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Diana Odhiambo; Officer, Resolution

Self-awareness- breaking free from unhealthy thinking patterns.

Self-awareness- breaking free from unhealthy thinking patterns.

Self-awareness can simply be defined as “knowledge of one self in character and feelings.” Our feelings are shaped dominantly by our thoughts and these same feelings affect how we react, how we respond, what we say, what we do and overall how we live our lives. 

Our thinking patterns are a habitual way on how we process life around us. As individuals, some of our thinking patterns may be healthy and a reflection of the truth, while some patterns may be distorted from the truth and may need to be addressed and replaced with the truth. These unhealthy thinking patterns may cause turmoil and pain to an individual and to those around them.

In psychology studies available online, we all fall victim to at least one of the listed patterns below:

  1. Magnifying thinking pattern-This is the habit of making mountains out of mole hills. Those who magnify have a tendency to exaggerate events to a point where each situation feels like a major catastrophe. This may be a result of a childhood where discipline was out of proportion to mistakes, rejection and an environment of fear.

Signs of magnifying may include use of words such as never, too late, devastated etc.

The truth in this case is that mole hills are not mountains and not every situation is an emergency.


  1. Minimizing thinking pattern- This is the opposite of magnifying. Minimizers tend to downplay what is actually happening and detach themselves to an extent of also rejecting others true feelings in major life events.  Minimizers may have come from a background where their emotions as children were neglected or overlooked.

People who minimize will often say “it doesn’t really matter”.

The truth in this case is that some of life’s events are major happenings and are worth an emotional reaction, it is healthy and it is human to feel.


  1. Personalizing thinking pattern- In this thought pattern, an individual views life events as a personal attack and faulting themselves even when they really had no actual contribution to an event. Personalizers may have a come from a childhood background where they took a lot of heat and criticism from their primary caregivers. The child may have questions themselves growing up asking “what is wrong with me?”

The true thought here is that as individuals not everything that happens is a result of our failures, our negligence and not everything that happens is a reflection of who we are. Let the person responsible be accountable.


  1. Emotional reasoning- This is the classic “If I feel something then it must be true”. In this pattern, an individual is not able to separate their feelings from facts and views their feelings as facts. This creates a complete distortion from what is true and leads to being triggered. For example, I may want to believe that if a friend loves me then they must demonstrate it by calling me constantly. When they do not, I construe this to mean that they do not care about me.

The truth here is just because I feel something does not mean that it is true.


  1. Generalizing thought pattern- This is a pattern where an individual believes that the past dictates the future. What happened is likely to recur. It is a self-defeating pattern that leads to mistrust. It gives no chances and has no hope. If I dare say, this is a very Kenyan trait where we tend to let negative outcomes dictate our ever pessimistic attitude. For example, “mnangoja nini na bado itaibiwa tu”.  

An individual with this thought pattern is defeated even before they try.

  1. The truth here is what happened in the past may not happen again. Second chances work and people around us are capable of doing better and so are we.


Recognizing our thought patterns is the first step on the journey to self-awareness. The good Book tells us “as a man thinketh so he is”. Recognizing our patterns allows us to begin the process of nipping unhealthy patterns and allowing ourselves to experience our lives in truth. This leads to stable mental health, great relationships and cohesion. Our feelings will fluctuate on a day to day basis in our human experiences, however exercising healthy thought patterns helps us to manage our feelings and emotions.


Diana Odhiambo; Officer, Resolution