Who reading this has ever thought something about yourself or your abilities that just totally wasn’t true? Things like:
“I failed that test, so I must be stupid.”
“I’m overweight, so I’m not worthy.”
“Everyone is judging me for what I’m wearing.”
These are called cognitive distortions, or, in non-therapist English, a distorted thought. These are things that we tell ourselves that we believe are true, but aren’t. Often, these statements reinforce negative statements that we make about ourselves. We’re trying to rationalize these feelings, but in reality, we’re only perpetuating these thoughts and making ourselves feel worse!
This week on Mental Health Monday, I’ll be talking about a few different types of cognitive distortions. It’s important to understand what they are before trying to work on getting rid of your stinkin’ thinkin’, so I’ll be talking about that next week. Today I’m going to talk about 4 different types of cognitive distortions (ones that I see the most in my clients, anyway) but here’s a list of many more.
Black and White Thinking: Also called “all or nothing thinking”, these are thoughts that we have to be perfect or we’re failures. There are no “shades of gray”, but just either or situations. Think about taking a test that you’ve studied hard for, and you got a C. Instead of focusing on the fact that C’s get degrees (trust me, I know this!), you think of yourself as a failure because you didn’t get an A.
The Blame Game: Also known simply as blaming, this is when we blame others for how we feel. Reality check: no one but yourself can make you feel any type of way.
Shoulds: I like to refer to this as “should-ing all over yourself”. Pretty self-explanatory. You tell yourself you SHOULD or SHOULD NOT do something – “I should exercise more” or “I shouldn’t eat this cookie”. Reality is, we all have a list of “shoulds” and “should nots” for people and we get upset when people don’t meet those criteria. These thoughts set yourself up for punishment when you (or others) violate what’s on your list.
Catastrophizing: I’m good for this one. These are thoughts of expecting disaster to strike at any moment, or hearing about something and suddenly going on “what if” tangents. Here’s a good example: you applied to college and were rejected from one. Suddenly, you think that you’ll never get into college, never get a good job, never make any money, and be living in a cardboard box on the street. Whoa, that escalated quickly.
Pretty heavy stuff, right? Next week we’ll be talking about how to dispute these thoughts. Over the next week, just notice how many times you find yourself using cognitive distortions. The number might surprise you!
Share with me: what cognitive distortions are you guilty of using?