Posted by: faithful | December 15, 2013

cognitive distortions

Cognitive Distortions

….another post from The Journey To Wellness!

I’m very pleased to have been able to find some time to give to you (my wonderful readers) to write you this post today! I know I haven’t been giving you as much of my time as you’d like and I’m sorry for that, but I am very happy to be back again writing for you!

Looking at last time’s post results, it seems that the topic desired by you is Cognitive Distortions. Before we get into the types of cognitive distortions and how they affect us and our relationships, let’s define what this term actually means. According to Psych Central, “Cognitive distortions are simply ways that our mind convinces us of something that isn’t really true. These inaccurate thoughts are usually used to reinforce negative thinking or emotions — telling ourselves things that sound rational and accurate, but really only serve to keep us feeling bad about ourselves.”

In other words, a cognitive distortion is an exaggerated or irrational thought pattern based on how your mind has interpreted an action, a term, an opinion, etc.

The Georgia Psychological Association states that “Cognitive behavioural psychologists believe that our feelings are largely dependent on our thoughts. Cognitive distortions, also known as errors in thinking, can lead to unnecessary fear, anxiety, hostility, and depression. Understandably so, cognitive distortions can truly affect our lives because we can make decisions, create mindsets, have perceptions and create behaviours based on how we think. Therefore, if we are not perceiving things correctly based on inconclusive or “unreal” thoughts, then we can treat the people around us negatively and thus create a reality that we do not wish to inhabit.

In order for us to to take the power back in our own lives, we must take responsibility for our thought processes and change our cognitive distorted thinking. The Georgia Psychological Association gives a fantastic summary as to the process of self-forgiveness, understanding and reflection that must occur in order to improve our mindsets: “ An important cue or signal that one or more of these errors in thinking is operating is your degree of emotional distress or interpersonal conflict. You may begin to feel better and function more effectively with others if you can learn to observe your thinking for such errors, and then develop (through intentional behavioral change) thoughts that are more logical, verifiable, and adaptive. In other words, if you want to change how you feel, then change how you think. At the same time, it is important to remember that no human being, including yourself, exhibits 100% logical thinking all the time.”

Now that we have a very good idea as to what cognitive distortions are, how they affect our lives currently and why, let us take a look at the process we need to go through in order to improve our thought processes and consequently our lives!

Psych Central provides an excellent tool kit of possibilities that each of us can own in order to help ourselves think more clearly:

1. Identify Our Cognitive Distortion.

We need to create a list of our troublesome thoughts and examine them later for matches with a list of cognitive distortions. An examination of our cognitive distortions allows us to see which distortions we prefer. Additionally, this process will allow us to think about our problem or predicament in more natural and realistic ways.

2. Examine the Evidence.

A thorough examination of an experience allows us to identify the basis for our distorted thoughts. If we are quite self-critical, then, we should identify a number of experiences and situations where we had success.

"Idle Thoughts", 1898“Idle Thoughts”, 1898 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

3. Double Standard Method.

An alternative to “self-talk” that is harsh and demeaning is to talk to ourselves in the same compassionate and caring way that we would talk with a friend in a similar situation.

4. Thinking in Shades of Gray.

Instead of thinking about our problem or predicament in an either-or polarity, evaluate things on a scale of 0-100. When a plan or goal is not fully realized, think about and evaluate the experience as a partial success, again, on a scale of 0-100.

5. Survey Method.

We need to seek the opinions of others regarding whether our thoughts and attitudes are realistic. If we believe that our anxietyabout an upcoming event is unwarranted, check with a few trusted friends or relatives.

6. Definitions.

What does it mean to define ourselves as “inferior,” “a loser,” “a fool,” or “abnormal.” An examination of these and other global labels likely will reveal that they more closely represent specific behaviors, or an identifiable behavior pattern instead of the total person.

7. Re-attribution.

Often, we automatically blame ourselves for the problems and predicaments we experience. Identify external factors and other individuals that contributed to the problem. Regardless of the degree of responsibility we assume, our energy is best utilized in the pursuit of resolutions to problems or identifying ways to cope with predicaments.

8. Cost-Benefit Analysis.

It is helpful to list the advantages and disadvantages of feelings, thoughts, or behaviors. A cost-benefit analysis will help us to ascertain what we are gaining from feeling bad, distorted thinking, and inappropriate behavior.

And finally, in order to implement these techniques, we must all be aware of the types of cognitive distortions that we may have within ourselves. Yet again, Psych Central provides a lengthy but extremely useful and accurate list of the distortions:

1. Filtering.

We take the negative details and magnify them while filtering out all positive aspects of a situation. For instance, a person may pick out a single, unpleasant detail and dwell on it exclusively so that their vision of reality becomes darkened or distorted.

2. Polarized Thinking (or “Black and White” Thinking).

In polarized thinking, things are either “black-or-white.” We have to be perfect or we’re a failure — there is no middle ground. You place people or situations in “either/or” categories, with no shades of gray or allowing for the complexity of most people and situations. If your performance falls short of perfect, you see yourself as a total failure.

