When it comes to distorted thinking styles, they’re not only common, they’re also human. Dr. Araron Beck’s theory of cognitive therapy first recorded these and Dr. David D. Burns refined them further.
Distorted Thinking Styles
- All or nothing – everything is black or white. Right or wrong. Perfect or a failure.
- Mental Filtering – looking at the world through pessimistic frame, filtering out all the positive aspects of a situation.
- Over-generalisation – forming a general conclusion based on one piece of information: “You’re always wrong.” One negative event is part of an endless pattern.
- Being right – feeling we must always prove that what we think, do or say is right.
- Blaming – holding other people responsible for the pain or unhappiness you are feeling.
- Disqualifying the positive – unable or unwilling to accept a compliment.
- Jumping to conclusions – drawing negative conclusions without checking to see if they have any foundation.
- Magnification or minimization – catastrophizing the unpleasant problems or mistakes and minimising anything that might make you feel good.
- “Shoulds” and “musts” – believing they are backed up by some universal law.
- Martyr syndrome – all your “giving” and self-sacrifice should pay off and you become bitter when it doesn’t.
- Emotional reasoning – making our feelings become who we are. “I feel inferior so therefore I must be.”
- Personalization – blaming yourself for something that was largely out of your control.
If we can replace these irrational thoughts that occur repetitively and endlessly, we can then look more realistically at our lives. Cognitive restructuring techniques may sound overly complicated but they are really quite simple. First, we must catch ourselves when thinking negative thoughts.
- Find a rubber band to fit on your wrist that is loose enough to be comfortable.
- Each time you catch yourself in a negative thought (around what is about to happen, what is happening or what has happened) flick the band on your wrist, as a reminder.
- Create a picture in your mind of a STOP SIGN in front of you, which will help you stop unwanted thoughts. It will take practice, but with time your brain will do this on its own.
- Make yourself aware that you are having unwanted thoughts by saying to yourself, “I’m having the thought that…”. This reminds you that these are only thoughts, not something that will happen.
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