I have been debating whether to continue the self-care theme for A to Z or not. I mean, I want to, but right now I’m not really motivated. I have a post in my drafts folder talking about coffee instead. Then I realized that, since I am struggling quite a bit today, I could really benefit from some self-care. For my letter C post, I am focusing on cognitive distortions. These are those dysfunctional thought patterns that often stand in the way of us feeling better.
While cognitive distortions are dysfunctional and often incorrect, they do make sense to our minds. Everyone employs cognitive distortions at times. Some thought patterns that aren’t reality-based, may even be helpful. For example, most drivers think they are less likely to end up in a car crash than other drivers, even though statistically only 50% of drivers can be less likely than others to end up in a car crash. This is called unrealistic optimism.
Many cognitive distortions though can be unhelpful. Examples of such cognitive distortions include:
- Filtering: seeing the world through blue-tinted glasses. In other words, seeing the negative aspects of a situation only and overlooking the positive.
- Polarized or black-and-white thinking.
- Over-generalizing: drawing general conclusions based on limited experience.
- Jumping to conclusions: thinking that you can read other people’s minds or predict the future.
- Catastrophizing: always expecting the worst possible outcome.
- Personalization: taking things that are not even remotely related to you personally. This can mean you apply random occurrences as being specifically about you, often in a negative way.
- Fallacy of control: thinking either that everything is in your control or that nothing is. In reality, life is a complex combination of choice and circumstance.
- Fallacy of fairness: mistakenly believing that everything should be based on what’s fair. Well, life isn’t fair.
- Blaming: holding other people responsible for your feelings rather than taking ownership of them yourself.
- Emotional reasoning: seeing your feelings as facts.
- Fallacy of change: believing someone else or a situation will change if you’re patient enough. Basing your happiness on someone else’s or a situation’s changing rather than taking actions to change your own thoughts or behavior.
Now that I think of it, I can identify at least a couple of these cognitive distortions as reasons behind my recent struggling. For example, yesterday I had symptoms that signaled a UTI, but I catastrophized that I had some serious illness. This was based on the thought that I’ve had for years that, once I’d find a place to live in where I feel safe, I’d die. This is jumping to conclusions. Then I thought that, by thinking I had a serious illness, I was making it real through some kind of twisted law of attraction that I don’t even generally believe in. This is an example of the fallacy of control. In the end, I felt miserable and all because of some cognitive distortions.
Do you often find yourself employing cognitive distortions?