Dysfunctional Thinking 4 - Mind Reading

I never cease to be amazed when I see someone like Derren Brown or David Blaine.

There’s something about the initials DB that means you have the ability to Delve into a person’s Brain (I might start a YouTube conspiracy theory )

They display mind reading powers that, at one time, I believed that I possessed too.

Well, not consciously.

But put me in a room with a dozen people and I could tell you EXACTLY what they were thinking ABOUT ME!

I was so certain about these thoughts that they directly influenced my actions. What I said, how I behaved and how I felt about myself.

If I entered a room and someone gave me a cursory glance before resuming their conversation with another person, my brain instantly understood

“They are wondering what on earth YOU are doing here, and why on earth have you come dressed like THAT

“Right, top of the todo list, I must convince that person that I deserve to be here.”

It’s ridiculous, isn’t it? Yet it happened all the time, no matter where I was. I wouldn’t even have spoken to a person yet I had already decided what they thought about me, found myself lacking in some area and then planned my actions around winning that person’s approval

The basis of this cycle for me was because I placed so much weight on what other people thought about me.

I had no foundation for my self esteem. Because I didn’t know myself or value who I was, I needed approval from other people in order to feel good or deserving.

Because my opinion of myself was so low, it was all I believed that anybody else could see, my flaws and imperfections. I was PROJECTING this low self-image into the minds of others, with no basis whatsoever

I can’t read minds, nobody can, not even the aforementioned DB’s. What Messers Brown and Blaine do is read bodies. They are professional experts in non-verbal communication. They understand the minutest of responses in the face, the eyes, the breathing, the body of the individual, AS WELL AS the psychological thought patterns of humans in order to calculate people’s responses. And even they don’t get it right every time.

So how can mere mortals like me get close when I attempt to do the same?

I can’t.

I can hazard a guess at what people are thinking, but I’ve found it better to simply ASK.

If I don’t know what somebody’s thinking and I need to know, I ask them! It saves a lot of time and internal debate.

This brings up another point on my journey with Mind Reading that I’d never applied before.

Do I NEED to know what the other person is thinking?

I have realised that there are very few opinions that actually matter in my life.

Previously I moulded myself and my behaviour to try and please everybody

Now I am far more certain and stable about WHO I am, and it is only the opinions of a loved and trusted few that I will reflect on, to see if I need to work on or adjust my actions and behaviours.

My wife, my parents, my brother, my best friend and my therapist

This is my counsel

I trust that their insights are honest and that their intentions for me are good

More than that, they TELL me their thoughts! No guesswork necessary. And even then I get to choose whether it is something that applies to me and who I am.

I am empowered with this knowledge

A final point that has dramatically helped me on this journey is hearing the experiences of others.

Do you know, in that situation that I described about walking into a room, most people I have talked to were thinking exactly the same as me!

Research shows that the vast majority of people are THINKING ABOUT THEMSELVES in these interactions!

It’s not all about me, because everyone is thinking about themselves!

Understanding these three things:

  • I cannot mind read (nobody can)

  • I don’t need external approval for who I am, and there are only a select few opinions that matter when I’m thinking about this.

  • Most people are thinking about themselves, not me.

has resulted in two things:

Firstly, I am free to be authentically me in any situation. This increases my self-esteem because I no longer feel malleable or fraudulent

Secondly, my social anxiety has totally disappeared. It’s amazing. I no longer sweat profusely when entering a room, or trip over my words whilst I desperately attempt to win the approval of whoever I’m with. I’ve seemingly become the calm, confident person that I aspired to be, and it had nothing to do with impressing the other person.

Walking this path for the last 3 years has made me realise that, whenever I was outside the house, my mind had been dominated with justification and confrontation.

I would have imagined discussions and arguments with every person that I passed.

“Yes, I live around here”

“Well, this outfit is fashionable in my industry”

“I can’t shave every day because I get in-growing hairs”

“I don’t know what she’s doing married to someone like me either, I’ve won the lottery here”




Now I find that I have free headspace to enjoy the journey! Absorb my surroundings, especially the wonder of nature.

I arrive at places early because I’m not scared of seeing and engaging with people

Best of all, I look myself in the mirror at night and need no debate about who I am and who I present myself as each day.

So, how much weight do you put on another person’s non-verbal communication?

Can a side-eye glance cut you down at the knees? A raised eyebrow make you analyse your outfit, hairstyle and life choices?

Do you find your mind cluttered with the constant assessment of other people’s thoughts and what you need to do in response?

Maybe take some time to reflect on the people whose opinions genuinely matter in your life.

Try the Dinner Guest tool in the Dining Room and see if any of the names surprise you

Then, as you go about your week, if you catch yourself wondering what another person is thinking about you, consciously ask yourself “does it matter?”

You’ll be amazed at how often it doesn’t x