CBT THINKING ERRORS OR COGNITIVE DISTORTIONS

Our inside voice(s) tells us what to do and narrates/controls our experience without our conscious knowledge. It is our self-talk; the little people on our shoulders; the thinking we do that leads us in the wrong direction; our thinking we do that is not factual. Our self-talk influences how we interact with others, and how we feel about other people, the world, and ourselves in general. This why you might have an old experience or memory that you once cried over but you laugh at now. At that time, you were thinking differently and perhaps thinking negatively. These errors are not rational, not realistic, not based on facts. They are irrational, unrealistic, and inaccurate and are based on the following errors that we all have in our thinking. To figure out your thinking errors, write down your thoughts whenever you feel upset and record what was happening. When you feel bad, put your thoughts on the pad! Review your thoughts against this list and write down beside the thinking error your unhelpful thoughts. Remember to look for patterns or events that trigger your negative thoughts. Now focus on alternative ways of thinking. The goal is to recognize that low frustration tolerance, which is the belief that when something is difficult to tolerate, we automatically assume it to be intolerable. So, we magnify discomfort and we do not think about how we can tolerate temporary discomfort to gain a longer-term benefit.

 

1. MENTAL FILTERING – NOT LOOKING AT THE POSITIVE, ONLY SEE THE BAD

We need to see the positive and negative. We only acknowledge the information that fits with our core beliefs and often our core beliefs are negative. If you believe or feel like you are a failure, you will focus on your mistakes. One bad apple doesn’t ruin the whole basket. Mental filtering dissociates us from the positive. 

FIX IT:  Ask yourself what filter are you using, your “failure” filter, your “worthless” filter?

Count up your negatives against your positives, identify where you have succeeded.

Look for evidence. If you think negatively about yourself, why do your friends think positively about you? 

Just because you do not see positivity, does not mean it is not there. 

Remember: Negativity reinforces unhelpful thinking styles.

 

2. CATASTROPHIZING – THE SKY IS FALLING, TURN MOUNTAINS BACK INTO MOLEHILLS

We think things are worse than they are. We say, “I’ll never retire” because we think we will always owe money. And we think it’s based on evidence, because we owe money, or we have maxed our credit cards. We hold our thoughts on doom and gloom and we never consider other possibilities. We disqualify any positive thoughts, by saying, “That doesn’t count.” 

FIX IT: Ask what does count then? What are your personal strengths and accomplishments, what are you good at?

Put your thoughts in perspective, “Does NO ONE care? There are people empathetic for you!

What is the evidence that you based your catastrophizing on? Does any evidence contradict your thoughts?

Remember: We all have experience catastrophes like hurricanes, tornados, fires, why do we cope with them?

 

3. FORTUNE TELLING – HAVING A CRYSTAL BALL 

We think we know what will happen if we walk into a crowded room alone – no one will talk to us. We predict the future and that is the problem, we end up making it a self-fulfilling prophecy; we don’t talk, so no one talks to us. Fortune telling stops you from acting. 

FIX IT: Remember crystal balls are not real. 

Plan your future by setting goals. You want something, set reasonable goals to get what you want.

Test your predictions, you think you will have a lousy time, well you will not know until you do it.

Take a risk. Taking risks is what got us through our young lives, think about the risks you took, and the growth or lessons learned when you did it. Could your guess/prediction be wrong?

Remember – Your past does not define your future.

 

4. UNREAL IDEALS/MAKING DEMANDS – “SHOULDING, MUSTING, HAVE TO, NEED TO AND BUTS” – FLEX YOUR THINKING!       

We make unfair comparisons about ourselves against other people which ruins our motivation. We think we should be able to do that! Emotional problems are centered around unreal ideals and are a core foundation of CBT

FIX IT: Is it helpful to measure yourself against someone else? You are on your own journey. What we choose to do can change the world, what we should do makes us miserable.

Change your words to “wish” “want” and “prefer” and “hope.”

You should never let people down?? This is approval seeking, find self-approval within yourself instead. 

Remember: People have their own values, and they may not live up to your values, and they have a right not to.

