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Old 06-02-2004, 10:22 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Cognitive Distortions

I've been doing cognitive behavior therapy for the last year or so, and one of the most useful things I've gotten out of it is the concept of "cognitive distortions." There are a handful of very common "thinking mistakes" that people make that tend to make them unhappy. I was looking at them today (I think I'm stuck in at least a few of them right now - the trick is accepting that they are MISTAKES and NOT TRUE!!!) and thought, hey, why don't I share these with folks - I'll bet a lot of people will recognize themselves. So here goes:

ALL OR NOTHING THINKING: You see things in black-and-white categories. If your performance falls short of perfect, you see yourself as a total failure.

OVERGENERALIZATION: You see a single negative event as a never-ending pattern of defeat.

MENTAL FILTER: You pick out a single negative detail and dwell on it exclusively so that your vision of reality becomes darkened, like the drop of ink that discolors the entire beaker of water.

DISQUALIFYING THE POSITIVE: You reject positive experiences by insisting they "don't count" for some reason or other. In this way you can maintain a negative belief that is contradicted by your everyday experiences.

JUMPING TO CONCLUSIONS: You make a negative interpretation even though there are no definite facts that convincingly support your conclusion.
A. MIND READING: You arbitrarily conclude that someone is reacting negatively to you, and you don't bother to check this out.
B. THE FORTUNETELLER ERROR: You can anticipate that things will turn out badly, and you feel convinced that your prediction is an already-established fact.

MAGNIFICATION (CATASTROPHIZING) OR MINIMIZATION: You exaggerate the importance of things (such as your goof-up or someone else's achievement), or you inappropriately shrink things until they appear tiny (your own desirable qualities or the other person's imperfections). This is also called "the binocular trick."

EMOTIONAL REASONING: You assume that your negative emotions necessarily reflect the way things really are: "I feel it, therefore it must be true."

SHOULD STATEMENTS: You try to motivate yourself with should and shouldn't, as if you had to be whipped and punished before you could be expected to do anything. "Musts" and "oughts" are also offenders. The emotional consequences are guilt. When you direct should statements toward others, you feel anger, frustration, and resentment.

LABELING AND MISLABELING: This is an extreme form of overgeneralization. Instead of describing your error, you attach a negative label to yourself: For example, "I'm a loser." When someone else's behavior rubs you the wrong way, you attach a negative label to him. Mislabeling involves describing an event with language that is highly colored and emotionally loaded.

PERSONALIZATION: You see yourself as the cause of some negative external event, which in fact you were not primarily responsible for.

------------------------------------------

Do you recognize yourself doing these things? When you see yourself doing them, how do you stop doing them?

The big ones that seem to be indelible habits for me are "all or nothing thinking,"(I'm not where I want to be, therefore I'm a failure); "emotional reasoning" (I feel anxious, so there must be something to be anxious about...now if I worry enough about it, I can figure out what it is and keep it from happening); and "disqualifying the positive," (sure, so-and-so says she loves me, but she can't really mean it).
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Last edited by lurkette; 06-02-2004 at 10:32 AM..
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Old 06-02-2004, 10:38 AM   #2 (permalink)
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This is great stuff.
I had this condition and had to learn how to replace my nonsensical dead-end thoughts with ones that allowed me some room to live.

Thanks much for posting these Lurkette!

These should be a part of the curriculum. Without a manual for spaceship brain, we are often lost in a maelstrom of deteriorative thoughts.
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Old 06-02-2004, 10:40 AM   #3 (permalink)
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this is a really nice list for people to see. everyone makes one or more of these errors daily and people who consider themselves "realists" are often just negative thinkers who are not allowing themselves the opportunity to think positively because they don't want to be disappointed. excellent post, lurkette.
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Old 06-02-2004, 10:45 AM   #4 (permalink)
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I think most of us are guilty of these, I know the list seemed a check-a-thon for me. I survive by being an active and liberal self-forgiver.

I think one of the more salient pieces of mental health advice I've ever been exposed to was: that your emotions last much longer than your cognition. Thereby stating that if something makes you feel *anything* It's there a lot longer than the stimulus. I still remember and physically cringe from remembered embarrassments from YEARS back.

But alas, such is life.
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Old 06-02-2004, 11:01 AM   #5 (permalink)
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i have to step outside of myself for a moment and look at the view from outside myself. From within, I do a number of those things, but it's the outside view that I rely on to see myself doing those bad habits.

I used to rely on friends, but sometimes, they cannot be counted on to tell you what is really happening about your own self.
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Old 06-02-2004, 11:21 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Guilty Guilty Guilty of most all of them at some point, and sadly, I probably wouldn't have realized it until I saw this written down.

