Anti-social thinking has some characteristics that can be identified by observation. It is often asked, “Why do some people make the same mistakes over-and over?” Although the details are quite complex, the answer is fairly simple. Answer: It’s how we think! Our choices are made using a network of thinking, feelings, attitudes and beliefs that are used routinely. We acquire a set of habits to help us make decisions based upon the way we see the world. These habits become comfortable but lead to outcomes that get us “into trouble”.
- The law (criminal justice systems)
Knowingly or unknowingly we all abide by a certain amount of self interest. We want “things”. Things to go our way so we can gain something. Sometimes what we gain is material (like money or a house). Sometimes what we gain is a feeling we like (or dislike less than another feeling). Sometimes we get a bit too interested in our self interest. We call that anti-social thinking. Anti-social thinking most often weighs decisions toward self centered interests. This usually filters “in” thinking that validates WIFM (what’s in it for me). It also tends for filter “out” WIFO (what’s in it for others). As this occurs, antisocial thinking starts to see anyone that is not “with me” is “against me”. As a result, a mindset of “WIN/LOSE” seems appropriate to them. “Others” have treated them unfairly, dashed their hopes, interfered with their (deserved) success. This leads to feelings that are undesirable.
We all want to diminish or avoid these types of feelings! Some people even find them completely intolerable. We prefer to feel confident, important, hopeful & etc. Therefore, it seems “normal” for anti-social thinkers to choose the quickest “solution”. Unfortunately, this very often leads to a decision that leads to undesirable additional consequences. The goal for them was to feel better in the moment. Jail, divorce, addiction or being fired was not part of the “calculation” (many times).
There are clues that can help us identify when anti-social thinking is active. We can observe routine behaviors in a person and “pick-up” on these clues. There are themes in thinking that support self centered decision making. These are often termed Thinking Errors, Thinking Distortions or Stinking Thinking. If we listen to each other, we can hear the themes when people talk. If we think about what another person presents as their main focus it becomes more clear. Below are some examples:
I deserve it. When a person is considerably more focused on their own desires they will often say things indicating that they actually deserve something. “She/he should have…”. This helps a person to believe that they have been treated unfairly and reinforces a feeling of entitlement. The feeling of entitlement and righteousness is a step in the direction of feeling better than they currently do.
That’s stupid When a person often talks about someone else in terms that elevate themselves and diminish others it is usually an attempt to avoid embarrassment or insult. Whenever a person feels bad about things not going the way they want, it seems prudent to find something “wrong” with others. Many times this also holds true if someone is trying to impress others with their importance or superiority.
You’re wrong When someone consistently tells other how “wrong” they are, it implies that they know something others don’t know. This conveys a sense of superiority and confidence. These feelings are much preferred to embarrassment or disrespect. This often occurs when the other person is absent. There are also times when it is used as an aggressive display in the presence of others.
I-me-mine Regardless of the topic, the core subject always seems to have “self” at the core. Any conversation returns to how it relates to them. If someone is talking about vacation the topic becomes MY vacation (usually, better, more spectacular, more expensive, more dreadful & etc.) If the topic is money it relates to MY money (usually, how much I have, don’t have, spend, saved & etc.) This self centered thinking elevates them to the central theme is most interactions. Even a show of sympathy can turn into a conversation about how much more sympathetic they are than someone else.
Thinking that is anti-social in nature is distinguishable by the self focused themes. There is a sense that the anti social person wants to be viewed as impressive, unique and important. If we listen and observe we can usually become aware of it. Pro social thinking is more inclusive, curious about others viewpoints and conveys a sense of “togetherness”. Using this framework can help us observe anti social thinking during our interactions with others.