 

5. PERSONALIZATION – BLAME – PUTTING OURSELVES IN A BLACK HOLE. 

We personalize everything. You don’t call me – you don’t “like” me. Remember something else could be influencing someone’s behaviour. Our interpretation of the event is rarely related to us personally. We think it is, which may lead to emotional difficulties, such feeling hurt or guilty. 

FIX IT: What is not your control? If you think, “I burned supper, so he hit me,” you might feel guilt, shame, and self-blame. 

Is there another way to think? What/who else could be responsible for what happened?

Remember: Consider another reason why people might be responding to you. Do not assume.

 

6. LABELLING 

This is related to overgeneralization. You put a name to someone; you put them in a category, based on isolated incidents. Don’t categorize, don’t label by saying, “They didn’t do the job, so they must be lazy.” We are famous for labelling ourselves; if we have low self-esteem, we label ourselves as “stupid, worthless, inconsequential or a failure.”

FIX IT: Ask them to explain “how they MUST be”? People are complex, we are all different, honour those differences. 

We have different ways of seeing life, so look at evidence that demonstrates the positivity of differences.

Can labels change? Can we celebrate differences? Normal is a setting on a washing machine,

Labelling yourself as a failure is the next step after overgeneralizing

Remember: Labelling erases potential for change and improvement. Self-improvement equals self-acceptance. 

 

7. EMOTIONAL REASONING – FEELINGS ARE NOT FACTS (MY FAVOURITE) 

We let our fears take control of the situation. Emotions ARE NOT based on facts. Just because we are afraid to change jobs doesn’t mean we shouldn’t. We make decisions based on how we feel rather than objective reality. People become blinded between the feelings and the facts, i.e. “He makes me mad.” Our feelings can be caused by a thought or memory that you might not remember. Or they are symptoms of depression or anxiety.

FIX IT: Ask yourself, “Are my feelings directing me in the right direction?”

Pay attention to your feelings and your thoughts. 

Remember a thought is also a feeling, “I’m feeling anxious, so something must be wrong.” 

How would you handle this situation; if you were not anxious would you feel different?

Why not just recognize your feelings and not act on them? Or just change them?

Remember: If you see feelings as factual you will never contradict your feelings or look for alternative answers.

 

8. OVERGENERALIZING – AVOIDING – THINKING “IT ALWAYS HAPPENS,” “THAT NEVER HAPPENS”, 

We take one event and generalize it to the rest of our lives. Treated badly by one co-worker = treated badly by all co-workers. Each event is specific to that moment and it may not have even been intentional.

FIX IT: Just because one event happened, does not necessarily mean I am____,” “You are____”, “They are           “.

Ask how true is this thought? Are you the only one that has ever thought this?

Do not judge. When we judge we actually become angrier, more upset, more fearful.

Can you think of specific times that demonstrate or prove what you are thinking now? 

Remember: What about all the positive experiences you have had in your life and in your relationships?

 

9. ALL OR NOTHING THINKING – BLACK OR WHITE THINKING 

We see everything as extreme, which leads to extreme feelings and therefore possibly extreme thoughts. Everything is black or white, there are no greys, only good/bad, success/failure, like me/hate me; hot/cold – well what about warm?

FIX IT: Ask has there ever been a time when it wasn’t that way? What is the best-case vs worst-case scenario?

What is more realistic? Are we not allowed to make a mistake? Are you not still on track with your goals?

Remember: Look at both sides of the story, so you can create some balance in your life. 

 

10. MIND READINGJUMPING TO CONCLUSIONS

We think we know what someone else is thinking, we jump to conclusions, we assume something is negative, but we have no proof of any evidence to support it. It is not based in reality. You don’t know if they don’t like you, you just think you do. And why don’t we think they are thinking positive thoughts? Why is it always negative thoughts we think they are thinking?

FIX IT: Ask, “How do I know that?  What are the supporting facts”? 

You cannot base it on past events. What will happen if you keep thinking that way?

What are different or alternative thoughts? What is a missing piece to the story?

Can your thinking be wrong? Do you have enough information?

