May 222013

Last week I shared five of the ten most common cognitive distortions and how they influence the way we feel.

The remaining common cognitive distortions are:

6. Emotional Reasoning: Assuming negative emotions reflect reality. For example, “I feel stupid therefore I am stupid”.

7. Catastrophizing: Exaggerating the importance of things, such as mistakes or difficult situations. For example, missing one day of work due to illness then believing the boss will hate you and fire you as a result.

8. Personalization: Believing to be the cause of a negative external event. For example, a child brings home a poor report card, the child’s mother concludes that she must be a bad mother. 

9. Should Statements: A common way of thinking in negative self-talk. I should have… or I shouldn’t have… Shaming oneself into performing. For example, “I should have cleaned the house today or I shouldn’t have eaten that, now I’ll gain weight”.

10. Labeling and Mislabeling: Extreme over-generalization. Instead of acknowledging an error or poor choice in yourself or another, negatively labeling self or the other. For example, loosing a baseball game and concluding that you were born a looser.

Although these cognitive distortions are often automatic thinking, one can change them.

Just as in my posts about negative self-talk, it takes time and hard work, but if you continually work at it you can learn to recognize your thoughts.

If you suspect that you have a cognitive distortion or two, here are 6 steps that will help identify and at least slow them down:

1. Recognize and isolate the thought: Extreme words like “never, can’t, always” or strong negative words like “stupid, hate, idiot”  are good clues of a cognitive distortion.

2. Write it down: Writing the words or phrase down on paper brings it to light and will help you identify it the next time it happens.

3. Ask yourself: Is this thought reasonable or unreasonable? If you heard a friend say it out loud, how would you respond?

4. What kind of cognitive distortion is it?: It is important to label the cognitive distortion so you are better able to recognize it in the future.

5. Write down a more reasonable thought: Writing down a more reasonable thought will aid you in thinking more positively the next time you are faced with a similar situation.

It is important to know that we all have cognitive distortions at one time or another and that even if you become more aware of them, they are not going to go away completely. However, learning to identify them and shift your thinking will help you have a more positive outlook.




© 2012 Standing on Peace

May 152013

Our perception of reality and what we think about our circumstances significantly impacts the way we feel.

For example, if I walk around focusing on the things I wish I had in life I will likely start to feel unsatisfied with my life and all that I do have. Such feelings of dissatisfaction could lead to feeling depressed.

The mind is a powerful thing. And sometimes we do not think clearly about our reality. Such thinking is known as Cognitive Distortions.

Cognitive Distortions can be defined as “exaggerated or irrational thought patterns that are believed to perpetuate the effects of psychological states, especially depression and anxiety”. ***

Cognitive distortions are largely unconscious and automatic thoughts. Often people are not aware of their distorted thought processes.

Dr. Beck, a pioneer in cognitive therapy, was the first to theorize about cognitive distortions.  He believed people are born with the potential for rational and irrational thinking. He also believed some people have a predisposition to think more positively or negatively.

This, however, does not mean we can not change our thinking. The first step is to become aware of our thinking patterns.

There are several cognitive distortions but there are 10 that are most common.

This week I will share the first 5.

1) All or nothing thinking: Seeing things in black and white. For example, a straight A student receives a B, then the student perceives oneself as a failure (this was me in high school!).

2) Jumping to conclusions: Coming to a negative conclusion about a situation even though there are no definite facts to support the conclusion. For example, a spouse is upset from a hard day at work but his wife decides he is mad at her.

3) Disqualifying the positive: Changing or rejecting neural or positive experiences into negative ones. For example, a co-worker says you look nice. Instead of accepting the compliment, you think “they’re just being nice, I look awful”.

4) Mental filter: Picking a negative detail and dwelling on it, thus only focusing on the negative and ignoring any positive details. For example, a dancer performs on stage and makes one wrong move. The dancer focuses in on the one mistake concluding she is a horrible dancer.

5) Over generalization: Seeing one negative event as never ending. For example, after a job interview a woman finds out she did not get the position, she concludes “I’ll never find a job. No one will hire me”.

Becoming mindful of our thoughts and their impact on our feelings will likely help us experience life more positively. Learning to recognize these common cognitive distortions will help us understand ourselves and others better.

Do any of these distortions ring true for you? If you are unsure, this next week pay close attention to your mental response to situations.




© 2012 Standing on Peace