Cognitive Distortions: Checking in with our Thoughts
Let's imagine that at the start of our lives, we're placed in a car ready to go off on our life's journey (cheesy, I know). The car has got a clean windscreen to look through. Over time, we gather debris from our surroundings and all of life's different seasons (extra cheesy, I know), distorting our view of the road ahead. Unless we clear it, it accumulates and sends us off route. Now let's imagine that this windscreen is our mind and the debris is what each significant event or experience leaves behind. We all have debris.
So what are some signs that we need to clean the slate so that we can have a clearer view? Below are the most common examples of cognitive distortions:
1) All or Nothing
Expecting perfection from yourself and others and thinking in extremes
Example: 'This ALWAYS happens'
2) Jumping to Conclusions
Assuming the thoughts of others or anticipating the worst and believing it will happen.
Example: 'I just know that they are thinking this/that this will happen...'
Making sweeping generalisations based on one event
Example: 'This happened, which means that...'
4) Mental Filtering
Quite literally filtering out the positives so that all that is left is the negative
Example: 'I passed a test with 80%, but what about the other 20%?!'
5) Emotional Reasoning
Believing all thoughts and feelings to be true
Example: 'I feel it, therefore it must be true'
My next post on 'self' Cognitive Behavioural Therapy techniques will offer some ways to counter the above ways of thinking - and I say 'counter' as opposed to 'get rid of' because as we all know, ups and downs feature in all of our lives. A common theme in most of these techniques, however, is noticing where these unhelpful thoughts stem from and focussing on experiences that show you that those perceptions are often false. I think the following quote perfectly explains that we are never our limiting thoughts and beliefs and that we should always try to detach from them:
'The beginning of freedom is the realisation that you are not 'the thinker'. The moment you start watching the thinker, a higher level of consciousness becomes activated...'
Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now