There’s a scenario you’re most likely familiar with. It often happens when you just begin to start dating someone new and haven’t heard from them as quickly as you’d like. “They’re out with other more likable friends,” “I guess I’m not that important,” “Did I say something wrong when I saw her a couple of weeks ago?” “Maybe I shouldn’t have used that emoji in my last text,” “She just posted on Instagram seven minutes ago. She has not lost her phone!!!!” And then what would happen next? I’d be angry, down, and sometimes absolutely livid for the rest of the day.
There's a psychological term for this way of thinking. Enter the world of cognitive distortions. It’s one thing to mindfully realize you’re making these distortions, but it’s another to realize how much they are negatively affecting your mood and well-being.
Here are two of the most common cognitive distortions in the world of dating:
1. Mind-reading: you assume (key word) that you know what is going on in someone else’s brain.
First of all, mind-reading is not possible. Secondly, all these negative assumptions you’ve made about yourself are ones you are making on their behalf.
Ask yourself, “Am I 150% certain these things are true?” Although it is extremely easy to jump into "worst scenario mode" regarding how they feel about you, the consequences are not worth it--especially because you don’t know anything with certainty. Don’t dwell in anxiety and worry, checking your phone every five minutes. Remember when dating was--dare I say--fun?
2. Fortune-telling: you assume (again, key word) that you can see the future.
Again, this is not possible. With fortune-telling, you’re likely sticking with a comfortable narrative that might have plagued you in the past.
If things happen enough times, narratives can become comfortable and familiar--we start to believe them. Let’s say you’re getting ready for a second date. This could be going through your mind: “I just know he’s not going to show up. He’ll realize I wasn’t what he was looking for. If he does show up, he probably won’t be in a great mood, and we’ll go home early instead of walking across the bridge like we’d planned. I’m going to end up alone and looking for someone all over again. No one else will ever give me a chance. I’m going to end up heartbroken like I do every single time.”
Note with both mind-reading and fortune-telling, you’re assuming. Not only are you assuming, you are assuming the absolute worst and doing so on someone else’s behalf. What’s in it for you? Heightened anxiety. Your confidence. The sense of joy that you should be feeling when dating someone new. Yes, you may not have full control of the situation—but that’s love and vulnerability.
Cognitive distortions might try to distort your true sense of self, attempting to make you believe the worst. Please remember this: these new dates are lucky to have you. Warrior on!
Photo by Pablo Merchán Montes