For whatever reason it's easier to see the negative, to find fault in ourselves, otherwise, people think you have a big ego, or so my twisted mind rationalizes. I/we need to do a better job of accepting things as they are, both positive and negative.
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Old 06-02-2004, 11:38 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Re: Cognitive Distortions

ALL OR NOTHING THINKING: You see things in black-and-white categories. If your performance contains anything good, you see yourself as a total success.

OVERGENERALIZATION: You see a single positive event as a never-ending pattern of victory.

MENTAL FILTER: You pick out a single positive detail and dwell on it exclusively so that your vision of reality becomes whitewashed, like the drop of bleach that lightens the entire basket of laundry.

DISQUALIFYING THE NEGATIVE: You reject negative experiences by insisting they "don't count" for some reason or other. In this way you can maintain a positive belief that is contradicted by your everyday experiences.

JUMPING TO CONCLUSIONS: You make a positive interpretation even though there are no definite facts that convincingly support your conclusion.
A. MIND READING: You arbitrarily conclude that someone is reacting positively to you, and you don't bother to check this out.
B. THE FORTUNETELLER ERROR: You can anticipate that things will turn out well, and you feel convinced that your prediction is an already-established fact.

MAGNIFICATION (CATASTROPHIZING) OR MINIMIZATION: You exaggerate the importance of things (such as your achievement or someone else's goof-up), or you inappropriately shrink things until they appear tiny (your own imperfections or the other person's desirable qualities). This is also called "the binocular trick."

EMOTIONAL REASONING: You assume that your positive emotions necessarily reflect the way things really are: "I feel it, therefore it must be true."

LABELING AND MISLABELING: This is an extreme form of overgeneralization. Instead of describing your success, you attach a positive label to yourself: For example, "I'm a winner." When someone else's behavior rubs you the right way, you attach a positive label to him. Mislabeling involves describing an event with language that is highly colored and emotionally loaded.

PERSONALIZATION: You see yourself as the cause of some positive external event, which in fact you were not primarily responsible for.


Humbug, can't figure out how to reword the "should" error.

Then again, people with the above (reversed) errors in judgement are funny. The effects on your actual compitence is probably worse...
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Old 06-02-2004, 12:01 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally posted by Yakk

Humbug, can't figure out how to reword the "should" error.

Then again, people with the above (reversed) errors in judgement are funny. The effects on your actual compitence is probably worse...
Yeah, but they're probably a lot happier!

Both sets of distortions - the negative ones and these positive ones - are disconnected from reality, which is why they are a problem. Though I can't say I've ever met someone who suffered on a regular basis from the positive distortions. If I did, they'd probably seem pathologically egomaniacal, whereas the negative distortions seem to be so widespread that I think they're built in to the human design (the "spaceship brain" ART mentioned).
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Old 06-02-2004, 12:17 PM   #9 (permalink)
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I'm currently undergoing CBT as well. I'm glad you posted the list...it's a valuable tool for understanding the mechanics of ones emotional responses.

The most enlightening thing I've learned from the therapy is that thoughts always preceed emotion. Sometimes the thought is so bound to the emotion that you may not even be aware of the thought.

I realized this in my own life when I examined situations in which emotion (usually anger) seemed to spring up of it's own volition in response to an event.

Anyway, best of luck with the therapy. I'd be interested in hearing more of your experiences with it.

Have you read Feeling Good or The Feeling Good Handbook by David Burns?
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Old 06-02-2004, 12:25 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally posted by sipsake
Have you read Feeling Good or The Feeling Good Handbook by David Burns?
I have both of them but I confess I havn't touched them since I bought them. Since I seem to be having some difficulty at the moment (it seems to me that the emotion is SO tightly linked to the thought that I can't always discriminate between the two - my emotions seem TRUE), now might be a good time to pick them up and use them.
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Old 06-02-2004, 12:35 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally posted by lurkette
Yeah, but they're probably a lot happier!

Both sets of distortions - the negative ones and these positive ones - are disconnected from reality, which is why they are a problem. Though I can't say I've ever met someone who suffered on a regular basis from the positive distortions. If I did, they'd probably seem pathologically egomaniacal, whereas the negative distortions seem to be so widespread that I think they're built in to the human design (the "spaceship brain" ART mentioned).
it's those very reasons why I try very hard to disassociate emotions and feelings from situations and thoughts. It's very challenging to do so. I can't say that I'm 100% successful, but I am more successful than most people.

Once I am able to distinguish the situation as being one that is thought/emotion tied, I let the emotion ride out and unfold as it needs to do so. And then allow the thought to continue.

It's sometimes hard to recover from some of them, but allowing that to happen allows me to do somethings that others will not, like firing people or providing bad news.
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Old 06-02-2004, 12:37 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally posted by lurkette
(it seems to me that the emotion is SO tightly linked to the thought that I can't always discriminate between the two - my emotions seem TRUE)
Amen! I know exactly what you mean. Fascinating the way ours minds work, isn't it?

