This new article will show you everything you need to know about cognitive distortions.
Did you know that your thoughts influence the way you perceive yourself and the world around you? You can only look at a situation in one particular way, even though there are many other perspectives, perceptions of the situation.
You may think that things will turn out in a certain way, even if there is no evidence to support this thesis. Distorted ways of thinking affect your mood and may increase your anxiety. We sometimes fall into so-called “cognitive distortions”, sometimes referred to as “thought traps”.
Traps of thinking make us perceive reality not necessarily according to the actual state of affairs, they cause a feeling of negativity and pessimism in us, and sometimes they can also lead to depressive states. Learn about the most common “cognitive distortions” to better identify them and eliminate them from your life over time.
What is cognitive distortion?
Your thoughts (what do you think) determine your emotions (how do you feel), and going further your emotions influence your behavior. As far as definitions are concerned, cognitive distortions (in other words, ” thinking traps “) are thoughts connected with negative emotions and containing logical errors.
They are often unnoticeable and common. To put it simply, cognitive deformations are ways in which our minds convince us of something that is not true. These inaccurate thoughts are usually used to reinforce negative thinking or emotions. Saying things to oneself that sound rational and credible, but actually serve us only to make us feel bad.
Psychiatrist Aaron T. Beck (1), the creator of cognitive behavioral psychotherapy (CBT), has laid the foundation for scientific work on cognitive distortions, and his student David D. Burns has continued his research on the subject.
Knowing and being aware of the existence of “cognitive distortions” allows us to better recognize them in our way of thinking, to know when not to trust what you think and to avoid the negative consequences they entail.
Almost everyone occasionally falls into “thinking traps,” and the ability to recognize and name them is an important step towards getting rid of them completely.
Your distorted thinking can make you feel unhappy. Remember, it is not the event you are experiencing that makes you feel negative; it is your response to the event, your attitude, and how you react, that affects it.
Ultimately, it is you who controls your thoughts and therefore your emotions. You can react with negativity or positivism. The choice is yours.
List of cognitive distortions:
1. Dichotomous thinking
You see events or people in terms of “all or nothing”, “black or white”. Thinking “all or nothing” refers to the tendency to think in terms of false dichotomies. You are either at the top of the world or in the depths of despair. And if you don’t meet your expectations, you see yourself as a total failure. You put people or situations in “either/or” categories, without shades of gray.
Example: “My whole life is useless”; “I have been rejected by everyone”; “No one likes me”.
2. Excessive generalization (generalization)
You see a global negative pattern on the basis of a single incident. If something bad happens only once, we think it will happen over and over again. A person can see a single, unpleasant event as part of an endless pattern of defeat. The use of universals such as “always”, “everyone” and “never” is commonplace for excessive generalization.
Example: “Why I never succeed”; “It always happens to me”; “I always fail”.
3. Mental filter
You focus almost exclusively on negatives and rarely notice positives. When you focus only on the negative detail, you perceive the whole situation as negative and therefore everything in your mind is negative.
If you think you are unhappy, you will filter out all positive elements. Why? Because we tend to filter out information that does not match our existing beliefs.
Example: “Look at all the people who don’t like me” – you omit those who like you; “I don’t see any chances to get out of this situation”; Another example, you made a presentation and many people congratulated you, but one of the participants had some critical remarks. You focus mainly on them, completely ignoring that your presentation was a success.
4. Overestimation of positives
This distortion recognizes positive experiences, but rejects them instead of accepting them. You claim that the positive achievements that you or others achieve are trivial. Putting achievements in a worse light, inadequately underestimating the rank of success.
Example: “This is the role of the wife – so it doesn’t count when she’s nice to me”; “These successes were easy to achieve, so they don’t count”; “A single success doesn’t mean anything”; “It’s no big deal, everyone would do it”; A person who receives a positive opinion at work may reject the idea that he or she is a valuable and competent employee.
