You’re hopeless, useless, burdensome. Nothing will ever go well, everyone is always better than you, you’ll never be perfect. You want to be liked, but you’re unlovable, and a failure at life. Sound familiar?
To the majority of people this language does. Mental traps serve as the rusty cogs that continue the mechanic cycles of pain and hopelessness. In many instances, they are so deeply ingrained in the mind, that the victim lives completely oblivious of their existence.
The most important thing to realize about these cognitive errors is that they’re maladaptive ways of dealing with the world and the self. Living in the world of mental traps is like living a lie. Your perception is tainted with a melancholy negativity that brings forth absurd, unrealistic, and untruthful thoughts.
But to overcome this, constant and vigilant mindfulness and introspection must be applied. To do that however, we must become aware of what these traps are.
The 6 Mental Traps
This is a supposition. You assume something is true based on what you think is true. Without proof. Assumptions can be about others and yourself. For instance; “He treats me this way because ____”, “They think I’m like this ____”, “I always do this because ____”.
Why it ruins your life: You create a lot of unnecessary emotional and mental pain for yourself. Especially if you assume the worst. Assumptions lead you to making false judgments about others. This can harm and even destroy relationships with the people you care about.
This is believing with conviction that something is true. Even if it may not be. Mental beliefs are very extremist in nature. The mental terminology therefore is very strong, just as beliefs are. For instance; “I will never be able to speak normally“, “they always look at me weirdly”. Like all mental traps, beliefs are unconsciously held. They can be so deep-rooted that they evade the conscious mind. e.g. “Other people are always out to get me”, “I’m really ugly”.
Why it ruins your life: Beliefs are very blinding by nature. If they’re false they can affect you profoundly, as they’re so deeply held. Beliefs have a nasty way of crippling you with fear if you have enough conviction. Your life, therefore, may be very limited and restricted resulting in a sad, half-lived existence.
This can be between you and others, e.g. “he’s way smarter than me”. Comparisons can also be between ourselves and our ideals of what should be, e.g. “I should be size ____ just like____”. Dissatisfaction is what drives comparison. We want to be better, more perfect, ideal and excel others. Comparison also drives competition. We use other people and our ideals as a yardstick of success.
Why it ruins your life: Making comparisons breeds a lot of jealousy and envy. It also results in anger, pain and frustration. This puts a strain on relationships with others, and frequently destroys friendships.
To desire is to want something you don’t have. We do this because we’re discontent, feeling as though we’re lacking. We don’t have enough. We are not enough. e.g. “I want to be this way ____ but I can’t”, “I want this quality in her, but I don’t have it”. Desires are closely linked to comparisons. We compare ourselves and the result is a desire for something bigger and better.
Why it ruins your life: The basic principle of Buddhist thought is that desire equals pain. Often, desire results in lust, and lust results in idolization and obsession. The result is often pain. Think about the crimes in the world – thefts, murders, rapes, adulteries. These all result from desire. When we desire what we can’t have, the result is pain.
To expect is to have the preconceived idea that something should happen or will happen. Expectations are usually created by rigid minds with mental structures that when challenged, crumble, putting the mind in turmoil. e.g. You unconsciously think “he’ll treat me politely”. But this doesn’t happen. Instantly you are let down by your expectation. Expectations stem from misguided certainty, and these are symptoms of security seeking behavior. You can also create expectations for yourself, e.g. unconsciously you think “I will blush and start to stutter”, and immediately… you do!
Why it ruins your life: Expecting certain behaviors from other people usually results in disappointment, confusion, frustration and anger. This can cause strain on relationships. On the other hand, expecting things from yourself can create many issues. Your expectations become self-fulfilling prophecies. They manipulate the outcome of a situation by predetermining whether it will be good or bad. e.g. If you expect to be tired, 99.9% of the time you will be. This can have an immensely negative impact on your life when your mind is already biased against you, or something else.
This is the perfect outcome, object, situation or person generated by the mind. For instance; “I must become like this ____”, “to be smart I must have the IQ of 165”. Ideals are a symptom of perfectionism. Furthermore, they are usually set up as unrealistic goals, which are almost always impossible to live up to.
Why it ruins your life: Because ideals are hard to achieve, mental and emotional frustration frequently occurs. Ideals cause you to live under immense pressure, creating a lot of anxiety. When disparity is seen between the ideal and reality, dissatisfaction and pain almost always result. The perfectionist-idealist is often a hard person to please, and an even harder person to live with. Ideals therefore negatively impact relationships.
Assumptions, Beliefs, Comparisons, Desires, Expectations and Ideals will ruin your life if they go unchallenged. Many of them paralyzed me for a long time until I started to slowly remove them through the process of Involution, an inner evolution of the mind.
If you can add to this article any thoughts or opinions of your own, please do below.