I've got a copy of the handbook and have read about the first 1/3. Interesting read. It gives a good introduction to CBT and how it was developed and then gets into the meat of the matter. If I read correctly Burns is the one that developed CBT.
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Old 06-02-2004, 02:11 PM   #13 (permalink)
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I think I have experienced that entire list-some things simultaneously. It took someone else to take me outside myself and see those things for what they were-roadblocks. I still find myself sometimes regressing, but the essence or almost all of those is putting oneself in the center of their own little universe-something I strive to no longer do. One can take responsibility-it is not always prudent to take blame. It's been only 3 years of unlearning those things that took a lifetime to be comfortable with-it's a hard journey, but a rewarding one.
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Old 06-03-2004, 06:07 AM   #14 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally posted by lurkette
Yeah, but they're probably a lot happier!

Both sets of distortions - the negative ones and these positive ones - are disconnected from reality, which is why they are a problem. Though I can't say I've ever met someone who suffered on a regular basis from the positive distortions. If I did, they'd probably seem pathologically egomaniacal, whereas the negative distortions seem to be so widespread that I think they're built in to the human design (the "spaceship brain" ART mentioned).
I've met someone who seems to behave that way, as with the positive version, cronically. Failed out of university, socially inept, unable to keep a good job, etc: yet, believes he's the shits, smarter than anyone else, etc. I've seen it in lesser doses on other people.

He's not a pleasant person to be around in the long, or even short, term.

Now, that sort of cognative errors aren't nearly as annoying on smaller scales. A number of posters here seem to signal they have those sort of errors, a few of my friends consciously have decided to have them, and I suffer from a them more than occasionally. Of course, sometimes people call me annoying! =)

Quote:
Originally posted by sipsake
I'm currently undergoing CBT as well. I'm glad you posted the list...it's a valuable tool for understanding the mechanics of ones emotional responses.

The most enlightening thing I've learned from the therapy is that thoughts always preceed emotion. Sometimes the thought is so bound to the emotion that you may not even be aware of the thought.
I've recently read a neat article on emotional vs rational responses, published in a pop-sci magazine (Discover).

Ah, here is an exerpt: http://www.discover.com/issues/may-0...inking-faster/

Quote:
"Try to look inside yourself right now." Antonio Damasio and I are sitting in his office in Iowa City, rows upon rows of academic volumes lining the shelves behind him. He’s talking about the importance of the body in understanding consciousness, and somehow we’ve slipped into what might pass for an impromptu meditation session. I close my eyes. Damasio has a soft voice, almost soothing, which suits the subject matter. "Don’t think about words and ideas," he says. "Try to concentrate on what you feel. People very often say, ‘I don’t feel my body. I only feel my body if I feel pain.’ But when you try to clear away thoughts about objects and ideas, what you have is this thing that’s always breathing and always has some kind of tone. Maybe you’re very relaxed, or you’re tense, but it’s always there. The only way you can say that you’re tense or feeling fine is because there’s a quality that you can sense."



Then he smiles. "Otherwise, how would you know?"
The idea is that there is a constant discussion between the brain and body. The brain actually determines emotional responses mostly based on the bodies response to situations, or on what the brain has learned how the body will respond to situations, with a layer of interpritation on top.

The experimental data backing this up is with brain-damaged people. People who can't feel the state of their body, or have a few other regions damaged, become emotionally damaged and massively indecisive.

The indecision comes from not a lack of rational thought power, but rather an inability to decide between to rational choices. Do you want ice cream or yogurt? They can list a metric tonne of reasons for each, but are unable to decide which one they want.

From what I can understand, this means the thought can trigger the emotion (your brain state changes your body state, and is read by your brain, while at the same time your brain predicts how the body will react for faster emotional response), or the emotion (body reaction) can trigger the thought (interpritation of the body reaction).

Interpritation also occurs at another level: the reason why pain+sex is relatively popular is "arousal" caused by pain and "arousal" caused by sexual excitement are pretty simular feelings: the difference is, if we are expecting sexual arousal, we will interprit and react to the body differently than if we interprit it as pain arousal. Which is apparently the reason why you should first get sexually excited before you use pain to heighten it, as opposed to triggering sexual arousal with pain. In a way, it is "hacking" the bodies emotions.

(note: the above is just pop-psych/reading of textbooks. IANAPsychologist.)
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Old 06-03-2004, 06:47 AM   #15 (permalink)
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i used to have a lot of these, but now i probably have a good majority of the positive distortions... whatever they are. do you have a list of them too, lurkette?
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Old 06-03-2004, 03:53 PM   #16 (permalink)
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