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  • Sarah Hooff CHN, CSNC

Six Weeks of Wellness, CBT Week 2: Cognitive Distortions

Updated: May 4, 2020

So here we go. Bit off a lot to chew with this topic but it's too important not to give it a shot! Cognitive Distortions or as I like to call them Mental Traps, are negative thinking patterns that can get us into heaps of trouble! Cognitive distortions usually come about as children and have a way of growing a mind of their own. Basically insecurities and judgments that ran away with themselves. The good news is however, we can outgrow these negative thinking patterns as we grow in awareness and maturity. Negative thought patterns steal from our present day health and well-being and impact our future. My CBT teacher described them as our arch enemy! Lol, pretty great way to put it! When we get caught up in negativity we waste valuable time and sometimes our whole entire lives can become derailed. Positive actions yield positive results so what we chose to focus on is so very important. Taking care of our emotional health, learning how to self regulate and always striving to better the way in which we perceive things is so worth the work. We'll improve our health, grow in confidence, enjoy healthier relationships, and perhaps even achieve those goals we were so scared to even dream of! So if you recognize any of these patterns its important to catch yourself. You can either dissect, take what you need and discard the rest or perhaps simply turn your attention to positive subjects elsewhere. So here we go, 15 common cognitive distortions. Guess what though there are more! Haha funny eh? Lol, always so much to do in life! One just has to laugh sometimes! 1. Deletions, Distortions and Mental Filtering This one is so very human! Mental filtering is when we focus and list the faults of everyone else but 'deleting' our own role. 2. Polarized Thinking (Black and White Thinking) Based on Expectations; failure or exceeding, judging unfairly. Can be a very unbalanced way to look at things and even prevent us from enjoying the present. 3. Generalizing and Categorizing Expecting more in the future what we've experienced in the past. This one is common in regards to politics for example. If we have one bad experience with anyone really, it does not mean we will have more of the same. This is a negative lens for sure. 4. Jumping to Conclusions & Making Assumptions If we have made an assumption, are we actually listening to the other person? Similar to Generalizing. Avoid generalizing and making judgments, none of us have a crystal ball and besides people can sometimes surprise you. We should always strive for understanding and encourage each other to be our best selves.

5. Magnification (Catastrophising, Worse Case Scenario) Getting ahead of ourselves, responding to fears inside the mind. This one is also very serious because often in life what we chose to focus on will often come to be. If we wish for a positive outcome we need to spend our energy there. Positive outcomes often require many positive actions so don't get stuck in this loop! 6. Personalization Not really listening are we? People who do this can end up feeling quite isolated, when we do this we aren't showing the other person that we are actually interested in them or is it all about ourselves? 7. Self Victimization (learned helplessness)' I Cant people ' With this type of thinking one may be secretly wishing someone to come along and make it all better for them. Really who hasn't wished for that a time or two in life! Sometimes 'I can't' people have a controlling or an over bearing parent or suffered a past trauma. Perhaps even a mental health disorder diagnosis. Emotions though are not illnesses, we can change how we perceive and look at things in life. When we chose to take responsibility we grow as a person. Responsibility leads to empowerment. People can often over complicate things in their own mind but we can chose to be the victor. If struggling here, go slowly, reach out for the right types of support and take each moment one at a time. Remember, working towards and achieving all those little goals along the way is what will lead us to our desired outcomes.

8. The Fallacy of Fairness Comparing to others, rather than accepting what is, why does it need to be fair? If something is outside our control, we can still be mature and chose to live as a grounded mature human being. Stress is how we chose to respond, we can rise up, stay calm and carry ourselves with integrity.

9. Blaming and Irresponsibility for Self We grow in empowerment as we grow in responsibility, self awareness is key! 10. Heavens Reward/ Martyrdom Sometimes and excuse to get away with behaving in a way one really wants to behave, an excuse to behave violently or harm others. People can also use this to manipulate others. 11. Confusing Feelings with Fact Feeling or Emotions are not Illnesses. Defining ourselves as an illness for example prevents one from taking responsibility for ones own emotions, eg. we are not depressed, we feel depressed. We can learn to self regulate. Sometimes we also may not have all the information and feelings can change in time. Often they do change with time and perspective. Living from our emotional mind can prevent one from feeling grounded so do take care with emotions/feelings. 12. Mistaking Beliefs for what is True People sometimes use their beliefs to justify their behaviors. Some people get caught up in groups because they want to feel included but sometimes things aren't what they seem. Also people are capable of radical mental shifts in life in all sorts of ways! Its important to be somewhat flexible and open to learning new things. 13. Self Labeling and Labeling of Others Defining ourselves by things (materials, degrees, ranks, status, abilities etc), rather than who we actually are. Defining ourselves by these things can cause a void , empty nest syndrome for example. Life can have many twists and turns sometimes too so take care to avoid being so strict here. We really are so much more then labels we can assign sometimes! If there is any kind of negative slant it may be time to work on self acceptance. 14. Mind Reading Assuming other people think of us the way we think of ourselves. This can prevent us from having meaningful connections in life. Again, it's really important to work on self acceptance if there is a negative slant on how we think of ourselves. 15. Mystical Guesswork, eg. 'I won't like it'... You are only ever one decision away from completely transforming your life in any area! You are only ever one decision away from change. Being fixed on a negative thought or idea can prevent one from experiencing positive things in life! Be open to change and good things. Have you ever heard the saying 'Whether you think you can or you think you can't you are right'. Its a good one! The mind is powerful and capable of all kinds of wondrous things, be sure not to paint yourself into a corner. A balanced, positive outlook in life is key. So for today I'll wrap it up here, we could probably talk in length about each pattern but for now even knowing that there is such a thing as a cognitive distortion is so helpful! It's extremely important to become aware of our thinking and the quality of our thoughts, they do after all determine our future. We all experience negative thoughts from time to time but its important not to let them become a pattern. Becoming aware of our thoughts and exercising positive thinking instead is so much more productive. It is said a person secure in themselves doesn't really need much in life. They are at peace and walk through life with ease. I'm not sure about you but that sounds pretty great, plus can you imagine the good work one can do with that level of confidence?! I'm eager to find out and I hope you are too. So please drop what isn't serving you and if you ever want to talk further please feel free to message me anytime. Stay tuned for next week, we'll be talking about Mental and Emotional Well-being. On that note take good care and talk soon, Sarah

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