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Mindset Types Contrasted and Compared

How our adaptive and maladaptive mindsets affect our thoughts, emotions and behaviors

In a previous article I discussed the power of mindsets. In this one I define different mindset types and compare two primary groups of mindsets: adaptive and maladaptive mindset types.

Primary Mindsets Types

Mindsets can be broadly categorized in two primary groups defined as adaptive (sometimes called “growth”) and maladaptive (sometimes called “fixed”).

Adaptive mindsets foster greater (short and/or long term) life satisfaction and wellness because they are characterized by rational patterns of thinking. They promote beneficial behaviors and supportive emotions.

Maladaptive mindsets diminish or prevent (short and/or long term) life satisfaction and wellness because they are characterized by irrational/faulty patterns of thinking such as cognitive biases (thinking errors) and cognitive distortions (erroneous thought patterns). They promote unhelpful or destructive behaviors and trigger excessive, inappropriate and/or harmful emotions.

Mindsets Subgroups

Within each of these two primary groups are three subgroups that define the characteristics and effects of mindsets:

  1. The first subgroup describes the kinds of cognitions (thoughts, beliefs, perceptions) associated with both main mindset types.
  2. The second subgroup describes how the mindset affect a person’s behaviors tendencies.
  3. The third subgroup describes how the mindset affect a person’s emotional reactions.

Adaptive Mindsets

People whose lives are shaped by positive experiences (e.g., being helped, cared for, supported, protected, respected and understood) tend to develop more adaptive mindsets. These mindsets are likely to result in more effective actions and coping skills, greater success and achievements, more meaningful and beneficial social relationships, and better health and a sense of wellbeing.

The following describe three adaptive mindset subgroups that are integral to experiencing a more pleasurable and meaningful life.

Adaptive Mindset Cognitions

People with adaptive mindsets have cognitions likely to produce beneficial outcomes because they think rationally, rely on well-founded knowledge, and have useful insights (understandings) about themselves, others and the world.

A person with adaptive mindsets has at least some of the following cognitive characteristics.

Grows and uses knowledge effectively because the person:

  • Asks intelligent probing questions to find answers about why important things happen and uses reasoned logical analysis to evaluate those answers and determine how they can help solve problems.
  • Has an open mind that’s receptive, curious, inquisitive, scrutinizing, nuanced, objective/unbiased/scientific, focused on examining the big picture (broad-scope, system-based thinking).
  • Learns from constructive/critical feedback, reliable instruction and direct experience, and uses that knowledge in ways that are reasonable, balanced, pragmatic, prudent, purposeful, enlightened, wise.

Develops one’s potential because the person:

  • Sets goals that are realistic yet challenging.
  • Thinks positively, which is not happy talk or blind optimism, but rather a consistent focus on strengths and reasonable ways to manage problems and challenges. Believes one has, or can have, adequate power, control and resources to realize one’s potential.
  • Is attentive, engaged, conscientious, motivated, observant, focused on the important things.
  • Is creative, imaginative, innovative, inventive.

Effectively manages one’s emotions because the person:

  • Copes with negative emotions and stress by thinking rationally.
  • Is grateful, thankful, appreciative.
  • Accepts a reasonable level of frustration tolerance and positive stress (eustress).
  • Realizes and recognizes that every person is an equal part of a species-wide integrated “oneness” in which the survival of humanity requires strong, mutually beneficial relationships between countries and states united, cooperative groups, intact families, etc.

Adaptive Mindset Emotions

A person with adaptive mindsets is more likely to experience healthy feelings such as:

  • Caring emotions including empathy, sympathy, compassion.
  • Regret for an undesirable/faulty/inappropriate behavior instead of debilitating shame or guilt.
  • Disappointment or appropriate sadness for a loss, rejection or failure instead of blaming and feeling anger, despair, anguish, tormented, desolated, dejected, depressed, etc.
  • Peacefulness, calm, contented or a reasonable level of concern about a pending problem instead of feeling overly anxious, frightened, unnerved, paranoid, terrified, etc.
  • Unfulfilled want for someone or something instead of feeling jealous
  • Happiness for the success and pleasures of others instead of feeling envious.

Adaptive Mindset Behaviors

People’s thoughts and feeling strongly influence their subsequent behaviors. As such, people with adaptive mindsets are more likely to exhibit behaviors that produce beneficial results. That’s because such a person has mindsets which foster at least some of the following behavioral characteristics.

