I think a character on SNL coined the term “Stinkin’ Thinkin” and I took it up as a motto of the negative chatter that likes to buzz inside my head. It’s the kind of thinking that is circular. I also call it ruminating. An idea (most times incorrect) will get stuck in my head. Learning to ignore that Stinkin’ Thinkin’ and replace it with positive thoughts has made a world of difference in how I view myself and others. Part of what I use on Stinkin’ Thinkin’ is called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). I’ve learned how to spot when my thoughts are distorted…presenting a picture that isn’t altogether accurate.
There are a variety of common thought distortions. Let’s take a rundown of the top fifteen.
- over-generalizing; the tendency to view situations as all or nothing. “Since my hair looks like crap, my whole day will be bad.”
- mind-reading; we get the strange idea that we know what other people are thinking. “Teri is wearing purple…she must be mad at me.”
- catastrophizing; thinking of the worse possible outcome. “If I don’t wear the right outfit, my boss will think I’m incompetent and fire me.”
- fortune-telling; we are sure we know what’s going to happen. “If Craig doesn’t talk to me today, that means he doesn’t like me anymore.”
- filtering; magnifying negative details while filtering out positive details. “Yeah, I closed three accounts, but not all four.”
- Black and white thinking; either/or thinking with no shades of gray. “I’ll either love or hate going to this party.”
- overgeneralization; conclude something based on a single event or single piece of evidence. “She had diamond earrings, she must be rich.”
- jumping to conclusions; not relying on facts, but making decisions based on bad information. “Lisa didn’t say ‘Hi’ to me this morning. She doesn’t like me anymore.”
- Personalization; when a person believes that everything is about them. “Sarah looked sad. It must be because I didn’t call her.”
- control fallacies; seeing yourself as a victim of fate. “There’s nothing I can do about feeling anxious. That’s just the way I am.”
- the fallacy of fairness; the belief that everything should be fair. “I worked hard. I should get some extra time off.”
- shoulds; we tend to have a list of rules about how others and we should behave. “I should listen to my sister’s complaining. She has a hard life.”
- emotional reasoning; we believe that what we feel must be true. “I’m thinking it, so it must be right.”
- the fallacy of change; we need to be able to change people because our happiness depends on them. “I need Nancy to hang out with me at the dinner or I won’t be happy.”
- global labeling; generalizing one or two qualities into a negative global judgment. “Sometimes I’m late, so I’m unreliable.”
Recognizing these thought distortions in your own thinking can help you develop a more positive mindset.
And a positive mindset leads to healthier thinking overall. Try to look for these characteristics and correct your own thinking.
What cognitive distortions trip you up? Tell me about it in the Comment section.
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SOURCE: “15 Common Cognitive Distortions”. http://www.psychcentral.com/lib/15-common-distortions