Repatterining Thought Distortions

Ever notice how, when we over-react to something, we create our own suffering? The good news is that we can learn how to identify these fallacies in our thinking and shift them to a more mindful, truthful reality.

The following are some cognitive distortions that are at the root of anxiety based on the work of CBT pioneers Aaron Beck and David Burns:

1. ALL-OR-NOTHING THINKING: You see things in black-and-white categories. If you make a mistake, you might think that you “failed” or are a “failure.”
2. OVERGENERALIZATION: You generalize from a specific. You think in absolutes, like always and never, and see a single negative event as a never-ending pattern.
3. MENTAL FILTER: You pick out a single negative event and dwell on it, like a drop of ink that discolors a whole glass of water.
4. MAGNIFICATION or MINIMIZATION: You either blow things out of proportion or deny that something is a problem when it is. Examples: “I am the worst mother ever” or “It’s nothing—no big deal” (when it really is a big deal to you).
5. “SHOULD” STATEMENTS: You have preconceived ideas about how you and other people “should” be. Judgmental and unforgiving expectations create a lot of anxiety.
6. PERSONALIZATION: You are self-conscious and think things are about you when that is just your interpretation. When someone behaves negatively, you think that that behavior is a response to you, and then blame yourself.
7. PLAYING THE COMPARISON GAME: You compare yourself to oth- ers and feel the need to keep up with or outshine others to feel good about yourself. Example: “He is so much smarter than me; I’m stu- pid.”
8. FORTUNE TELLING: You think that you can predict the future, and you convince yourself that bad things will happen. Example: “I will always have these problems!”
9. LABELING: You label yourself or others by terms such as lazy, fat, stupid, loser, and jerk, stating them as if they were facts. A label becomes an erroneous evaluation of self-worth.

Practice:
1. Write some examples of your own anxiety-producing thoughts
in the left column.
2. In the right-hand column, identify the types of distor- tions for each thought.

Irrational Thoughts
Example: I am a loser and always will be
Cognitive Distortions
Labeling, fortune telling, all-or- nothing thinking

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