Cognitive distortions are a form of problem thinking where we convince ourselves that negative and irrational thoughts about ourselves or the world around us are true when in reality they are not! Cognitive Distortions leave us feeling bad about ourselves as if we’re lacking in some way.
So take a look at the following Cognitive Distortions to see how many you can identify with and to find out how you can break free from the negative thinking cycle once and for all.
Shoulding!!!! How many times have you said to yourself, “I should be able to get everything done” or “I should be able to handle this?” Shoulding is an inability to focus on what is, instead we focus on our perceived idea of how things ‘should’ be, often without taking into account what is achievable or obtainable! This form of rigid thinking leaves us feeling anxious and like we’re failing in someway! Shoulding is often an imported belief, an idea we take from what we perceive others think we should be capable of instead of focusing on what is realistic or achievable.
Catastrophizing!! Catastrophizing is where we image an event unfolding and the worst possible outcome occurring, usually an outcome so awful that we believe that we’d be unable to cope with it!!! An example of this might be if your children are late home and you imagine that they’ve been involved in an awful accident or you make a mistake at work and imagine that your boss will sack you because of it! Even though we know that the likelihood of these events occurring is extremely unlikely we convince ourselves that they have or will occur and become anxious and overwhelmed. Catastrophizing is an ineffective form of problem solving and leads to feelings of extreme anxiety and worry!
Mind Reading!!! Mind Reading is where we convince ourselves that we know what others are thinking usually without having any evidence of this! An example of this might be where we’re in a group of people and we believe that others in the group are thinking negatively about us even though we have no reason to believe this to be true!!! This cognitive distortion is particularly evident in people who suffer with social phobia or social anxiety.
Emotional Thinking!! Emotional Thinking is where because something ‘feels’ true, we convince ourselves that it ‘must’ be true with little or no proof. This form of cognitive distortion is particularly common in those experiencing depression and anxiety disorders. An example of this might be someone with a panic disorder who will perceive a seemingly normal situation to be dangerous because they feel anxious and so it feels dangerous, even when they know rationally that it is not, a trip to the supermarket for example.
Personalizing!! Personalizing is where you attribute a disproportionate amount of blame to yourself for negative events and fail to see that certain events are also caused by others. An example of this would be where you attended a social event and people weren’t particularly friendly or talkative and you might think to yourself that “they weren’t friendly or chatty to me so I must have said something wrong!” Even though there is little or no evidence of this and realistically the other people could have simply been socially anxious, tired or distracted.
Regret Orientation!! This is where you focus and fixate on an event in the past perceiving that you had greater control over it than you actually did and then blame yourself for the negative outcome. An example of this might be, “If I’d tried harder, I could have done a better job, then I wouldn’t have been made redundant, it’s all my fault”, even though in reality you did your best and none of us can do more than that!
So how can you overcome problem thinking and let go of cognitive distortions once and for all? And lead a happier life?
Socratic questioning is at the heart of rational thinking and a wonderful technique to challenge cognitive distortions. By asking yourself questions such as “Is this fact or just my opinion?”, “How do I know this to be true?” or “Where is this belief getting me?” and answering honestly you are able to think both rationally and realistically, challenging that negative mind set and putting you back in control of your thinking once and for all!! Learning to think rationally and realistically enables us to lead a happier and more fulfilling life.
Adopt an attitude of gratitude!! At the end of each day write down 3 things that you’re grateful for! By appreciating what we have, we focus less on what we don’t have!! Which of course makes us feel happier!
Do a reality check!! If you’re feeling overwhelmed or are ruminating over a negative thought or situation, ask yourself, “Will this still matter to me in a year?” If the answer is no, then let it go!
Do different things or do things differently!! Whether it’s as simple as trying a new food, visiting a new place or doing an activity you haven’t tried before. Doing things differently primes the mind for change and encourages you to step outside of your comfort zone!
Stop trying to be perfect!!! By letting go of the impossible pursuit of perfection we allow ourselves to embrace life without endlessly reaching for the unobtainable. There’s a wonderful quote by Author Brene Brown that says “Let go of who you think you’re supposed to be, embrace who you are!! So instead of focusing on unobtainable perfection, aim for good enough and embrace your imperfections because it’s our imperfections that make us unique! And perhaps this really is the answer to a happy mind!
Article by Louise Phillips Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapist
To work with me Louise Phillips to overcome cognitive distortions and to lead a happier life please get in touch 07930 423633