I have done a lot of reflecting these past couple of weeks about my tendencies or behaviors. I cannot help but think are these actions really my true self or cognitive distortions. Cognitive distortions are simply ways that our mind convinces us of something that is not really true. These inaccurate thoughts are usually used to reinforce our negative thinking or emotions; telling ourselves things that sound rational and accurate, but really only serve to keep us from feeling bad about ourselves. A concrete example would be the election of Donald Trump. A majority of the United States thought he would be a good president but he has done nothing but whine and complain.
There are 12 common cognitive falsehoods that everyone may encounter at some point in one’s life. At the end of this post my hope is that we as a society will be better equipped to recognize these ill ways and will develop better coping skills as a result. The first distortion is all or nothing thinking. It is when a person views it a situation on one extreme or another instead of a continuum. For example, my father harps on me about being more organized but I feel he does not cut any leeway for me. The second is catastrophizing patterns of thought. A person predicts only negative outcomes for the future. For example, if I move out on my own and am unable to keep up I will die.
The third thinking pattern is when a person disqualifies or discounts the positive. A person keeps telling himself that good things that happen to you do not count. For example, “My daughter told her friend that I was the best dad in the world, but I am sure she was just being nice.” The fourth is emotional reasoning. The feeling about something overrules facts to the contrary. For example, even though Steve is here at work late every day, I know I work harder than anyone else at my job. I feel this next one rings true every day to me. The fifth irrational thought is labeling. It’s when a person gives someone or something a little without finding more about it/them. “Oh Chad is handicapped, he is on datable.”
The sixth distortion is magnification/minimization. We emphasize the negative or downplay the positive of a situation. “I rode my bicycle 37 miles today, but I still feel empty.” The next one is mental filter/tunnel vision. We place our attention on the negatives of a situation or seeing only the negatives of a situation. For example, my daughter’s boyfriend got suspended from school; he is a loser and will not ever amount to anything. The eighth thinking bias is mind-reading. We believe we know what others are thinking. For example, my house is dirty when my parents came over, so I know they think I am lazy.
The ninth bias is overgeneralization. We make an overall negative conclusion beyond the current situation. In the news today we see one of the president’s colleagues saying all immigrants coming to the United States are illegal. The 10th is personalization. We think the negative behavior of others has something to do with you. A personal example would be, “Why does everyone stare.” The 11th is the “should” and “must” statements. This thinking is having a concrete idea of how people should behave. I should get all A’s in order to be a good student.
The final cognitive distortion is lie of omission. We lie by omission when an important fact is left out in order to foster a misconception. This happens when we lie to intentionally mislead another person.
- What do you think?
- Have you used any of these cognitive distortions?
- Can you think of any good examples in today’s culture?
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