Paul J. Hannig, Ph.D., MFT
Have you ever found yourself thinking negative thoughts about someone? How does it feel? Just about everyone, sooner or later, finds themselves ruminating about the faults and flaws of another, whether it is a friend, relative, business contact or anything for that matter. Perhaps, you find flaws and faults with what someone else has done, produced or created. Do you find yourself being overly critical of the performance of a boss, an employee, a movie, a television show or even a book? The situations that are open for fault finding seem endless.
Have you ever had second thoughts about your first fault finding thoughts? What was the nature of these second thoughts? Did you regret having the fault finding thoughts and wish to reverse or change the effects of your fault finding? Did you wish to change your fault finding thoughts because they were harmful to you?
During that time, did your fault finding thoughts serve you in some way? In what way and why was that? Perhaps, you found fault in order to ward off uncomfortable, painful, unwanted feelings. After your discomfort, anger and pain subsided, did you notice that you were more willing to change your first thoughts to more positive thoughts? Second thoughts also serve a need and a purpose inside of you. All thoughts - whether negative, positive, fault finding and second reparative thoughts - seem to be in the service of your ego, dependent on your needs at any given moment.
Fault finding distances you from the person or source of your fault finding. Distancing may relieve pain and discomfort but, in the long run, can cost you vital relationships and possibly much needed resources and information.
For example, one wife continually keeps searching and finding fault with her husband. The distance builds and eventually there's a divorce and the dissolution of a family. A son is having difficulty with his father's excessive fault finding. The distancing creates a chasm and the father/son relationship is characterized by avoidance. The son reaches full adulthood and has a full blown Avoidant Personality Disorder. His whole life is influenced by his primal hurts accumulated at the feet of his father's chronic fault finding. Relationships are never fully consummated and job opportunities are missed. What has developed is an internalized fault finding parent who continues to influence the son by imprinting automatic, avoidant behavior.
So, as you can see, fault finding thinking can cause pain and harm to one's own psyche and to relationships. If you have fault finding as an enduring trait, take stock as to how this kind of thinking affects or even harms you and others. Like everyone else, being maximally effective and successful depends on your thinking and how you get along with others. If you are unable to make and keep friends and business contacts to the satisfaction of your goals, you may find some sort of fault finding at the root of the problem. This also means finding fault with yourself. If you change your thinking, you can change your life.
Change your Thinking, Change your Life
Successful relationships are remarkable for their lack of glaring fault finding. Think of someone or something with whom you have found fault and write down how you reacted. Does your thinking work against you? Now think of the benefits and rewards gained if you eliminated your fault finding and instead, focused on the positive and constructive aspects of the person, situation or product.
Recently I was reading a paper written by someone and found myself disagreeing with the usage of one of her concepts. Initially, I found fault with her ideas because they didn't seem to fit my own theoretical and experiential models. Because I disagreed with her thinking, I found myself finding fault and on the brink of critically rejecting her thinking. This was my first reaction. Call it first line thinking. Then I said to myself, "Now wait a minute. Let's look at this a little closer, more in-depth, and see if there is something useful here. If I look deeper there could be a hidden opportunity." So I started applying her concept to some of my own thinking and, - lo and behold - I found the hidden benefits in my second thoughts. I call second thoughts, second line thinking, because they require more scrutiny and attention than first line, automatic, knee jerk, reactive thinking.
Tips on Letting Go of Fault Finding Thinking
One tactic for dealing with your first line, automatic triggered fault finding thinking, is to control it completely and take it home with you for a working through process. Don't hold onto fault finding thinking. It will cause you anger and pain and if you blurt it out, it may cost you the benefits that may be inherent and hidden in your relationships. Get over finding fault. Let it go! Erase and eradicate negative thinking. Convert those thoughts to positive, beneficial opportunity ideas, beliefs and reasoning.
Don't follow the advice of some one who proposes that it is healthy to express all thoughts and feelings, no matter what they are. Good judgment supersedes social verbal ventilation of all your thoughts. However, in the privacy of your own emotional sanctuary, it is highly recommended that you express fully, all of your thoughts and feelings. This will give you relief, integration, insight, connection and inner wisdom.
For more information, contact:
Paul J. Hannig, PH.D., MFT,