In the world of Cognitive Psychology, which is the specialty of my interest, there are about 15 known thinking distortions common to so many of us- myself included.
Cognitive Distortions are essentially when your structure of thinking is flawed in it’s reasoning. Cognition is how your mind processes events and interprets your reality. A distortion is when something is twisted out of becoming no longer true or accurate. So when you think cognitive distortions we’re saying potentially destructive thoughts that have twisted the way you’re seeing your present situation. We develop this way of thinking in life many times when we’re anxious and fear clouds our judgment or we’re captive to a low esteem. David Burns has popularized the labels that I’m listing that Psychology has adapted today.
So I’m going to help give you 5 mentalities that may be holding you back in hopes that we can recognize and untwist unhealthy thinking to live free and highly functioning lives!
All or Nothing Thinking
…Or polarized thinking. You place people or situations as black or white. There’s no reasoning in-between. Things are perfection or failure. It is allowing no grace and it doesn’t usually take into account a holistic view of the person or situation. This mindset of extremes is seen in a perfectionist attitude and can easily lead to anxiety and depression within yourself .
If you are a person who struggles with all or nothing thinking I suggest you take a step back and consider multiple angles before jumping to extreme conclusions about your situation, yourself or others.
Just because you made a mistake doesn’t mean your work is a failure- it just means you’re human and you can determine to make improvements the next time. Just because they didn’t answer your call doesn’t mean they don’t like you- it very well could mean they’ve been really occupied. Just because your car broke down doesn’t mean you’ll never get anywhere in life- everyone has car problems, literally, and we figure out how to keep going. I want to encourage that you practice embracing grace for yourself and others, as well as the fact that setbacks are a part of life, not the end of life.
…Taking a single event or single piece of evidence and drawing a generalized conclusion. Something bad may happen once and it’s translated as a never-ending pattern of defeat. Using words like “always”, “never” and “every” are usually a habitual mentality. “I always get things wrong”, “Every time something good happens something’s bound to go wrong”, “I can never get ahead”.
Life happens to everyone and no one is immune to hard times. It’s all a part of the process! However, when this becomes a belief system we limit who we are, what we can do and the potential our lives could have. You either carry these disappointments and let them define you or you pick yourself up and let it equip you.
…Assuming the worst possible idea. Catastrophizing is exactly what it sounds like- viewing things as far worse than they actually are and letting the imagined catastrophe become your reality. It’s failing in your mind before it even exists and always leads to a place of hopelessness.
This is a mindset ruled by fear. As those purposed by God I want to remind you that God has not given you the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7). Own this. It’s time to operate in what’s been given to you. And truth be told, fear and faith take the same amount of energy. It’s just about which mentality you’re going to feed. Most of the things we fear never happen.
You reason from how you feel. Because you feel this way, it must be true. Essentially your feelings become your source of truth and direction. “I don’t feel like doing this” – so nothing gets done. “I feel inadequate”– so you assume you’re incapable and don’t even try. “I feel like there’s no way out.”– so you focus on the problems and never muster up the energy to find a solution.
But we know that emotions are fleeting, unstable and no standard of guidance. What we feel can easily be contrary to what’s real. In fact, most of the time if we just took a moment to push past how we feel we’ll usually find a world of opportunity and progress on the other side. You’re allowed to have emotions. You’re allowed to have a moment of humanity- just don’t breakdown and set up camp there because there is so much more in store for you once you get past how you feel.
The control fallacy I want to focus on is external control or “outside-in” thinking. This type of thinking leads you to believe you are a victim of your environment and circumstances. It is the mentality that we are completely out of control and everything around us must change before we can change or move or make a difference. Not only is it paralyzing but its completely false. This absolves us of all personal responsibility and keeps us from being proactive.
However, when we focus on growing ourselves and making the most of what we can with what we have, this focuses on the things that can be done and creates progress in our lives. You take responsibility and stop blaming everything around you for your behavior. And because of that, the nature of your influence literally begins to increase, enlarging and magnifying in positive results.
If you’re caught up in any of these mentalities and need more practical advice, walk with me through 4 Steps to Untwist Insecure and Anxious Thinking in this article.
Have you found yourself struggling with any of the cognitive distortions I’ve listed above? Was this helpful? Let’s chat in the comments below!
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