Builds and maintains healthy human relationships because the person has one or more of the following traits:

  • Forms positive, pleasurable, beneficial, meaningful attachments with close social connections, as well as with distant relationships such as acquaintances and even strangers.
  • Acts as a “catalyst” who brings people together for collaboration, information and knowledge sharing, and alliance building, etc. This can be achieved by (a) promoting mutuality, i.e., mutual dependence, shared vision, action and/or influence for the benefit of all involved; (b) motivating, encouraging, persuasive, inspiring, uplifting.
  • Treats others in ways that are considerate, respectful, courteous, engaging, caring, compassionate, appropriately affectionate, kind, warm, loving, sympathetic, benevolent, generous, humane, protective.
  • Has empathy and understands people’s feelings, intentions.
  • Is communicative, intelligible, informative, instructive.
  • Is honest, truthful, trustworthy, transparent, accountable, responsible, authentic, sincere, credible/believable, principled, reputable, virtuous, ethical.
  • Is modest, humble, unassuming, unpretentious, deferential.

Achieves success because the person has one or more of the following traits:

  • Is motivated, committed, determined, passionate/enthusiastic, dedicated, persistent, tenacious.
  • Is attentive, adept, vigilant, deliberate, intentional.
  • Is competent, reliable, effective.
  • Is efficient, thrifty/frugal (not wasteful), produces high-value (cost-effective) outputs.
  • Is assertive, assured, capable, self-confident, courageous while avoiding unnecessary and excessive (low benefit) risk.

Maladaptive Mindsets

People shaped by unhealthy/distressful experiences — such as being mistreated, rejected, disrespected, unsupported, misjudged, underrated, undervalued, misunderstood, manipulated, traumatized, etc. — tend to develop maladaptive mindsets. These mindsets can result in a dysfunctional life of self-defeating actions, failures, conflicts, emotional problems and ill-health.

The following three subcategories of maladaptive mindsets are related to a dysfunctional way of life.

Maladaptive Mindset Cognitions

People with maladaptive mindsets have cognitions that are likely to produce undesired outcomes due to faulty thoughts (irrational beliefs and misperceptions), invalid knowledge (“false facts”) and insights (misunderstandings and misjudgments) about themselves, others and issues.

Such a person has at least some of the following cognitive characteristics.

Fails to grow and use knowledge effectively because the person has one or more of the following traits:

  • Has insufficient and/or inaccurate knowledge and understanding that leads to beliefs that are erroneous, unreasonable, senseless, implausible, deluded and which are likely to result decisions that are foolish, ineffective, damaging, unjustifiable.
  • Is not motivated to learn due to an erroneous belief that one has all the knowledge needed.
  • Has the belief that one is incapable of learning.

Fails to develop one’s potential because the person has one or more of the following traits:

  • Has thoughts that are unreasonably negativistic/pessimistic, despairing, defeatist, hopeless, helpless due to the belief that one’s potential cannot be developed.
  • Has excessively low expectations that diminish the drive/motivation to develop one’s potential since achieving higher goals is believed to be too difficult or inconvenient; falsely believes one lacks adequate power and control.
  • Avoids handling problems/issues/challenges through denial, dismissal, rejection, rationalization (making excuses, false justifications).
  • Has an attitude that is egotistical, conceited, pretentious, overconfident, presumptuous, pompous due to the belief that one deserves only the best which should be easily obtained. This sense of superiority and deservingness is not only irrational, but it’s often an unconscious defense mechanism that attempts to repress negative thoughts about oneself from triggering emotional distress.

Fails to manage one’s emotions because the person has one or more of the following traits:

  • Thinks in a closed/narrow-minded manner with binary (black & white) cognitions that are inflexible, dogmatic, unreceptive, prejudicial, and thus increases emotional problems rather than reducing them via rational acceptance.
  • Believes one is inferior, undeserving, good-for-nothing, detestable, disgusting, deplorable, worthless, bad/evil which increases emotional disturbances.
  • Has an intolerant thinking style and refuses to accept reality due to erroneous beliefs that certain things (situations, people) must be (should be) the way they want. If things are not as one demands, the person then believes it’s terrible, awful, intolerable which increases emotional disturbances.
  • Has excessively high expectations that inevitably results in frustration, disappointment and other types of emotional distress. This includes pathologically obsessive irrational thoughts about the need to be absolutely perfect, or the consequence would be horrible.

Has social relationship problems because the person has one or more of the following traits:

  • Fails to realize and recognize that every person is an equal part of a species-wide integrated “oneness” in which the survival of humanity requires strong, mutually beneficial relationships.
  • Has cognitions that lead to misunderstandings, intolerance, sense of inferiority or superiority, distrust, fear/vulnerability, etc.
  • Engages in People-Appraisal …

People-Appraisal is a common belief, promoted by certain cultures, governments and religions, which claims that the worth/worthiness (value) and goodness (virtue) of a person’s “true self” (i.e., the entirety of what one truly IS) is something that can be appraised (measured, evaluated, judged). To appraise people in this way, all you need to know are a few things about them, such as their race, gender, religion, ethnicity, material wealth, and/or some of the things they do or say.