Remember mind-reading is based on what you fear the most. What you think is going on in someone else’s mind comes from what is going on in your mind already. 

 

11. MAGNIFY AND MINIMIZE 

We exaggerate the negatives and understate the positive. However, why do we exaggerate the positives of other people? 

FIX IT: Ask what would happen if you could stand it? Can you live with it; can you live without it?

Pay attention to how you respond to positive information. Just acknowledge it without judgement.

Graciously accept a compliment. Tell yourself to believe in YOUR SELF. 

Remember: Don’t confuse what seems to be unbearable with what is just uncomfortable.

 

UNDERSTANDING THE IMPACT OF RACISM, COLONIALISM AND HETEROSEXISM AND GENDERISM

ON UNHELPFUL THINKING STYLES. 

 

It is important to recognize the impact of oppression on the thoughts and feelings of those who are oppressed. For example, how do you honour your experiences of racism, colonialism, heterosexism or genderism and not OVERGENERALIZE what you just experienced? Many times, racism can never be overgeneralized. Racism is racism. Period. Can you JUMP TO CONCLUSIONS when you experience a microaggression against you? No, microaggressions are microaggressions. Period. 

 

So, how can you understand cognitive distortions to help you fight your negative thoughts about racism, colonialism, heterosexism or genderism? How can you do this to help you advance YOUR SELF to a place of positivity? Well, the same way you would do to address, your own general negative thoughts. You would use your understanding of cognitive distortions, to not blame yourself. To find your personal history or your family history of resistance to guide you to a place of positivity. You could use MENTAL FILTERING to filter out any negative sense of self and change it to a positive sense of self by claiming your pride in your race, your culture,your people, your gender, your sexuality. If you do a lot of EMOTIONAL REASONING for example, you can choose to recognize your feelings of hurt but choose to not act on them. You can walk your own path and claim your own power. 

Remember: You have a strong foundation to stand upon, and shoulders to stand tall. You have a historical resilience through your ancestors, your community, and your family. That’s generations that have led the way and made positive contributions to society and even greater contributions to your country. So, stand strong.

 

RECONCEPTUALIZING/DECONSTRUCTING DEPRESSION

SYMPTOMS OF DEPRESSION

  • Appetite variation, eating less, or comfort eating, eating more
  • Sleep disturbance, difficulty sleeping, or sleeping too much
  • Lack of concentration, poor memory
  • Irritability
  • Loss of libido\Loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed, as they do not produce pleasure.
  • Social isolation, withdrawing from friends, family.
  • Self-neglect, poor grooming, neglecting to take care of your environment
  • Decreased motivation and activity levels, feeling lethargic, feeling hopeless, lacking in future thinking
  • Strong negative thoughts about self, feeling guilty
  • Flattened emotions, feeling numb, suicidal thoughts, not caring if you live or die, or wanting “this” to end, or go away.

 

CHECK FOR BIPOLAR AFFECTIVE DISORDER

Do you have periods of severe depression that alternates with periods of hypomania, which is feeling very, very, happy with a lot of energy? You can use this information to address your bipolar affective disorder.

UNDERSTANDING HOW DEPRESSION WORKS, WHAT FUELS YOUR DEPRESSION?

When you try to minimize your depression, when you try to alleviate your depression, it might make your feelings of depression worse. You are doing what your mood dictates. You want to override, fight through, and push yourself to do the opposite of what you feel to do. When you add the following actions to your depression, you are “fueling” your depression.

  • Rumination – hooked into repetitive negative thinking, repeatedly going over your problems
  • Negative thinking – your negative thoughts are based on cognitive schemas, or your core beliefs that say you are worthless, helpless, or a failure. You can also feel the world is unsafe and therefore you feel like a failure or feel unsafe. 
  • Inactivity – you cannot do day-to-day tasks, you do not participate in activities you liked in the past. You stay in bed because you believe that’s all you are able to do. 
  • Social withdrawal – you avoid people, you do not interact with people around you, or with family or friends. 
  • Procrastination – avoiding specific tasks, feeling overwhelmed to do the dishes, pay bills, or take a shower.
  • Shame – feeling shame about being depressed, believing people will judge you for having depression, blaming yourself for being ineffective, and not being good enough.
  • Guilt – feeling guilty for having depression and overestimating the inconvenience your depression might have on your family members who are trying to help you maintain or hide your depression. So, you never realize if or how much your depression might affect your family or how much inconvenience or suffering they go through.
  • Hopelessness – thinking you will never feel better and your situation will never improve.

