What is an example of a cognitive distortion?
Our mind can play tricks on us and influence our thoughts, emotions and actions. These faulty beliefs are known as cognitive distortions.
This means we base our decisions not on what someone says or does, but on what we believe they are thinking. We believe we can read minds or anticipate reactions. We don’t ask what the other person what they think or feel. We make assumptions and these are usually negative assumptions, which means we end up jumping to conclusions.
A List of the Most Common Cognitive Distortions are:
- Polarised thinking – being or becoming an all-or-nothing person with no in-between – one extreme to another
- Overgeneralising – we make excessively vague or general statements about something or someone
- Mental Filter – having a faulty thought pattern creating higher levels of anxiety and depression focusing on negative and filtering out positive
- Disqualifying the Positive – having an all-or-nothing way of thinking filtering out positive evidence listening to negative
- Jumping to Conclusions – becoming a mind reader, jumping to conclusions and making our own decisions based on guess work
- Magnification – treating everything as though it’s a catastrophe or minimising things to be ‘so what’ becoming one extreme to the other
- Emotional Reasoning – when overcome by panic, anxiety or feeling overwhelmed faulty thinking kicks in creating us to interpret our situation through our feelings i.e. feeling anxious and therefore a feeling that we are in danger
- Shoulds – we tell ourselves we should or need to or much or ought to do things and try to motivate ourselves to do so then feel guilty when we don’t follow through; this follows a feeling of anger and resentment
- Labelling – we begin to label ourselves, attaching a negative label following an event; I didn’t do this when I should have – this is usually linked to ‘should have done better’
- Fortune Telling – we end up making predictions about our future with no real evidence or factual support; we become a fortune teller telling ourselves ‘this will happen’ when there is nothing to support this statement
- Blame – we focus so much on the negative and blame ourselves; it must be our fault, we are to blame, denying our ‘real’ role of a situation other than the negative
The language we use in everyday life will impact how we experience our world and our lives. By attempting to capture our thoughts and ideas to describe wheat we see around us can get ‘lost in translation’.
Awareness of this can help us moving from unconsciously reacting and trying to act to situations more consciously. Breaking away from bad habits and creating new habits starts with being more aware of what we are doing and looking to change this.
Here are a few ways you can start:
- Read or listen to positive self-help books
- Identify the type of distortion you have and develop an action to minimise this
- Change roles in your personal role, become a positive or optimistic person
- Examine the evidence rather than making assumptions or jumping to conclusions
- Skip generalisations and examine the facts putting things into perspective
- Avoid speculations and plan actions around facts rather than feelings
- No more should or dwelling on the past, it’s gone, focus on the present to make a better future
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