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  • Writer's pictureDena Lampert

Can You Predict The Future?

What would you do if I told you that I could predict the future? Give me any situation and I’ll tell you what happens. Would you believe me?


Often when we think of predicting the future we think of crystal balls, tarot cards, and red silk curtains. But what would you say if I told you that lots of us will try to predict the future on a day-to-day basis, without even realizing it?


Predicting the future, also known as fortune telling, is one of the most common cognitive distortions in which you will predict a negative outcome without realistically considering the actual odds of that outcome. If you remember from our previous blog on black and white thinking, cognitive distortions are types of thoughts that cause us to perceive reality inaccurately, and generally in a negative way. They occur when our minds essentially play tricks on us, making us believe things that are not actually true, and they often lead to us experiencing negative and uncomfortable feelings such as anxiety, depression, agitation, and irritability.


In today’s blog, we’re going to discuss what fortune telling as a cognitive distortion is, how it might present in your life, how to recognize if you are fortune telling, and what to do about it.


What is fortune telling?


Fortune telling is a cognitive distortion in which you predict a negative outcome of an event, without considering all the possible outcomes. Predicting the future becomes the cognitive distortion of fortune telling, when we assume that some event or events will end badly for us, that we will fail at something or we will be in danger.


For example you might find yourself thinking “I’ll fail that exam”, “I won’t get this job”, or “I’m going to hurt myself”. And fortune telling can also focus on others. You might find yourself thinking “my partner will leave me”, “my parents are going to get ill”, or “my friend will hate me forever.”


When you are fortune telling, instead of weighing up the likelihood of different outcomes, you might find yourself jumping to a conclusion and being certain that it will happen. You may disregard the actual likelihood of that outcome occurring and will not consider other outcomes that are more, or equally as likely.


Fortune telling often occurs due to anxiety and/or depression, and is one of the most common cognitive distortions that people experience.


How to recognize that you are fortune telling


Recognizing that you are fortune telling is the first step in tackling this cognitive distortion. Go through the list below and pick which option sounds most like you:

  • “I know the tickets will be sold out” or “I hope there will still be some tickets available”

  • “I’m going to fail this exam, I know it” or “I’m going to do my best in this exam and see what happens”

  • “I am going to feel very awkward at the party and no one will talk to me” or “ I don’t know how I will feel at the party but I will try hard to start conversations with others”

  • “I’m never going to get this job” or “I hope I get this job”


If you find yourself leaning more towards the first option in these examples and you think like this regularly, then you are probably using some level of fortune telling.


What to do when you notice you’re fortune telling


Once you’ve recognized that you are fortune telling, there are a few strategies that you can implement in order to reconstruct your thoughts and come to a more logical conclusion.


1. Assessing the evidence

It’s important to consider the actual evidence for your prediction before assuming it’s correct, and it’s even more important to consider the quality of this evidence. So before jumping to an outcome, consider the evidence, and ask yourself, is the quality of this evidence good enough to hold up in court? If you find that the evidence for your prediction is strong, then it’s probably a relatively realistic outcome to assume.


2. Consider your previous assumptions

Before deciding on an outcome to assume, consider the accuracy of your previous predictions. Last week when you thought no one would talk to you at the party, were you correct? Did you fail that exam last year? Consider the frequency to which your predictions have been accurate, and use this to help inform your future assumptions.


3. Consider alternative outcomes

While you may have assessed the evidence for your outcome of choice and it seemed to have held up, are there other equally plausible outcomes? Try finding three positive outcomes that are equally plausible and write down how these might occur

After going through these three steps, you might find that your original prediction no longer seems so likely. Maybe there was little quality evidence for it, or there were other equally possible outcomes that were more positive. By continuing to implement these strategies over time, you will find yourself slowly changing your thought patterns and making more accurate and realistic predictions.

If you notice yourself falling into the pattern of fortune telling and would like some support in managing these assumptions, we recommend reaching out to a qualified CBT therapist. By working with a CBT therapist, you will be supported through identifying when you are fortune telling, how to identify it yourself, and strategies to use to reach more realistic and logical conclusions, that will essentially lead to an increase in positive thinking.

1 comentário


Andrew Langford
Andrew Langford
17 de jan.

Every movie or tv show I’ve ever watched feels like I’ve already seen it and can predict the entire outcome with almost certainty. I predicted Covid climate change I predict every season and its harshness. I am a people watcher and predict movement actions and words. I predicted trump the fall of trump the building of the second and third temple. I predic the war in the Middle East. I predicted the peace treaty the war with Russi and a lot of other things. My wife looked at me recently and told me she knew I was predicting the future. I can tell you exactly how much money you have in your hand or wallet almost down to the penny.…

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