Foiling Mental Filter

Photo by Nicole LeBlanc

In mental filter you obscure the positives and only see the negatives. If there had been Mental Filter championships I would have been a contender. This is still one of my weaker links. (When I review evaluations of my workshops I still have to force myself to focus on the majority of positives instead of on the few negatives.) To illustrate mental filter I return to my piano-accompaniment experience. How many pages of sheet music did I get through competently? It was a medley and so I’m going to go with a conservative estimate of 8. Let’s say there were 20 bars of music on each page. 8 X 20 = 160. That means that I successfully played 152 bars of music, yet I stopped playing piano in public for years because I dropped out for 8 bars. A bit of overreacting, wouldn’t you say?

How do you foil mental filter? As with most thinking errors, first ask yourself, “What is the evidence that everything I did was lousy?” Note the aspects that were acceptable or even good. Some people find that imagining they are evaluating a friend helps them be more objective. You can ask trusted friends and colleagues for honest feedback. Keep an open mind about the positive things they say.

Remember the question, “Is this thought useful?” Again, it can be helpful to acknowledge the negatives so that you can work on them. This is different from totally ignoring the positives. Since a big part of improving is building on the positives, mental filter is actually destructive.

I hope you’ll soon enjoy beginning to see things clearly rather than through the fog of mental filter.