The fortune teller error

The Fortune Teller Error – anticipating that things will turn out badly and feeling convinced that your prediction is an already established fact.

This thinking error is also called “jumping to conclusions” and is based on making negative interpretations even though there are no definite facts to yet predict that negative things will happen.

The keys are  in understanding that the anticipation is not of a positive outcome, that the outcome does not have to be negative, and that rather than continuing predicting more negative events in a snowballing effect, it may be time at this point to start generating alternative responses to the first or next rolls of the snow ball. The earlier you can preempt a further sliding on the slippery slope of negative sequences, the more ability you have to make sure the situation does not escalate to actually becoming the negative outcome  you anticipated.

A common error is to expect that your partner will react badly if you tell him/her about an issue, or that they will say “no” if you ask them for something. In reality, do you truly know how they will react? They may take the discussion very calmly and positively as opposed to negatively, or say “yes” to your request as opposed to “no”.

The dangers of fortune-telling is that as in this example, we might decide not to bother asking, and progressively turn a frustration into lasting resentment, which is also anxiety building. Further, we might feel that our partner ought to become a mind reader, that they could guess what we want, without us expressing anything, because we’re too worried. That’s when the frustration expresses itself in our facial expressions and actions, and we confuse our partner, who is left wondering what is going on.

The fact is, they might say yes or no, they might handle the issue or not. This, you need to check and  take the response at face value.

If your fortune-telling is based on earlier experience (your partner said no, or refused discussing the issue once or several times), ask yourself “what is the evidence that this will happen again this time?” and “what could be the positive outcome if  I express myself?”. It does not matter whether you know that they may be whimsical at times and that responses change according to his/her own moods. What matters is that you express yourself.

If your fortune-telling is based solely on the apprehension of a future event turning negative, ask your self “ how does that conclusion serves me now?” or, “if I continue thinking that way, what will happen then?”.  Remain in the present, as opposed to projecting ahead.

More on jumping to conclusions: read this blog post.

Author: Pascale Aline

Psychotherapist & Performance Coach, I specialize working with tools for self enhancement, growth, productivity and healing (Biofeedback, EMDR, Mindfulness training)

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