So, if someone sees people doing something the person considers to be a bad thing, the People-Appraisal belief says it’s sensible to judge their true nature as being totally bad; and if they do something the person considers to be good, it makes sense to judge their true nature as being totally good. Likewise, the true nature of impoverished people can be judged as worthless and undeserving because they have less monetary worth, and the true nature of people whose talents, intelligence, skin color, language or customs are different than oneself then they, too, can be judged as inferior, worthless scum, vermin, garbage, trash, good-for-nothings, undesirables.

For a deeper understanding of People-Appraisal and its dangers, see my article at this link.

Maladaptive Mindset Emotions

People with maladaptive mindsets are more likely to experience unhealthy (exaggerated, excessive, inhibited, suppressed, inappropriate) emotions resulting in feelings such as:

  • Fear, anger, vengeance, sadness (depression, grief, despair), guilt, envy, jealousy, shame, disgust, distress, humiliation, remorse, misery, shock, insecurity, regret, remorse, resentment, discouragement, ambivalence.
  • Lack of caring or unconcern about others, unsympathetic, non-empathetic.
  • Hypersensitivity, temperamental, thin-skinned, easily offended, paranoid, neurotic.
  • Intolerance (having low frustration intolerance).

Maladaptive Mindset Behaviors

People’s thoughts and feeling strongly influence their behaviors, so people with maladaptive mindsets are more likely to exhibit behaviors that produce detrimental (damaging, harmful, adverse) results.

Such a person has at least some of the following behavioral characteristics.

Experiences unhealthy relationships with other because they have one or more of the following traits:

  • Acts in ways that are arrogant, egotistical, pretentious, ostentatious (“showy”), pompous, grandiose, boastful, snobby, patronizing.
  • Acts in ways that are excessively self-centered, self-focused, selfish, self-serving.
  • Blames others rather than taking responsibility and being accountable.
  • Is intrusive, interfering, overbearing, unrestrained, domineering, subjugating.
  • Is unassertive, passive, submissive, timid, fearful, defenseless, weak, needy, helpless, incapable.
  • Acts in ways that are overly self-protective which result in behaviors that are excessively or inappropriately distrustful, avoidant, preemptively aggressive/hurtful.
  • Is dominated by others or overly dependent on them through actions that are excessively compliant, obedient, consenting, ingratiating, subservient.
  • Acts in ways that are inappropriately/excessively friendly, seductive, shameless, raunchy, promiscuous, lewd, lustful, depraved, lascivious, lecherous, salacious.
  • Is disconnected from others by isolating oneself, withdrawing, disengaging, detaching, separating.
  • Acts in ways that are unfriendly, impolite, discourteous, obscene, offensive, rude, indecent, insulting, abrasive, caustic, bad-tempered, boisterous, unruly, disrespectful, insolent, corrupt, depraved.
  • Acts in ways that are hurtful/harmful to oneself or others through actions that are hostile, aggressive, passive-aggressive, antagonistic, scornful, belittling, degrading, demeaning, insulting, slanderous, abusive, cruel, inhuman, savage, merciless, pitiless, sadistic, tyrannical.

Fails to achieve and maintain one’s health and success because the person has one or more of the following traits:

  • Acts in ways that are neglectful, irresponsible, careless, disinterested, hasty, sloppy, disorganized, cavalier, reckless, thoughtless, foolhardy, rash, lax, lazy, lethargic, apathetic, uncaring, unconcerned, disinterested, indifferent.
  • Acts in ways that are pathologically obsessive, compulsive, addictive.
  • Acts in ways that are self-indulgent, greedy, overly hedonistic (pleasure seeking), addicted, conspicuously consumptive, wasteful.
  • Tries to cope with problems through avoidance by procrastinating, stalling, deferring, obstructing, resisting change (inertia).
  • Punishes and/or hates themselves by acting in ways that demean, loath, debase, degrade, discredit themselves.
  • Acts in ways that are deceitful/dishonest through behaviors that are deceptive, deceitful, corrupt, exploitative, devious, unjust, unlawful, evasive, sneaky, Machiavellian, manipulative.

I’m a clinical psychologist and software architect focused on understanding the intricacies human nature, mind, consciousness, thought, emotions and experience.

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