Sometimes unhealthy relationships give you weird skills. For instance, you may realize you pick up on the tiniest changes in facial expressions. Others don’t even notice, but you’re already registering someone else’s body language and slight variations in tone. You can guess what others are thinking and feeling before they even say a word.
That’s called mindreading, and many people do it. In fact, sometimes people expect you to do it. That’s how you acquired the skill in the first place. Maybe you grew up in a family where direct communication was discouraged. If you didn’t guess what people wanted before they said something, you got in trouble or were accused of not loving them enough to figure it out.
Or maybe you’ve been in a toxic relationship that required a lot of mindreading. You may have gotten used to constantly scanning conversations for warning signs of the next meltdown or blowup. In any case, mindreading helped you avoid danger. You learned to read the cues so you could either step in to prevent something bad from happening or run away from it.
As useful as it is, though, mindreading comes with its own problems. For one thing, accurately guessing what others think 100% of the time is impossible! Spending so much energy on reading between the lines can be exhausting. Plus, the more you try to guess what other people think, the more likely you are to eventually misunderstand them.
While mindreading may have been a useful tool to have in a toxic relationship, it may no longer work as well in other relationships. This is because abusive relationships teach you to expect the negative. For example, if a friend doesn’t reply to your text, you automatically assume the negative – they don’t like you anymore – rather than assuming the positive – they’re just busy and will get back to you later.
When you feel tempted to mindread, it can be helpful to remind yourself:
· Mindreading helped me survive…
· …but it’s an impossible task that puts too much pressure on me.
· It’s not my responsibility to guess what others want/think/feel.
· If others want something, they can clearly communicate their needs to me.
· Instead of stressing and guessing, I can ask others what they think.
Mindreading can happen so automatically you don’t notice when you’re doing it. If you’d like some help figuring out how to let go of stressing over what others think, set up an appointment at eastdallastherapy.com or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.