This is the first part of a two part blog. Today’s blog is split into numerous sections. The blog discusses different types of cognitive distortions, or thinking errors, that we all find we use now and again. Cognitive distortions are unhelpful ways of looking at the world or ourselves because they do not allow us to see the full picture. Our thinking is coloured, mistaken, and biased, resulting in us finding it difficult to manage our feelings and act in problematic ways. Hence, our mind convinces us of something that simply isn’t really true.
Cognitive distortions are usually learnt in early life and have become very ingrained. The more we become familiar with our unhelpful thinking and biased perspective, we can then respond to these thoughts in more productive ways. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) allows clients to become expert on their mind and to challenge distorted thinking, in order to improve daily feelings, minimise difficulties, and build self confidence.
CBT outlines the following cognitive distortions to become aware:
In filtering, our “lens” of seeing ourselves or the world becomes “cloudy”, so that we only see part of the information and make incorrect conclusions. For example, we take the negative details and magnify them while filtering out and ignoring all positive and contradictory aspects of a situation. A person may attend to an unpleasant single episode and dwell on it exclusively, so that their vision of reality becomes darkened or distorted.
2. Polarized Thinking (or “Black and White” Thinking).
In “black-or-white” thinking, we tend to think of things in extremes. We may judge ourselves as being perfect or a failure — there is no middle ground. There is a tendency to categories people or situations into distinct types with no shades of grey. For example, if your performance falls short of perfect, you see yourself as a total failure.
Over-generalisation is a process of arriving at a general conclusion based on a single incident or lone piece of evidence. If something bad happens only once, we expect it to happen over and over again. A person may see a single, unpleasant event as part of a never-ending pattern of defeat.
4. Jumping to Conclusions.
This is the tendency to make assumptions about people or the future based on little experience. For example, a person may conclude that someone does not like them but doesn’t actually find out if they are correct. Another example is a person who anticipates that things will turn out badly and feels convinced that his/her prediction is already an established fact.
Catastrophising is the expectation of a complete disaster without clear evidence. When there is a setback or possibility of one, it is focusing on the “what If” questions and resolutely expecting that something bad will happen. People who regularly ‘jump to the worst possible conclusion’ feel overwhelmed with their prediction and believe they cannot cope if their prediction came through.
If you identify with some of the above five cognitive distortions, or know someone who does, perhaps you may benefit from attending an initial consultation with a Clinical Psychologist. If you would like to book an appointment with our psychologists click here.
Keep your eyes peeled for part two of Thinking Tips!