10 Cognitive Distortions and How To Overcome Them

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Sometimes, our powerful minds can deceive us with irrational thought patterns called cognitive distortions. These thoughts twist reality and cause unnecessary stress and unhappiness. By identifying and addressing these distortions, we can gain control of our thinking and lead more fulfilling lives. Here is a list of 10 typical cognitive distortions and how to overpower them.

All-or-Nothing Thinking

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It involves seeing things in black-and-white terms, with no middle ground. You might perceive a situation as either a total success or a complete failure, ignoring nuances and shades of gray. To combat this, practice acknowledging the spectrum of possibilities and outcomes, focusing on progress rather than perfection.

Overgeneralization

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Falling into this trap means drawing sweeping conclusions based on limited evidence. For instance, if you fail at one task, you might believe you’re destined to fail at everything. Challenge overgeneralization by seeking counterexamples and recognizing that one setback doesn’t define your abilities or potential.

Catastrophizing

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Suppose you are planning a trip to a new city and start thinking, “What if I get lost? I’ll miss vital appointments.” You’re magnifying the importance of getting lost and imagining the worst-case scenarios, which can lead to unnecessary anxiety and stress. Consider alternative outcomes and remind yourself of past successes in handling challenges.

Discounting the Positive

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Have you ever caught yourself discounting the positive? For example, instead of being proud of your accomplishment, you might think, ” It was just dumb luck” or “I’m sure someone else could have done it better.” To quench feelings of inadequacy and unworthiness, practice gratitude, keep a journal of accomplishments, and seek validation from trusted sources.

Mind Reading

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Seek clarification and feedback, recognizing that your assumptions may not reflect reality. This is a very significant way to overcome this struggle. Assuming you know what others are thinking or feeling without sufficient evidence is a classic cognitive distortion. It may result in relationship tension and misunderstandings.

Emotional Reasoning

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It involves believing that one’s emotions reflect objective reality. For example, one assumes that one must be stupid if one feels stupid. This can be fought by examining evidence impartially, questioning the validity of one’s emotions, and seeking alternative explanations for one’s feelings.

Should Statements

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What will happen if you replace ‘should statements’ with preferences and goals? You will then be able to focus on what you can control rather than dwelling on shoulds. When you constantly impose rigid rules or expectations on yourself or others, you set yourself up for disappointment and frustration.

Labeling

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This involves attaching harsh or exaggerated labels to yourself or others based on specific behaviors or actions. Recognize that everyone is capable of positive and negative behaviors and that mistakes or shortcomings do not define a person’s worth or identity. Practice self-compassion and forgiveness.

Personalization

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If a work project fails, someone prone to personalization might assume it’s because they didn’t work hard enough or made a mistake, even if other external factors played a crucial role in the outcome. You can overcome this by acknowledging the role of outside influences, such as luck, timing, or the actions of others, in shaping outcomes.

Comparisons

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Everyone has unique strengths and weaknesses. You can learn to focus on your progress and growth and cultivate self-compassion rather than envy or resentment. Achieve this by setting achievable goals for yourself and tracking your progress. Celebrate your victories and take notes from your failures. Constantly comparing yourself to others can breed feelings of inadequacy or superiority, depending on the outcome.

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