, now that I’m in a more relaxed mode (thankfully, I’m not panicking anymore,) I realize things weren’t that bad. I should have not let those irrational thoughts overcome the reality - that it really isn’t all that bad, that there are really some things that are out of my control, that I am not really perfect, that I can make mistakes but I shouldn’t let them kill me.

    The thing with irrational thoughts and panic is - you never know how to temper them until it’s done.

    There are so many valuable things to learn from this site and I’m super grateful I found it at the time when I can most understand the articles in here. I imagine that if I stumbled upon it a year ago, I would’ve just nodded at the words and went my way. This is a truly enlightening site. Keep up the good work! THANK YOU!

  • People think differently.

  • If the title of the article means that a rational person might think one or two of these things, and this is a list of irrational thoughts that rational people in general sometimes contend with, then the title makes sense. If a person thinks all of these things, they are by no means a rational person; the list is a textbook list of criteria for irrationality, such as one who suffers from a personality disorder might experience.

  • Here is how I deal with irrational thoughts: every time an irrational thought pops in my head, it tends to elicit an unpleasant feeling or emotional response in me leaving me in a bad mood. What I usually do is I rephrase the thought by putting it in a rational framework, or, in other words, replace it with the thought that has a grounding effect on me. Once the irrational thought is rephrased, my emotions get back to normal.

    These are some suggestions on how to fix irrational thinking.

    1.Mistakes are never acceptable. If I make one, it means that I am incompetent.

    I am competent even when I make mistakes. Mistakes occur once in a while.

    2.When somebody disagrees with me, it is a personal attack against me.

    This person might disagree with me, but it’s only the difference of opinions that makes me feel attacked.

    4.My true value as an individual depends on what others think of me.

    Other people’s value as individuals depends on what I think of them. (I use an irrational thought to cancel out the negative statement. This balances out my perception of myself ).

    5.If I am not involved in an intimate relationship, I am completely alone.

    You can be lonely and abandoned most of the time in an intimate relationship as well. Learning how not to feel lonely by controlling my emotions in any circumstance is a better way to deal with this problem.

    6.There is no grey area. Success is black and failure is white.

    Even though success implies concreteness, it can be achieved on many different levels.

    7.Nothing ever turns out the way I want it to.

    This thing may have turned out the way I didn’t plan, but I have accomplished many things.

    8.If the outcome was not perfect, it was a complete failure.

    The outcome of this may be less than perfect, but there was success along the way.

    9.I am in absolute control of my life. If something bad happens, it is my fault.

    I am in control of my life, however, when something happens, it could be due to something outside of my area of control.

    10.The past always repeats itself. If it was true then, it must be true now.

    The past doesn’t always repeat itself. What was true then, may be untrue now.

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