3. Overgeneralization.

In this cognitive distortion, we come to a general conclusion based on a single incident or a single piece of evidence. If something bad happens only once, we expect it to happen over and over again. A person may see a single, unpleasant event as part of a never-ending pattern of defeat.

4. Jumping to Conclusions.

Without individuals saying so, we know what they are feeling and why they act the way they do. In particular, we are able to determine how people are feeling toward us.

For example, a person may conclude that someone is reacting negatively toward them but doesn’t actually bother to find out if they are correct. Another example is a person may anticipate that things will turn out badly, and will feel convinced that their prediction is already an established fact.

5. Catastrophizing.

We expect disaster to strike, no matter what. This is also referred to as “magnifying or minimizing.” We hear about a problem and use what if questions (e.g., “What if tragedy strikes?” “What if it happens to me?”).

For example, a person might exaggerate the importance of insignificant events (such as their mistake, or someone else’s achievement). Or they may inappropriately shrink the magnitude of significant events until they appear tiny (for example, a person’s own desirable qualities or someone else’s imperfections).

With practice, you can learn to answer each of these cognitive distortions.

6. Personalization.

Personalization is a distortion where a person believes that everything others do or say is some kind of direct, personal reaction to the person. We also compare ourselves to others trying to determine who is smarter, better looking, etc.

A person engaging in personalization may also see themselves as the cause of some unhealthy external event that they were not responsible for. For example, “We were late to the dinner party and caused the hostess to overcook the meal. If I had only pushed my husband to leave on time, this wouldn’t have happened.”

7. Control Fallacies.

If we feel externally controlled, we see ourselves as helpless a victim of fate. For example, “I can’t help it if the quality of the work is poor, my boss demanded I work overtime on it.” The fallacy of internal control has us assuming responsibility for the pain and happiness of everyone around us. For example, “Why aren’t you happy? Is it because of something I did?”

8. Fallacy of Fairness.

English: A diagram illustrating graphically th...English: A diagram illustrating graphically the generalization process, using trees. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We feel resentful because we think we know what is fair, but other people won’t agree with us. As our parents tell us when we’re growing up and something doesn’t go our way, “Life isn’t always fair.” People who go through life applying a measuring ruler against every situation judging its “fairness” will often feel badly and negative because of it. Because life isn’t “fair” — things will not always work out in your favor, even when you think they should.

9. Blaming.

We hold other people responsible for our pain, or take the other track and blame ourselves for every problem. For example, “Stop making me feel bad about myself!” Nobody can “make” us feel any particular way — only we have control over our own emotions and emotional reactions.

10. Shoulds.

We have a list of ironclad rules about how others and we should behave. People who break the rules make us angry, and we feel guilty when we violate these rules. A person may often believe they are trying to motivate themselves with shoulds and shouldn’ts, as if they have to be punished before they can do anything.

For example, “I really should exercise. I shouldn’t be so lazy.” Mustsand oughts are also offenders. The emotional consequence is guilt. When a person directs should statements toward others, they often feel anger, frustration and resentment.

11. Emotional Reasoning.

We believe that what we feel must be true automatically. If we feel stupid and boring, then we must be stupid and boring. You assume that your unhealthy emotions reflect he way things really are — “I feel it, therefore it must be true.”

12. Fallacy of Change.

We expect that other people will change to suit us if we just pressure or cajole them enough. We need to change people because our hopes for happiness seem to depend entirely on them.

13. Global Labeling.

We generalize one or two qualities into a negative global judgment. These are extreme forms of generalizing, and are also referred to as “labeling” and “mislabeling.” Instead of describing an error in context of a specific situation, a person will attach an unhealthy label to themselves.

For example, they may say, “I’m a loser” in a situation where they failed at a specific task. When someone else’s behavior rubs a person the wrong way, they may attach an unhealthy label to him, such as “He’s a real jerk.” Mislabeling involves describing an event with language that is highly colored and emotionally loaded. For example, instead of saying someone drops her children off at daycare every day, a person who is mislabeling might say that “she abandons her children to strangers.”

14. Always Being Right.

We are continually on trial to prove that our opinions and actions are correct. Being wrong is unthinkable and we will go to any length to demonstrate our rightness. For example, “I don’t care how badly arguing with me makes you feel, I’m going to win this argument no matter what because I’m right.” Being right often is more important than the feelings of others around a person who engages in this cognitive distortion, even loved ones.

15. Heaven’s Reward Fallacy.

We expect our sacrifice and self-denial to pay off, as if someone is keeping score. We feel bitter when the reward doesn’t come.

I hope that these techniques and this list of cognitive distortions will truly improve your lives and thus your well-being. If we are all able to take this information into our own hands, we will all be able to have much happier and clear-headed minds to help us in our journey of wellness every single day!

It is my pleasure to bring this information to you and I hope it becomes useful to you in your lives! As usual, I will be leaving a poll below for you to choose the topic you would prefer for me to talk about in my next post. It always makes me so happy to write this and I am so happy to write this for all of you!

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