 

If you compare driving a car to having depression, then the actions listed above is like the “fuel” you put into your car to keep driving. Negative thinking, inactivity, shame, guilt, and hopelessness is fueling your depression; it is maintaining your depression. Also, let us not forget about the driver that is needed to drive the car; what drives your depression? Rumination is the driver of depression. Rumination is the chasing of your worrying; it is the chasing of all the “what ifs”. Instead of fueling and driving your depression, do the colossal – do the opposite. By doing only what you feel like you can do maintains your sense of hopelessness, it maintains your feelings of procrastination or your feelings of social withdrawal, which obviously maintains your feelings of guilt and shame. So do something! Even if you do not receive any pleasure from it. Remember, the lack of motivation is a symptom of depression, so depression is dulling your ability to enjoy doing anything. You have to spark yourself back up. Trust yourself and learn to believe in yourself all over again. 

Do something! Even if you do not receive any pleasure from it. Remember, the lack of motivation is a symptom of depression, so depression is dulling your ability to enjoy doing anything. You have to spark yourself back up. Trust yourself and learn to believe in yourself all over again. 

Tips for healing
  • Learn about ruminative thinking – which is circular thought processes where you go over the same things over and over in your head. You ruminate about being depressed and think about how you could have done things differently.
  • You are compelled to ruminate, because it is the only way you believe your problems will be fixed, and to fix your depression. The key is to know when you are ruminating so you can “un-ruminate” yourself.
    • Pay attention when you are stuck, when you have stopped moving, stopped thinking.
    • When you are very sad or very tired you will have a better chance to ruminate
    • When you slow down, when you feel you have to pause in life, your concentration is now being affected by rumination.
    • You get repetitive with the same old thoughts and you believe you must answer questions about the meaning of life.
    • Therefore, remember the content of your ruminations are not the problem. It is the process of rumination that is the problem, So, do not do anything with your ruminating thoughts, just disengage.
    • Get busy – with something outside yourself, such as physical activities. Even doing housework with the radio on works or making a phone call
    • Work out- exercise, walk or run, just keep moving. 
    • Get up and out – get outside, be in the company of others, you will find you ruminate less 
    • Let your thoughts go – let your negative thoughts just pass you by, do not engage with your thoughts or judge them. Just accept their existence and let them go by.
    • Get good at redirecting your attention – strengthen your attention, deliberately focus on less depressing things.
    • Be skeptical – tell yourself, your depressive thoughts are symptoms of your depression. You have made them up, so you can unmake them. Your thoughts are not true, and they are not important, even though they feel true and feel important.
    • Do not act mindlessly. Act mindfully. So, pay attention to the smallest details of whatever you are doing.

 

Do Behavioural Activation, 
  • Gradually become more active
  • Socialize with people but remember you don’t have to talk about your depression. Listening to others can take you away from your own thoughts.
  • If you want to feel normal again, you have to “act” normal again.
  • Take care of yourself
  • Get a good night’s sleep, establish a schedule, avoid lying in bed awake, establish a bedtime routine, set realistic sleep expectations. Make you bedroom your sleeping room.

 

ACT – ACCEPTANCE AND COMMITMENT THERAPY.

Observe your negative thoughts and accept them and let them pass by. Do not judge.

  • Practice acceptance – accept your depression, accept you are not lazy, accept your depression is an illness. Do not demand yourself to feel better.
  • Give yourself credit.

 

Honour your compassion towards yourself. 
  • Give yourself a pat on your back whenever you do anything different
  • Compliment yourself, say “Bravo” when you get the dishes done.
  • Be wary of poor coping tools, such as alcohol or drugs.
  • Get a new outlook on life, post it on your fridge for extra reminders every day.