I’m sure many of you are already familiar with cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), but I thought it was still worth taking a look at cognitive distortions, a key ingredient in the CBT soup. When we’re not well (and even when we are well) we tend to fall into certain common thinking traps. Recognizing that we’re falling into these traps can allow us to start to challenge the thoughts that lead us in that direction. There is some variability in specific terms used depending on the source; for this post, I’ve used Wikipedia and Psych Central.
All-or-nothing / black & white / polarized thinking / splitting: something is one way (e.g. good) or the opposite way (e.g. bad), with no shades of grey in between
Always being right: being convinced that one’s thoughts/actions are correct
Blaming: blaming another person for causing one’s own emotions or experiences
Catastrophizing: expecting that the worst will happen – think Chicken Little the sky is falling!
Disqualifying the positive: dismissing anything positive as unimportant or meaningless
Emotional reasoning: I feel it, therefore it is so (kind of a distorted twist on “I think, therefore I am”)
Fallacy of change: expecting that others will change to suit our needs if we just push them hard enough
Fallacy of control: the locus of control may be seen as fully external (i.e. I don’t have control over what happens to me) or fully internal (i.e. I am responsible for what’s happening to others around me)
Fallacy of fairness: believing that the world is a just place; also known as the just world fallacy
Filtering: most often this occurs as filtering out the positive and only seeing the negative
Heaven’s reward fallacy: we have sacrificed/suffered so something good/rewarding must come of it eventually
Jumping to conclusions: this is what it sounds like, and there are 2 common forms
- Fortune-telling: predicting how something will turn out
- Mind-reading: belief that one can know another person’s thoughts based on their behaviour
Labelling: labelling a person as a whole based on a behaviour
Overgeneralization: this is exactly what it sounds like it; for example, one person treated me badly so that means all people will treat me badly
Personalization: blaming oneself for external events
Shoulds: some shoulds are reasonable, like we all “should” follow the law, but others are not (e.g. I “should” wash my hands 50 times after touching a door handle)
So that’s a quick run-down on cognitive distortions. Tomorrow, I’ll get personal and poke at some of the cognitive distortions I’ve identified in my own thinking.