This might help you understand your irritability… (Part 2) Personalizing.

In my last blog post, I wrote about why negative emotions affect thoughts.

Here’s another thinking distortion that leads to irritability.


This cognitive bias is not necessarily relevant to you but it might be.

Taking things personally that might not have been personal.

For example,

– someone ignoring a Facebook friend request you sent.

– you jumping to the conclusion that something that happens in a business context is personal when its not.

– thinking you did something wrong if someone says something a bit strange to you or is brusque in conversation.

What can help

– At least entertaining the possibility that whatever happened might not have been personal (i.e. that it might not have been comment on who you are as a person or that the reason for something occurring might not have been anything to do with you)! Thinking openly. There might be some other explanation for what happened, you just might not know what it is. Negative emotions cause thinking to become more self focussed (they put us in self protective mode) which is why people are more prone to personalizing when they’re feeling negative emotions.

– Learning to tolerate uncertainty. Often we don’t know (and often never find out) if something was personal or not.

Tolerating uncertainty and not knowing is an INCREDIBLY important emotion skill. It will help you have stable self esteem and a calm life.

Note that when I say “tolerating” uncertainty I mean the opposite of wrestling with it. Using a tug of war metaphor, think dropping the rope rather than pulling harder on one end.