by Jessica Smith, LCPC
Welcome back! In this post and the following two posts, I will be identifying, describing, and providing examples of some of the most common cognitive distortions. As you read, try to think of times you may have experienced certain feelings or behaved in certain ways based on these thought patterns!
This distortion involves focusing only on negative aspects of a situation and “filtering” out the positive aspects, which typically leads to a bleak outlook. For instance, you typically perform very well at work, but when you forget to complete one task one day, you think to yourself, “I’m such a failure.” Rather than remembering and giving credit to your strengths, you are focusing only on the one mistake.
When using “black or white” thinking, we place people or situations in “either/or” categories with no shades of gray. Most people and situations are far more complex than this type of thinking accounts for. An example might be, “My friend is so pretty, and I’m so ugly.”
When we overgeneralize, we apply one experience to all other experiences. In other words, if something we see as negative happens to us, we expect it to happen again and again across all other factors and situations. For example, prejudice is a form of overgeneralization as we may have an interaction with one person of a certain race and then predict all others of the same race will behave in that same way.
With this distortion, we assume what other people are thinking and why they are behaving the way they do. For example, your friend isn’t answering your text messages, so you think they must not want to be your friend anymore.
You’ve heard the phrase, “Making a mountain out of a molehill.” This distortion also involves a lot of “What if?” thinking. Examples may include thoughts such as, “What if it rains during my entire vacation!?” or “I messed up one brushstroke, so now my whole painting is ruined!”
So, what do you think? Can you think of some times when you may have been reacting to someone or something based on one or more of these distortions?
Please read on, in the next post I will review five more!
Up Next: Five More Common Cognitive Distortions