This is one of "22
virus definitions" (thought-mistakes that cause ineffectiveness
and unnecessary negative emotions).
all the thought-mistakes on the list of virus definitions are some form
of self-defeating conclusions. But this is a good one to look
for on its own. For example, Jims boss is usually friendly,
but today his boss seems unhappy. Jim immediately jumps to a
negative conclusion: "I must have done something wrong.
He seems mad at me."
Jims boss is actually worried about
his son. The look on the boss's face has nothing to do with Jim.
So Jim is feeling bad unnecessarily because of his thought-mistake.
And his bad feelings might interfere with his work. It certainly
doesn't help him feel better or get more done. And to whatever
degree it makes him feel worse or get less done, Jims conclusion
Whether one of your conclusions is self-defeating
or not is an entirely separate issue from whether your conclusion
is true or not.
Some conclusions are verifiable. I have
red hair. Thats a fact. You can verify it. But sometimes
you dont really know if a statement is true or false. For
some statements, the question of true or false doesnt even
apply (for example, an overblown generalization such as, society
is evil cant be rationally argued one way or the
other without being ridiculous). But if a negative thought is
impairing your ability, it is counterproductive to keep thinking
it, whether its truth or falsity can ever be determined.
For example, lets say youre
lying in bed obsessing over the thought, Im an insomniac
and will never again get a good nights sleep. The
conclusion itself can keep you awake, so it is self-defeating
to think it, whether its true or false. It's a self-fulfilling
Many pessimistic thoughts are like that:
They are self-fulfilling and therefore not useful thoughts. They
arent true or false. But they make themselves true by thinking
A woman wrote to me and said her grandmother
always used to say, Hell is right here on earth.
That is an example of a demoralizing explanation of setbacks.
But is the explanation accurate? Is it true? You cant really
So the question then becomes: Is the thought
useful? Clearly that grandmothers conclusion about life,
the assumption she made that "hell is right here on earth,"
produces a feeling of sadness, demoralization, hopelessness,
and it would not help her overcome the challenges in her life.
Not only that, but those feelings are unhealthy. And in fact,
the grandmother was constantly grumpy and depressed.
With many of your conclusions, you can
destroy them by simply realizing they are untrue. But if you
cant determine the truth of a negative conclusion, then
look to see whether it is self-defeating. If you dont know
if it's true, but you know it is self-defeating, then your belief
in it will diminish as soon as you realize that fact.
See the complete list of definitions: The 22 Virus Definitions.