Everyone has cognitive distortions that contribute to negative thinking. Ever thought you performed poorly in a job interview or a presentation for school but ended up getting high marks? That was just your mind playing tricks on you.
You could respond, “Impossible! I understand how awful I did. I’m lucky they weren’t aware of it.” That’s your mind leading you in the dance of cognitive distortions once more. However, you can change these distorted thoughts by recognizing them. A Christian counselor can help you identify cognitive distortions and choose more positive, logical thinking instead.
What are cognitive distortions?An exaggerated pattern of thought that is not grounded in reality is referred to as a distorted thought or cognitive distortion. There are many and they result in perceiving things more negatively than they actually are.
To put it another way, cognitive distortions are false beliefs that your mind believes are true about yourself and the world. How we feel and act is greatly influenced by the thoughts we have. You risk seeing yourself and behaving incorrectly if you accept these negative thoughts as facts.
Everybody occasionally engages in cognitive distortions. It’s a characteristic of human experience. They occur more often when we’re anxious or depressed, and if you think negatively too often, it can harm your mental well-being. However you can learn to recognize cognitive distortions. After that, you can reframe and reroute your thoughts to make them less detrimental to your mood and actions.
Examples of common cognitive distortions.
The most typical distorted thoughts or cognitive biases include the following examples.
Mental filtering means sapping and squeezing out all of the positives of a situation in favor of focusing on its drawbacks. You only pay attention to the negative aspects of a situation or a person, even though there may be more positive aspects than negative ones.
Example: Your manager repeatedly praises your effort as it is time for your performance review at work. Finally, he offers one suggestion for improvement. You feel awful when you leave the meeting and think about that one suggestion all day.
Having an all-or-nothing mentality.
Thinking in an “all-or-nothing” manner is referred to as polarized thinking. This kind of cognitive distortion leads you when you think in terms of black or white, with no grey areas. All-or-nothing thinking frequently results in incredibly inflated and unrealistic expectations of oneself and others, which may have an impact on your relationships and drive.
Example: Before interrupting you, your co-worker was a saint. But since she made this mistake, you can’t stand her right now. Or, despite only receiving A’s, you received a B on your most recent test, and you believe that this proves you are not a good student.
Thinking in black-and-white terms could also set you up for failure.
Example: You’ve made the decision to eat healthily. But since you were pressed for time today, you grabbed a burger and fries. You immediately draw the conclusion that you’ve ruined your healthy eating regimen. As a result, you decide not to even try anymore.
Everything is categorized as “either/or” when you have polarized thoughts. This might cause you to overlook how complex and nuanced most people and circumstances can be.
When something is overgeneralized, it transforms a single unfortunate incident into a never-ending cycle of failure and defeat. Words like “always,” “never,” “everything,” and “nothing” are frequently used in your train of thought when you overgeneralize.
Example: You offer your opinions during a team meeting, but they are not taken into consideration for the project. You leave the meeting feeling like you ruined your chances of getting promoted. You think, “I can never say anything right!” You may overgeneralize the world and its happenings in your thoughts.
Example: You arrive at work late and run a red light on your way there. You think, “Nothing ever goes my way.”
Minimization is like discounting positives. The main distinction is that when you do consider positive aspects, you disregard them as being unimportant.
Example: You might assume that someone is just being kind when they compliment your appearance today. You disregard it as something anyone else could have noticed instead of considering it as special attention.
Another example: You may assume that if you perform well in a job interview, it’s because the potential employer is unaware of your limitations.
Jumping to conclusions.
Jumping to conclusions involves interpreting an event or circumstance negatively without providing any supporting data. You then respond to your presumption or snap judgment.
Example: Your spouse arrives home wearing a serious face. You assume he or she is upset with you without even asking how he or she is doing. As a result, you maintain your distance. Actually, your partner had a difficult day at the office that had nothing to do with you.
Jumping to conclusions or “mind-reading” assumptions is frequently a reaction to a persistent worry or thought you have.
Example: Your relationship makes you feel uneasy. As a result, you assume your partner may be losing interest in you when you notice him or her acting somber.
Jumping to conclusions is related to catastrophizing. In this situation, regardless of how unlikely a scenario may be, you automatically go to the worst possible scenario in your mind.
What-if questions are frequently accompanied by this cognitive distortion. What if he was involved in an accident and didn’t call? What if she wasn’t there because she didn’t want to spend time with me at all? What if I lend a hand to this person and they turn on me or desert me later? One event might be followed by several queries.
Example: You worry, “If my alarm doesn’t sound, I may get fired for being late.”
Personalization makes you think you’re in charge of things that, in reality, are either entirely or partially beyond your control.
This cognitive distortion frequently causes you to feel guilty or to place blame without taking into account all of the pertinent circumstances.
Example: You believe that you would have been prepared for work on time if your partner had woken up earlier.
Another example: You interpret your friend’s comments about his or her individual parenting convictions as a criticism of your parenting approach.
A fallacy is a delusion, misunderstanding, or mistake. Two contrasting control fallacies are possible: Either you feel in charge of or in control of every aspect of your life and the lives of other people, or the opposite is true.
Example: You were unable to finish a report that was due today. You say to yourself, “Of course I couldn’t finish it! My boss is overworking me, and the office today was very noisy. Who is able to accomplish anything like that?
In this case, you give someone else or an outside circumstance complete control over how you behave. An external control fallacy exists here.
The second type of control fallacy is based on the idea that you can influence or control the lives of others through your presence and your actions.
Example: You believe that you affect someone else’s happiness or suffering. You believe that your actions directly or indirectly control all of their emotions.
This cognitive fallacy involves putting every action and circumstance through a fairness test. You become resentful when you learn that other people don’t view the event as equally fair. In other words, you take it personally when someone disagrees with your idea of what is and isn’t fair.
Due to your desire for everything to be “fair” by your standards, the fallacy of fairness will cause you to clash with some individuals and circumstances. But fairness isn’t always absolute and frequently has self-serving motives.
Example: You anticipate your partner massaging your feet when he or she gets home. Given that you prepared dinner all afternoon, it is only “fair” for him or her to do so.
But when your spouse arrives, all he or she wants to do is take a bath. He or she thinks it’s “fair” to take a break from the chaos of the day so he or she can then focus on you and enjoy dinner without being distracted or worn out.
Overcoming negative thinking.
These cognitive distortions are often hard to spot on your own. You may need an objective person to help you see them and overcome them. A Christian counselor can serve as a wise third party to help you overcome cognitive distortions. Get in touch with us today to learn how to stop negative thinking by addressing cognitive distortions with a counselor’s help.
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