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