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5. Jumping to conclusions
When you rashly draw conclusions and come to a mostly negative competition with vague or practically no evidence to support your thesis. Lack of cause and effect analysis. The consequence of such thinking is “mind reading” and “divination – predicting the future”.
Example: “There is no point in applying, because I won’t be accepted anyway”; “None of this will happen anyway”.
6. Mind reading
You assume that you know what people think (2) without enough concrete evidence to show that this is the case. You often react to these assumptions as if they were true. When reading thoughts regularly, it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy, where every interaction is further evidence and reinforces a negative belief.
Example: “She looks at me and then says something in the whisper of her friend. She is certainly gossiping about me”; “Everyone can see that I am unprepared”. I know that he hates me.
7. Divination – prophecy of the future
Just as in “mind reading”, divination is a tendency to arbitrarily predict the future and assume future negative results. Accepting unrealistic predictions as facts can in turn influence your behaviour and create self-fulfilling prophecy.
Example: “I will not pass the exam; I will not get a job; If I go there, everyone will laugh at me.
8. Catastrophisation and minimisation
Catastrophisation (exaggeration) is that you believe that what happened or will happen will be so terrible and unbearable that you will not be able to stand it. It is about exaggerating the meaning of errors, fears and imperfections. The opposite of catastrophe is minimizing, underestimating the significance of events.
Example: “It would be terrible if I failed”; “It will be a tragedy if they don’t accept me”; “I can’t believe I said that. I am finished!”; “My low marks on the testimony clearly indicate my incompetence.
9. Emotional reasoning
One of the most common mental traps we fall into is emotional reasoning: taking our emotions as evidence of truth. As already mentioned, your feelings are the result of your thoughts. In “emotional reasoning” you allow your feelings to guide your interpretation of reality. There is a belief that something is true based solely on emotions.
Example: “I feel depressed, so my marriage doesn’t work”; “I’m still scared, I have bad feelings, so I’m sure something bad will happen soon.
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10. Abuse of imperatives, duties and responsibilities
This happens when you have the iron rules that you and others should follow. It is about using the terms “I must”, “I should”, “I have to”.
Example: “People should call in advance when they’re going to be late”; “I should have done better”;
Labelling is the attribution of globally negative attributes to oneself and others. These are extreme forms of generalization. When you describe a mistake you have made, it is often preceded by “I am…”. Instead of describing the mistake in the context of a particular situation, the person attaches the label to himself or herself.
Negative labels can also be assigned to other people by us. When we don’t like someone’s behaviour, we pigeonhole them.
Example: “I am a loser” – when a person has failed in only one task; “I am an idiot”; “I am hopeless”; “He is too stupid to understand”; “He is a damned liar”; “The old miser”;
You attribute a disproportionate amount of blame for negative events to yourself and do not see that some events are also caused by others.
Personalisation occurs when you assume responsibility for an external event over which you have no control. When you personalize, you feel guilty because you confuse influence with control over others. This creates a sense of guilt and self-reprimand.
Example: “My daughter did not pass the test. I should have done more to help her. “; “My marriage is over because I didn’t succeed”; “It’s all my fault”.
You focus on the other person as the source of your negative feelings and refuse to take responsibility for changing yourself. You see others as the culprits of your own situation and troubles. You refuse to acknowledge your role in a situation and instead blame others and external circumstances for your difficulties. Blaming is the opposite of personalization.
Example: “She is to blame for how I feel now”; “It’s not my fault I was late, I was in traffic”; “My parents caused all my problems”.
14. I’m always right
This happens if you are constantly trying to prove that your actions or thoughts are correct. It is not only selfish, it can also be self-destructive, to strive by all means to demonstrate our rightness. It is harmful to the people around us, especially our loved ones.
Example: “I don’t care what you think, I’m right!
These are the popular ” mind traps” we sometimes fall into. Solving and identifying cognitive distortions is not always easy. We have narratives that are deeply rooted in our psyche and many of them prevent us from realising our full potential.
However, by investing some time, attention and energy, we can begin to free ourselves from our thinking mistakes and make significant progress towards the things that are most important to us.