Do You Make These Common Thinking Mistakes
8th October, 2010
Have you ever had your heart leap into your mouth with just one small piece of information? Maybe your boss has left a message on your voicemail and within seconds you're convinced disaster is about to strike.
Well, here's the newsflash:
We feel what we think.
Accept this simple premise and you will be on your way to recognizing the thoughts that provoke self-esteem-eating anxiety and depression. This is the first step to change those destructive thoughts and as a result change your mood from anxious and depressed to empowered and liberated. Here's how to start...
We feel what we think.
Just from getting a voicemail, you jumped to the conclusion that your boss was going to reprimand you and your anxiety shot up. In the same vein, if you think "My friend is mad at me for not calling her on her birthday. I must be an awful person," you feel miserable. If you think, "I just barely had enough in the bank this month to cover my bills. I'll end up bankrupt and homeless!" you will feel really scared. These thoughts are cognitive distortions - thinking mistakes!
Right now, you and I can see clearly how those thoughts are exaggerated, over-the-top, unreasonable. It's not so easy to see when we are caught up in the moment.
Luckily, to make this task easier for us, some very important and senior psychologists and psychotherapists did a lot of work categorizing ten basic ways we distort our thinking. Study these categories. Highlight the ones you tend to use. Think of your own real life examples.
1. All-or-nothing thinking. You see things in black and white categories. If your performance falls short of perfect, you see yourself as a total failure.
2. Over-generalization. You see a single negative event as a never-ending pattern of defeat.
3. Mental filter. You pick out a single negative detail and dwell on it exclusively so that your vision of all reality becomes darkened, like the drop of ink that discolors the entire beaker of water.
4. Disqualifying the positive. You reject positive experiences by insisting they "don't count" for some reason or other. You maintain a negative belief that is contradicted by your everyday experiences.
5. Jumping to conclusions. You make a negative interpretation even though there are no definite facts that convincingly support your conclusion.
o Mind reading. You arbitrarily conclude that someone is reacting negatively to you and don't bother to check it out.
o Fortune Telling. You anticipate that things will turn out badly and feel convinced that your prediction is an already-established fact.
6. Magnification (catastrophizing) or minimization. Also called the "binocular trick." You exaggerate the importance of things (such as your goof-up or someone else's achievement), or you inappropriately shrink things until they appear tiny (your own desirable qualities or the other fellow's imperfections).
7. Emotional reasoning. You assume that your negative emotions necessarily reflect the way things really are: "I feel it, therefore it must be true."
8. 'Should' statements. You try to motivate yourself with shoulds and shouldn'ts, as if you had to be whipped and punished before you could be expected to do anything. "Musts" and "oughts" and "have to's" are also offenders. The emotional consequence is guilt. When you direct should statements toward others, you feel anger, frustration, and resentment.
9. Labeling and mislabeling. This is an extreme form of over-generalization. Instead of describing your error, you attach a negative label to yourself: "I'm a loser." When someone else's behavior rubs you the wrong way, you attach a negative label to him, "He's a total moron." Mislabeling involves describing an event with language that is highly colored and emotionally loaded.
10. Personalization. You see yourself as the cause of some negative external event for which, in fact, you were not primarily responsible.
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