6 Cognitive Distortions And How They May Affect You

Updated: Aug 8

Identifying 6 cognitive distortions and how they may be affecting your life today.

The mind is so, so fascinating. Its operations, wiring, and programming run deep, and while the brain is wired to keep us safe, sometimes it can look after us in ways that may be more harmful than good. While consciousness is only a part of what makes up our wholeness, as talked about in a previous blog, many people world wide unconsciously lack self-awareness, or their level of awareness only scratches the very surface of life.

The human brain is a machine that works 24/7. It thinks, perceives, analyzes, judges, remembers, and focuses attention. Oftentimes, many people overlook the voice of the thinking mind as it speaks throughout the day and they unconsciously identify with the story it shares with them. The ego, while it serves a great purpose, can create a distorted perception of reality if we do not practice self-awareness.

Developing a deeper sense of awareness can be a challenge when a person is caught in the story, however there are many tools a person can utilize and practice, if they choose to do so. The first step is to become aware of your mental process itself. This includes bringing awareness to your thoughts in general, your limiting beliefs, opinions, judgements, and cognitive distortions, if and when they arise.

For today's post, we will focus solely on cognitive distortions.

So what the heck is a cognitive distortion?

A cognitive distortion is an exaggerated, irrational, and distorted way of thinking that results in an inaccurate perception of reality. A powerful way to develop deeper awareness is noticing, identifying, and understanding cognitive distortions and when they arise.

Here are 6 cognitive distortions to be mindful of and 6 responses to use when you notice them surface:

  1. All or Nothing Thinking- (black and white thinking) Thinking in absolutes or extremes. An example of this would be "If I have a thought about being gay, it must mean it's true." A logical response to this would be "Just because I had a thought about XYZ, does not automatically make it true."

  2. Catastrophizing- Thinking of or expecting the worst case scenario. An example of this would be "My dog has been throwing up lately. This means I have to take her to the vet ASAP because if I don't, she will die." A logical response to this would be "I have no idea what is going to happen in the future. All that is real is this present moment."

  3. Emotional Reasoning- Believing something to be true because you "feel" it so strongly. An example of this would be "I've been anxious all day. I feel like I am going to have a panic attack if I go to that party tonight. I know it will happen." A logical response to this would be "Just because I feel something doesn't automatically make it true. Feelings do not equal facts."

  4. Should/Must Statements (also known as perfectionism)- Having precise, specific, unrealistic ideas of how our lives, relationships and feelings “should” be. An example of this would be "I SHOULD never feel anything less than good in my relationship" or "I SHOULDN'T be feeling this way about XYZ..." A logical response to this would be "This expectation is unrealistic. I don't always have to X"

  5. Comparison- Comparing your life, your struggles and your relationships to another person’s when you really don’t know the whole story. An example of this would be "Susan doesn't struggle with anxiety like I do, she has no idea how hard it is," or "Bob has a great job, a great home, and great opportunities coming his way. I bet he doesn't have a worry in the world." A logical response to this would be "I have no idea what another person is going through or what their life is truly like."

  6. Mind Reading- Assuming you know what other people are thinking about without considering other alternatives. An example of this would be "That group of people started laughing when I walked into the room, they must be making fun of me." A logical response to this would be "I truly have no idea what other people are thinking without real evidence."

Becoming aware of cognitive distortions may help you better identify them when they arise, which ultimately gives you the opportunity to consciously respond to your thoughts rather than react and get caught in their story.

Remember, you are not your thoughts.

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