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Cognitive distortions are simply ways that our mind convinces us of something that isn’t really true!

Cognitive distortions are bothersome too while thinking. Cognitive distortions are simply ways that our mind convinces us of something that isn’t really true. The most common cognitive distortions are:

Filtering (A person engaging in filter - or “mental filtering "- takes the negative details and magnifies those details while filtering out all positive aspects of a situation. When a cognitive filter is applied, the person sees only the negative and ignores anything positive.

Polarized (or black and white) thinking: In polarized thinking, things are either “black-or-white” — all or nothing. We have to be perfect or we’re a complete and abject failure — there is no middle ground. A person with polarized thinking places people or situations in “either/or” categories, with no shades of gray or allowing for the complexity of most people and most situations. A person with black-and-white thinking sees things only in extremes.

Over-generalization: In this cognitive distortion, a person comes to a general conclusion based on a single incident or a single piece of evidence. If something bad happens just once, they expect it to happen over and over again. 

Jumping to conclusions

Catastrophizing: When a person engages in catastrophizing, they expect disaster to strike, no matter what.

Personalizing: Personalization is a distortion where a person believes that everything others do or say is some kind of direct, personal reaction to them. They literally take virtually everything personally, even when something is not meant in that way.

Control Fallacies: This distortion involves two different but related beliefs about being in complete control of every situation in a person’s life. In the first, if we feel externally controlled, we see ourselves as helpless a victim of fate. The fallacy of internal control has us assuming responsibility for the pain and happiness of everyone around us. 

Fallacy of fairness: In the fallacy of fairness, a person feels resentful because they think that they know what is fair, but other people won’t agree with them.

Blaming: When a person engages in blaming, they hold other people responsible for their emotional pain. They may also take the opposite track and instead blame themselves for every problem — even those clearly outside their own control.

Shoulds: Should statements (“I should pick up after myself more…”) appear as a list of ironclad rules about how every person should behave. People who break the rules make a person following these should statements angry. They also feel guilty when they violate their own rules. A person may often believe they are trying to motivate themselves with shoulds and shouldn’ts, as if they have to be punished before they can do anything.

Emotional reasoning: The distortion of emotional reasoning can be summed up by the statement, “If I feel that way, it must be true.” Whatever a person is feeling is believed to be true automatically and unconditionally. If a person feels stupid and boring, then they must be stupid and boring.

Emotions are extremely strong in people, and can overrule our rational thoughts and reasoning. Emotional reasoning is when a person’s emotions takes over our thinking entirely, blotting out all rationality and logic. The person who engages in emotional reasoning assumes that their unhealthy emotions reflect the way things really are — “I feel it, therefore it must be true.”

Fallacy of change: In the fallacy of change, a person expects that other people will change to suit them if they just pressure or cajole them enough. A person needs to change people because their hopes for success and happiness seem to depend entirely on them.

This distortion is often found in thinking around relationships. For example, a girlfriend who tries to get her boyfriend to improve his appearance and manners, in the belief that this boyfriend is perfect in every other way and will make them happy if they only changed these few minor things.

Global labeling: In global labeling (also referred to as mislabeling), a person generalizes one or two qualities into a negative global judgment about themselves or another person. This is an extreme form of overgeneralizing. Instead of describing an error in context of a specific situation, a person will attach an unhealthy universal label to themselves or others.

Always being right: When a person engages in this distortion, they are continually putting other people on trial to prove that their own opinions and actions are the absolute correct ones. To a person engaging in “always being right,” being wrong is unthinkable — they will go to any length to demonstrate their rightness.

Heaven's reward fallacy: The final cognitive distortion is the false belief that a person’s sacrifice and self-denial will eventually pay off, as if some global force is keeping score. This is a riff on the fallacy of fairness, because in a fair world, the people who work the hardest will get the largest reward. A person who sacrifices and works hard but doesn’t experience the expected pay off will usually feel bitter when the reward doesn’t come.

How can we fix them and not allow them to create havoc in our thinking processes?

First identify whether you have one. Then instead of point blank rejection, try to atleast cosider the evidence that is going against you. Much like a judge overseeing a trial, the next step is to remove yourself from the emotionality of the upsetting event or episode of irrational thinking in order to examine the evidence more objectively. A thorough examination of an experience allows you to identify the basis for your distorted thoughts.

Double standard method, according to psychiatrists can help.   An alternative to “self-talk” that is harsh and demeaning is to talk to ourselves in the same compassionate and caring way that we would talk with a friend in a similar situation. Instead of treating yourself with a different standard than what you hold everyone else to, why not use one single standard for everyone including yourself? Isn’t that more fair than using a double-standard?

Learn to undo black and white thinking. If you don't like a person, all her or his deeds won't be always bad. If you love a person, all his or her words won't be always right. Instead of thinking about a problem or predicament in an either-or polarity, thinking in shades of gray requires us to evaluate things on a scale of 0 through 100. 

You can use experimental methods like science does.  Can you test whether your irrational thoughts have any basis in fact outside of a trial? You sure can, by using the same kinds of methods that science uses in order to test a hypothesis.

Survey method is similar to the experimental method, the survey method is focused on asking others in a similar situation about their experiences to determine how irrational our thoughts might be. Using this method, a person seeks the opinions of others regarding whether their thoughts and attitudes are realistic, provided they are not biased in their analysis.

Define less -People who are more intellectual and like to argue about minutiae. What does it mean to define ourselves as “inferior,” “a loser,” “a fool,” or “abnormal” or an expert or specialist. An examination of these and other global labels may reveal that they more closely represent specific behaviors, or an identifiable behavior pattern, instead of the total person. Okay, you may be an expert because of your immense knowledge and experience in a field, but accept that you are as ignorant as others in other arenas.

Stop pointing fingers at others. In a group, several people and  in a messy atmosphere  a series of situations might contribute for a failure or success.  Analyse all of them critically and take remedial measures instead of making a single person a scapegoat.

Do cost-benefit analysis. This method for answering an irrational belief relies on motivation rather than facts to help a person undo the cognitive distortion. In this technique, it is helpful to list the advantages and disadvantages of feelings, thoughts, and behaviours. A cost-benefit analysis will help to figure out what a person is gaining from feeling bad, distorted thinking, and inappropriate behavior.

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