10 Cognitive Distortions Sabotaging Your Brain

Have you ever thought about your thoughts? I mean, have you actually ever paid attention to the thoughts inside your head? If you have, then have you ever questioned how you are thinking about things, and whether or not these thoughts are actually helping or hindering you? Possibly how you’re seeing and interpreting your world isn’t very accurate at all. Just maybe your perspective of the world is somewhat flawed and this is preventing you from moving forward in an optimal way. These flaws in our thinking are known as cognitive distortions or thinking errors. Here are 10 cognitive distortions and how to avoid them.

 


1) MENTAL FILTERING

Mental Filtering is a cognitive distortion where we tend to filter things out of our conscious awareness. We choose for instance to focus on the negative events rather than on the positive outcomes of a situation. Or in other words, we choose to focus on what’s not working, rather than on what is working. Therefore the way we perceive and interpret reality is based on a flawed negative perspective that is preventing us from seeing things clearly. In order to successfully work through this cognitive distortion, you must get into the habit of persistently looking for the good within every situation.

cognitive distortion

10 COGNITIVE DISTORTIONS SABOTAGING YOUR BRAIN

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2) JUMPING TO CONCLUSIONS

Jumping to Conclusions is a cognitive distortion where we tend to make irrational assumptions about people and circumstances. We for instance assume that something will happen in the future (predictive thinking), or assume that we know what someone else is thinking (mind reading). The problem is that these conclusions are rarely if ever based on facts or concrete evidence, but rather based on personal feelings and opinions. As a result, they can often lead us astray. In order to successfully work through this cognitive distortion you must begin questioning whether other explanations or possibilities exist.

cognitive distortions examples

10 COGNITIVE DISTORTIONS SABOTAGING YOUR BRAIN

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3) PERSONALIZATION

Personalization is a cognitive distortion where we consistently take the blame for absolutely everything that goes wrong with our life. Whenever anything doesn’t work out as expected, we immediately take the blame for this misfortune — irrelevant of whether or not we are responsible for the outcome. Taking responsibility for our life and circumstances, is of course quite admirable, but at the same time completely unhelpful if we end up feeling like a victim of circumstance. In order to successfully work through this cognitive distortion, question what part you played in the outcome and how you might not be entirely to blame.

cognitive thought disorder

10 COGNITIVE DISTORTIONS SABOTAGING YOUR BRAIN

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4) BLACK AND WHITE THINKING

Black and White Thinking is a cognitive distortion where we tend to see things as all-or-nothing. Things are either good or bad, right or wrong. In other words, we only see the extremes of the situation. We either see one extreme or another — there is no middle ground, nor shades of gray. This is an unhelpful way of thinking about things because it means that we never truly see circumstances in an unbiased and neutral way. In order to successfully work through this cognitive distortion, you must get into the habit of challenging yourself to take into account other viewpoints and interpretations of the situation.

distorted thinking

10 COGNITIVE DISTORTIONS SABOTAGING YOUR BRAIN

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5) CATASTROPHIZING

Catastrophizing is a cognitive distortion where we tend to blow circumstances out of proportion. In other words, we make things out to be a lot worse than they should be. Now of course, the reality of our predicament might actually be very different. The problem we face may in fact be quite an insignificant minor mishap. However, because we indulge in the habit of catastrophizing, we always make problems larger than life, which of course makes them incredibly difficult to overcome. In order to successfully work through this cognitive distortion, question whether things are truly as bad as you make them out to be.

examples of cognitive distortions

10 COGNITIVE DISTORTIONS SABOTAGING YOUR BRAIN

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6) OVERGENERALIZATION

Overgeneralization is a cognitive distortion where we tend to make broad generalizations that are based on a single event and minimal evidence. More specifically, it’s the tendency to use our past experiences as a reference point for making assumptions about present or future circumstances. In other words, you are essentially using a past event to predict the future. For instance, whenever you say that “Everyone always… She never…” this highlights an overgeneralization. In order to successfully work through this cognitive distortion, question whether evidence exists that suggests things could be different.

distorted thinking

10 COGNITIVE DISTORTIONS SABOTAGING YOUR BRAIN

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7) LABELING

Labeling is a cognitive distortion where we tend to make global statements about ourselves or about others based on situation specific behavior. Now of course, how we label things often mirrors our internal belief systems. In fact, the more we tend to label something, the stronger the belief systems at play. This is unhelpful because our labels are often based on past experiences and personal opinions, rather than on hard facts and evidence. In order to successfully work through this cognitive distortion, you must challenge yourself to find the evidence that disproves the label you’re making in this particular situation.

cognitive distortions examples

10 COGNITIVE DISTORTIONS SABOTAGING YOUR BRAIN

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8) SHOULDING AND MUSTING

Shoulding and Musting is a cognitive distortion where we tend to make unrealistic and unreasonable demands on ourselves, and on others. You might for instance say, “I must… I should… You must… You should…”. These statements put undue pressure on you, and on other people to meet your high personal standards and expectations in specific situations. This is unhelpful because it sets people up for failure, and also doesn’t take into account other alternatives. In order to successfully work through this cognitive distortion, question whether things must be done a certain way. Possibly there is another way that you hadn’t yet considered.

what does distorting mean

10 COGNITIVE DISTORTIONS SABOTAGING YOUR BRAIN

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9) EMOTIONAL REASONING

Emotional Reasoning is a cognitive distortion where we tend to interpret our experience of reality based upon how we are feeling in the moment. Therefore how we feel about something effectively shapes how we perceive and interpret the situation we find yourself in. This is of course unhelpful because it means that our mood always influences how we experience the world around us. Our emotions therefore effectively become a barometer for how we view our life and circumstances. In order to successfully work through this cognitive distortion, question whether your emotional state-of-mind is preventing you from seeing things clearly.

examples of cognitive distortions

10 COGNITIVE DISTORTIONS SABOTAGING YOUR BRAIN

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10) MAGNIFICATION AND MINIMIZATION

Magnification and Minimization is a cognitive distortion where we tend to magnify the positive attributes of another person, while minimizing our own positive attributes. You talk-down all your positive attributes and accomplishments in order to lower people’s expectations. In other words, you are effectively devaluing yourself, while at the same time putting the other person on a pedestal. Having humility is of course a wonderful thing, but not to the detriment of your own self-esteem. In order to successfully work through this cognitive distortion, challenge yourself to find reasons why you are deserving and capable.

common cognitive distortions

10 COGNITIVE DISTORTIONS SABOTAGING YOUR BRAIN

Yes, I just love being held. I especially love it when you hold me in the palm of your hand on your mobile phone. I am so ready and optimized for mobile viewing.
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10 COGNITIVE DISTORTIONS SUMMARY

Everything always begins with a thought. How we think and how we interpret the world around us influences how we feel. And how we feel stirs up our emotions. We then use those emotions as a filter that helps us interpret our life experiences. These interpretations are of course varied and often not very accurate. In fact, they can prevent us from seeing the world “how it is”, and instead force us to perceive the world based on “how we are”. And of course how we are depends entirely on how we process the world, which of course begins with the thoughts we allow ourselves to dwell upon. Take charge of those thoughts by working through these 10 cognitive distortions, and you take charge of your life.


thinking errors sabotaging your brain

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