Thinking Errors or Cognitive Distortions 1-5
Cognitive is just a fancy name for how we think. This article is based on the work of Aaron Beck and Stan Samenow. In David Burn’s book, Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy, Burns outlines 10 common mistakes in thinking, which he calls cognitive distortions. Once we are aware of our own thinking errors we can take action to overcome these negative patterns of thought. We can implement responsive methods of doing away with these distorted ways of
seeing others and ourselves. Check out this list of 10 common thinking errors and see if you recognize yourself and how you see the world. Do the activity listed at the end of each listed thinking error. Practice changing your thoughts ---your example can influence and enhance your relationships with others.
1. ALL-OR-NOTHING THINKING – Also called Black and White Thinking – Thinking of things in absolute terms, like “always,” “every” or “never.” For example, if your performance falls short of perfect, you see yourself as a total failure. Few aspects of human behavior are so absolute. Nothing is 100%. No one is all bad, or all good, we all have grades. To beat this cognitive distortion:Ask yourself, “Has there ever been a time when it was NOT that way?” (all or
nothing thinking does not allow exceptions so if even one exception can be found, it’s no longer “all” or “nothing”) Ask yourself, “Never?” or “Always?” IS THIS TRUE? (depending upon what you are thinking)
Explore what might be the Best-Case vs Worst-Case Scenario
2. OVERGENERALIZATION – Taking isolated cases and using them to make wide generlizations. For example, you see a single negative event as a never-ending pattern of defeat: “She yelled at me. She’s always yelling at me. She must not like me.” To beat this cognitive distortion: Catch yourself overgeneralizing Say to yourself, “Just because one event happened, does not necessarily mean I am (or you are or he/she is…[some way of being])”
Investigate the big picture vs the little picture and see where perceptions may bedifferent.
3. MENTAL FILTER – Focusing exclusively on certain, usually negative or upsetting, aspects of something while ignoring the rest. For example, you selectively hear the one tiny negative thing surrounded by all the HUGE POSITIVE STUFF. Often this includes being associated in negative (“I am so stupid!”), and dissociated in positive (“You have to be pretty smart to do my job”). To beat this cognitive distortion: Learn to look for the silver lining in every cloud Count up your negatives vs your positives – for every negative event, stack up a positive against it. Make a list of both negative and positive
character attributes and behaviors. Investigate the Associated/Dissociated – seek to be associated in positive and dissociated in negative.
4. DISQUALIFYING THE POSITIVE – Continually “shooting down” positive experiences for arbitrary, ad hoc reasons. In this way you can maintain a negative belief that is contradicted by your everyday experiences. The good stuff doesn’t count because the rest of your life is a miserable pile of doo-doo. “That doesn’t count because my life sucks!” To beat this cognitive distortion: Ask yourself, “So what does count then?” “In what way?” Accept compliments with a simple, “Thank you.” Make lists of personal strengths and accomplishments
5. JUMPING TO CONCLUSIONS – Assuming something negative where there is actually no evidence to support it. Two specific subtypes are also identified:
Mind reading – assuming the intentions of others. You arbitrarily conclude that someone is reacting negatively to you, and you don’t bother to check it out. To beat this one, you need to let go of your need for approval – you can’t please everyone all the time. Ask yourself, “How do you know that…?” Check out
“supporting” facts with an open mind.
Fortune telling – anticipating that things will turn out badly, you feel convinced that your prediction is an already established fact. To beat this, ask, “How do you know it will turn out in that way?” Again, check out the facts.
To beat this cognitive distortion: When the conclusion is based on a prior cause (for example, the last time your spouse behaved in this manner s/he said it was because s/he felt angry so s/he must be angry this time, too), ask yourself, “What evidence do you have to support your notion that s/he feels…” “How did you arrive at that understanding” “What other conclusion might this evidence support?”