The way we react to an event largely depends on how we value it. But if these assessments were really frustrating and inaccurate? If there were any mistakes in our way of thinking? What effect would these mistakes have on our way of responding to what is happening to us?
There are several types of cognitive distortions, and it is important to learn how to recognize them in a timely manner when they are present so that we can assess whether we are reasoning at this moment or if we have been dragged from our usual and sometimes counterproductive ways of think.
The following is a list of the most common cognitive distortions …
- Thought “all or nothing”: See things for opposite categories and no intermediate grades: “If I’m not the best, I mean I’m crap.”
- Catastrophe: The tendency to consider only the negative outcomes of a situation, ignoring other possible, especially if positive or neutral: “If I’m wrong presenting it will be a disaster, I will be humiliated in front of everyone and I’ll lose the job.”
- Dependencies: The rigid view that some things have to be in a certain way, otherwise it would be unpleasant consequences: “I must always be kind and contentious; otherwise he will get tired of me and leave me.”
- Hyper generation: To give importance to a single event to the point of considering it as evidence of a more general aspect, or, in a word, make all the grass a beam: “If someone did not want to go out with me means no one will ever do it.”
- Labeling: Giving a global judgment to yourself or others rather than circumscribing it to a particular circumstance: “I cannot fill in this document, so I’m a failure.”
- Disallow / Decrease the Positive: Dealing with positive evidence or experiences or not giving weight when you consider a certain situation: “If others congratulate me, it is only because they are kind, I really cannot do anything.”
- Emotional reasoning: Confuse what you feel (believe) with what it is: “I feel I cannot do it, so surely it will go wrong.”
- Selective abstraction: Pay attention to a single detail rather than considering the general picture. For example, at the end of a first positive event: “It did not even give me a kiss on my cheek, you see I do not like it.”
- Reading the thought: Feeling aware of what others think and evaluating the situation on this basis without considering further evidence.
- Customization: Attributing certain behavior of others to personal factors without considering other possible explanations: “If someone hastily greeted me and did not stop talking to me it is because I’m unpleasant to them.”
The first impression is only if we accept it as true, without putting it into question in any way. But if we stop to observe what we think and how we think, we may find that our attitudes, emotions, and actions may arise from simple errors of reasoning. Simple, but sometimes extremely significant consequences.
But mistakes can often be remedied. Learning to recognize the cognitive distortions typical of your thinking and not to jump to conclusions right away can be the first step for a greater awareness of our reactions.
To learn how to think, get excited and act in a more functional and appropriate way. In addition to being more correct, for ourselves and for others.