Many of our thoughts throughout the day pop up randomly usually distorted in some way. Maybe they are unrealistically negative or leave out some vital information. The result is usually a negative shift in mood. Can you think of a recent thought that just popped up like (“I’m a failure”, “I’m so dumb”)?
It is possible that we have these thoughts so frequently that they are easily not even noticeable. We usually do notice these thoughts when we feel angry, sad or even anxious. The purpose for this post is to challenge you to learn how to identify with some of the common cognitive distortions and replace these thoughts more based on reality.
Catastrophes– This is the thought that we can predict the final outcome of a situation or event. this thought is usually the worst case scenario without thinking of other probable outcomes.
Discounting positives– This is when we tell ourselves the positive things events or attributes don’t count. Example: “I may have did it well, but that doen’t mean I’m good at it. I just got lucky”
All or nothing– So I’m sure we know this one. The looking at everything as Black or White with no gray area or in between. How does everything only fit in two categories. “I’m either a success or a total faiure.”
Labeling– This is the generalized label on ourselves or others without considering there may be some other information that could lead to a less disastrous conclusion. (“She is a bad person”, “I’m such a loner”)
Mental Filter– This is a sort of mental abstraction. We pay full focus on one negative detail rather than thinking of the big picture. (Because part of the date was bad, it was a total failure)
Personalizing– This is when we think other are acting a certain way because of us without thinking of other probable causes for their behavior. Example: “He didn’t smile at me when I walked by, he must be mad at me.”
“Should” and “must” statements: This is when we have precise and fixated idea on how we or other people should behave. Overestimating how bad it would be if these expectations are not met. Example: “Its terrible that I made a mistake. I should have done better.”
We all think this way from time to time. When reading these we can begin to realize there are more adaptive ways of thinking about ourselves, events, and others. The “worst” case scenario rarely ever comes true. The fear of the worst case scenario can be debilitating. Once we begin to identify with our cognitive distortions we come up with more realistic thought pattern. When we start to realize there are other possibilities of scenarios it get easier to loosen up. Practice catching yourself with some automatic thought patterns and brain storm multiple possibilities. Notice the array of feelings that come about when brainstorming. Than ask yourself what was the type distortion or thought pattern that influenced that feeling. Is it rational? Is it realistic? Is it true? Is it likely?