Negative Automatic Thoughts part 3 – Perception and Cognitive Distortion

Negative Automatic Thoughts are a running theme here, as evidenced by this being part 3 of my official series

This post today was inspired by something utterly ridiculous that happened to me the other day. I had to share, I just couldn’t believe how suddenly and how violently my NATs seemed to suddenly flare to life.

I realised that one part of NATS I haven’t covered in this series yet is perception. Specifically: How we misinterpret the actions of others and make them a negative reflection of ourselves, when they’re actually nothing to do with us!  

Check out this article on Cognitive Distortion, it really is eye-opening!

It is very easy to misread someone’s actions if you’re having a bad day. But how can you really know what someone else is thinking?

You can’t!

You can guess based on contextual clues, but unless that person voices their thoughts themselves, you cannot be certain. So why let your worries run away with you?


Just the other day, I had a reminder of how my NATs can be a pain in the neck.

I have been having a hard time lately, with lots of stressful things happening one after the other this year, growing steadily worse and coming closer together with each new issue.

You might think that would be what this post is about. How my NATS were actually justified for once, even. But no, this is about something small and completely independent, proving just what a crapshoot living with Negative Automatic Thoughts can be sometimes.

Since being back at work I have been dropping off my son at nursery then heading straight to work, sitting in the café doing some writing before starting my shift an hour or so later.

I walked in this particular day and greeted someone by offering a comment about the cold outside, not an uncommon start to a conversation, I feel.

This person didn’t really respond, they even seemed to have an unhappy look to them. They clearly saw me stood next to them as others acknowledged me. I then, feeling awkward, made a comment about getting a drink and moved away, going to get a cuppa and sit down.

That was it. My day was ruined.

All I could think about the whole time I was writing was this person’s lack of response. How it must mean that they were angry with me about something. How when I started my shift I was going to get negative feedback or even a proper telling off for some sort of mistake I had made on my previous shift.

I even text Husband complaining of the interaction. He, of course, replied ever level-headed – ‘Maybe they’re having a bad day about something else’.

Stupid Husband, being so reasonable and logical and probably right.

sad woman
Just let me feel sorry for myself damnit…

I still couldn’t shake the feeling that they were angry with me. Certainly, I must be in trouble! I had made a mistake or upset someone and not only was I going to get a telling off, I would deserve it. Tiny little things from my last shift came to my mind; silly things that had never been an issue suddenly had me wondering ‘should I have done that?’

A part of me knew, of course, that what was happening was NATS. It’s entirely possible this one little thing blindsided me so much because lately, I had been having such legitimate stress to worry over, my brain had missed being ridiculous about silly things.

Stupid brain.

When I started my shift, I was so tense. Inside I was defensive and worried and convinced by then that I was going to get fired. That is how ridiculous my brain likes to be sometimes.

Do you know what actually happened?


It turned out, after a conversation with the person in question, that they were just having a bad day. They were stressed, hungry and as a result; hangry. We’ve all been there.

Their frosty reaction to my greeting was merely a response hampered by distraction. It wasn’t my fault, I had done nothing wrong! Our conversation was amicable and clearly made us both feel better, as I offered support and insight to their worries. I walked away feeling completely and utterly daft.

How could I have gotten myself so worked up? I was seriously worried over absolutely nothing! And Husband was right (Shh, don’t tell him!) about it being completely unrelated worries that had distracted them.

I allowed my perception of the situation to become completely selfish, by taking someone else’s mood and situation and making it completely about myself.

I felt like an absolute fool.
Excuse me while I wait for the ground to swallow me over here…

But when you’ve got this annoying negative voice in your subconscious that insists on twisting things against you, well…

I know sometimes that NATs can seem like little things. They can come and go in the grand scheme of things. They can be small and easy to ignore or they can be huge and all consuming. What made me angry with myself on this day, was that up until that one moment, I had actually been feeling better.

That morning I had accomplished two things which had been a part of my bigger stresses and I was finally starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel. I had allowed myself to maybe begin relaxing, for the first time in a long time.

I let my guard down and my brain punished me for it. But at least, on this occasion, it was only an hour before I could reign it in with real world evidence to the contrary.

Can you imagine if I hadn’t had the chance to speak to that person? I shudder to think how that negativity could have affected my entire week.

I shouldn’t have become so carried away from one small interaction, but sometimes we can’t help ourselves. The only thing I can do now I try not to let it happen again.

The next time I might find myself worrying over something like this, I can just call up this incident and try to remind myself how I made such a fuss over nothing, and how silly I felt afterward!

nats 3 title

Do you find yourself worrying about other people’s actions more than you think you should?

Do you often read into things the wrong way only to find there was nothing there to read?

You’re not alone, just remember, it might not be about you, so why worry!?

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sundaystayclassymama

14 thoughts on “Negative Automatic Thoughts part 3 – Perception and Cognitive Distortion”

  1. I would add that it’s easier for NATs to creep in with certain triggers. One of my main triggers for NATs, intrusive thoughts and an OCD flare up is sleep deprivation. When I’m tired it’s a lot harder to shake off those creeping doubts and the little voices making your day go from pleasant to unpleasant in an instant. I know your sleep has been suffering lately so don’t be too annoyed with yourself for finding these more prevalent.

    1. Thank you. Yes I absolutely agree, there is a definite connection there, it’s the same with illnesses, once you’re sleep deprived or stressed, your immune system seems to open the doors to everything going! Thanks for adding that xx

  2. To a certain extent, we all do it, don’t we? We think people are judging us… if they say something we wonder what they meant and why they used a certain tone? If they don’t, we wonder why they didn’t… It’s easy to make assumptions as to why people do or don’t do certain things, but in reality, we’ll never know what their true intentions, thoughts or motivations are! (Unless they tell us!) Thanks for sharing! #KCACOLS

  3. I have that kind of situation very often:D Today for example one man came to my house to fix something with tv and I said something to him I thought it was even funny but he said…nothing, zero reaction I was thinking what happened. Did I offend him? Did I say something wrong? For the rest of his visit I didn’t say even a word. You are not the only one my love

    1. Oh gosh I hate when that happens! I remember when backpacking I was playing cards with 3 other travelers, one girl asked another something completely ordinary (like ‘where do you come from’ or something?) The other girl just gave her this really dirty look and went back to looking at her cards and the three of us exchanged really awkward confused glances… most awkward, silent card game of my life haha xx

  4. This is really interesting as I’ve not heard of NATs before. I think we all have it to some degree because people are quick to make judgement aren’t they? I try not to let it bother me though and just carry on with my day. Some days are easier than others!

    Thank you for linking up to #KCACOLS and I hope to see you back again on Sunday x
    Maria recently posted…Jacadi Store opening – RichmondMy Profile

  5. It’s a reflection on them more than you! It sounds like this person needed a lesson in manners. It’s so easy to worry about other people’s impression of us, I’m guilty of it at times. I’m also like your husband, forever looking for excuses for other peoples ignorance and rudeness, still doesn’t make it ok.

  6. I definitely have negative thoughts that spur more negative thoughts, it only takes one silly thought and then a flood comes streaming through! I can completely understand how this happens and have done mindfulness courses so try and just let the thoughts float on by….it’s hard but once you get into the habit of doing this it does become easier : ). Thanks so much for sharing with #StayClassyMama!

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