So not everything’s wrong! Pfiouuu, alors ça va!
Yesterday, I was eating lunch with a friend and she talked about her sister getting fired. In the middle of all the drama, my friend said something about her sister that reminded me of the concept of “overgeneralization”, one of many different cognitive distortions (ways we think wrong) most of us are subject to.
My friend said, “it’s like since my sister got fired, everything in her life is not good enough to her. EVERYTHING. From her past, to her present, to her future. It’s crazy.”
Do you sometimes do that? Or know someone who does?
Thoughts (and the way we think) greatly influence our emotions. Whether we think well or not so well affects how we interact with others and ourselves, and how we view our experiences. We all think in some of the ways described below, and that’s normal. However, it’s not great when thinking that way becomes automatic. It can make us really unhappy for no sound reason!
Here are some of the most common cognitive distortions by David Burns. Read through, see if you identify and then try to think better!
Labeling and Mislabeling
Disqualifying the Positive
Jumping to Conclusions
Magnification or Minimization
1. All-or Nothing Thinking
It’s all or nothing — pretty straight forward. Seeing things in either black or white, good or bad. There is no middle ground, something cannot be average. When your performance falls short of perfect, you see yourself as a total failure.
One negative event is a never-ending pattern of defeat. You do one thing that you consider wrong, and it means that nothing you’ve ever done has been good. You’re spiraling down. This is especially vicious if you also tend to do some All-or-Nothing Thinking.
3. Labeling and Mislabeling
This is taking Overgeneralization further. It’s not only thinking all you’ve ever done is bad, it’s labeling yourself as an “idiot”, a “failure”, “loser” and other. Mislabeling involves describing anything with language that is highly colored and emotionally loaded. You may also not only label and mislabel yourself but others too.
4. Mental Filter
Mental filtering is when one single negative detail or event affects your vision of all reality. You dwell on the negative thing and everything is darkened. Some refer to this as a drop of ink discoloring the entire beaker of water. This is a little like the above, but it affects everything that is outside of your control or doing as well. You will see everything is wrong with the world and with the people in it, because of one negative event.
5. Disqualifying The Positive
You reject the positive experiences because you feel and think they don’t matter or count as much as the negative experiences.
6. Jumping to Conclusions
You may be jumping to conclusions in two different ways: (1) by reading minds, thinking you know what others are really thinking without asking around, considering what you “know” to be reality, and (2) by anticipating things, convinced that what you can predict is already established before anything has actually happened.
7. Magnification or Minimization (the binocular trick)
You either exaggerate the importance of things (ex: someone else’s achievement), or you shrink the importance of other things (ex: you own assets).
8. Emotional Reasoning
You see things through the emotion you’re feeling, giving it a lot of importance, thinking “if I feel it, it must be true”. This is quite complex because our emotions can be triggered in so many ways, sometimes by little things that remind us of a past unpleasant event (even sometimes unconsciously so), and it may have nothing to do with the current situation.
9. Should Statements
You speak to yourself with “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts”, or “musts” and “oughts” — pressuring yourself with obligations that most often than not, are not obligations. Talking that way triggers a lot of guilt. Think about talking to anyone else that way, and you can easily imagine them getting angry, frustrated and resentful.
Taking things personally. You put yourself in the center of any negative event, feeling and thinking that you are responsible for it.
There you go. It’s already a huge improvement to identify these! Good luck!
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