Which Cognitive Distortions Do You Have?

by | Jul 22, 2020 | Trend

The pandemic has a lot of us using distorted thinking more than ever. Distorted thoughts are thoughts which can ruin any potential for happiness in our daily lives. David Burns famously outlined 10 types of distorted thinking. They are as follows:

  1. All-or-Nothing Thinking: You look at things in absolute, black and white categories
  2. Overgeneralization: You view a negative event as a never-ending pattern of defeat.
  3. Mental Filter: Dwelling on the negatives and ignoring the positives.
  4. Discounting the Positives: You insist that your accomplishments or positive qualities don’t count.
  5. Jumping to Conclusions: You conclude things are bad without any definite evidence.
         a. Mind Reading – You assume that people are reacting negatively to you.
         b. Fortune Telling – You predict that things will turn out badly.

  6. Magnification or Minimization: You blow things way out of proportion or you shrink their importance.
  7. Emotional Reasoning: You reason from how you feel: “I feel like an idiot, so I must be one.”
  8. Should” Statements: You criticize yourself or other people with “shoulds,”, “shouldn’ts,” “musts,” “oughts,” and “have-tos.”
  9. Labeling: Instead of saying “I made a mistake” you tell yourself “I’m a loser”
  10. Blame: You blame yourself for something you weren’t entirely responsible for, or you blame other people and overlook ways that you contributed to a problem.

DO THESE THOUGHTS SOUND FAMILIAR?  

Below are examples of thoughts that exhibit cognitive distortions. Read through them and see which thoughts you’ve experienced before. In the next section find out which cognitive distortions you have and methods to untwist your distorted thinking.

“I should have saved more money.”

“The interview was terrible. They didn’t like any of my responses. Getting a new job is going to be impossible.”

“Now I’ll never find a partner, how can you date and social distance?”

“This pandemic is never going to end…” 

“Another business down the drain. I’m a failure.”

“Anyone could do this. I just had more time these days to do it.”

“I finally got a job I liked and now I’ve lost it. I’m never going to find one I like again.”

“I’m stuck living at home with my family.”

“I’m so bored. But only boring people get bored.”

“If only I had taken better care of my health, I wouldn’t be so high risk these days.”

Ways to Untwist Your Distorted Thinking

“I should have saved more money.”
Example of: 8. “Should” Statements
Untwist your thinking by…The Semantic Method: Instead of saying “should have”, try saying “it would have been more ideal…” Our words have power. Now change your thinking to, “From now on, I’m going to work on saving more money.”

“The interview was terrible. They didn’t like any of my responses. Getting a new job is going to be impossible.”
Example of: 5. Jumping to Conclusions
Untwist your thinking by…Examining the Evidence: Have you done interviews in the past? How did those go? Better than you thought? Did they tell you they didn’t like your responses? Have you ever felt like you could have given a better interview, but still gotten a job offer?

“Now I’ll never find a partner, how can you date and social distance?”
Example of: 1. All-or-Nothing Thinking
Untwist your thinking by…The Straightforward Approach: Is this really true? With technology today, we have more ways to connect than ever. Why convince yourself something is never going to happen?

“This pandemic is never going to end…”
Example of: 6. Magnification
Untwist your thinking by…Being Specific: Is it really true that it is never going to end? If you do a little digging, you’ll see that based on the last time we had a pandemic of such magnitude, it did come to an end. We are not fated to live this way forever. It might be more helpful to tell yourself, this is going to take time, and patience and optimism is your best bet!

“Another business down the drain. I’m a failure.”
Example of: 9. Labeling
Untwist your thinking by…Defining Terms: What do you mean by saying you’re a “failure”? When you think about this definition, you might find that it is not your identity. It is important not to internalize an external circumstance.

“If only I had taken better care of my health, I wouldn’t be so high risk these days.”
Example of: 10. Blame
Untwist your thinking by…The Acceptance Paradox: You can accept the truth that you could have made better health decisions in your past. However, this acceptance is done in order to release the energy of ‘regrets’ and instead use your energy to find ways to grow and turn things around, today.

“Anyone could do this. I just had more time these days to do it.”
Example of: 4. Discounting the Positives
Untwist your thinking by…The Double-Standard Technique:Talk to yourself like you would a friend. If they told you about something they accomplished, would you be proud of them and compliment them or tell them, “ya but anyone could that”…?

“I finally got a job I liked and now I’ve lost it. I’m never going to find one I like again.”
Example of: 2. Overgeneralization
Untwist your thinking by…Reattribution: Losing a job during this time is heartbreaking. And it is 100% out of your control. Remember, this is not about you or inferring in regards to ‘all’ potential jobs in the future. Instead, realize this is situational, pay attention to the ‘involvement of emotions in your why’, and distinguish this one incident from all the rest.

“I’m stuck living at home with my family.”
Example of: 3. Mental Filter
Untwist your thinking by…The Cost-Benefit Analysis: What are the advantages of feeling stuck? It may motivate you to find a job, reshape your business, or work on yourself in other ways that help you grow. What are the disadvantages? You lose appreciation for the time you get to spend with your family.

“I’m so bored. But only boring people get bored.”
Example of: 7. Emotional Reasoning
Untwist your thinking by…The Survey Method: Are your thoughts and attitudes realistic? If you check in with friends, family, comedians, influencers, tv stars…you’ll find that a lot of them also get bored. Especially these days. Do you think those people are boring? No! Boredom is a part of life! (And there’s actually a lot of research that tells us it is essential for spurring creativity). The point is, how you feel is not who you are.

All of these methods are interchangeable. Find the one that works for you and see how it helps you when you catch yourself using distorted thinking.

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