8 Mental Tricks that Keep You From Happiness: Cognitive Distortions
Living in Phoenix requires having a good pair of sunglasses.
I often forget that I’m even wearing them. Our brains adjust to the lenses that filter out the bright rays and it appears as though we are seeing things accurately.
This same phenomenon happens with our thoughts. Our brain makes leaps to fill in the gaps based on the filtered information it receives. This is great, as long as the information is accurate and favorable to our psyche. It’s not so great if your filter skews negative, causing you to assume the worst. It’s like wearing unusually dark sunglasses that obscure your vision. In psychology, we call these negative thought patterns “cognitive distortions”.
Cognitive distortions are exaggerated and unreasonable thoughts that cause us to misperceive reality, leading a person to feel bad. There are over a dozen common cognitive distortions that people tend to fall prey to. Here are a few classic examples:
magnifying the negative details from a situation while filtering out all of the positive aspects.
2) All or nothing thinking—
viewing everything as “good” or “bad” in an overly dogmatic fashion; believing that you must be perfect or a failure, allowing for no middle ground
coming to a conclusion about your capabilities based upon a single incident or piece of evidence; when something bad happens once, the expectation is that it will happen over and over again
4) Mind reading—
presuming to understand how others feel and to know why they act as they do; particularly believing that you know how others feel about you
expecting disaster from every interaction or situation
Stuck on Catastrophic Thoughts?
thinking that everything people do or say is a reaction to you; constantly comparing yourself to others in an effort to determine who is more intelligent, better looking, and so forth
holding others responsible for the pain you feel, or blaming yourself for every problem
having a list of restrictive rules about how you and others should act; becoming angered when others break these rules or feeling guilty if you violate them
Now think about your own life: What cognitive distortions tend to plague you? If a friend or family member were to describe a similar situation, would you see their situation through the same lens, or would you recognize the distortion for what it was?
It takes practice to remove the lenses. By recognizing these distortions and then challenging them, you can shift your thoughts and in-turn shift how you view yourself in the world.