• Carolyn Mayville


Updated: Mar 20, 2019

Recognize the signs and correct your thinking for happiness and success. 

Have you ever convinced yourself of something that wasn't true? Perhaps you fell victim to distorted thinking without even realizing it. 

What are cognitive distortions? 

According to Psychcentral.com, cognitive distortions are "simply ways that our mind convinces us of something that isn’t really true. These inaccurate thoughts are usually used to reinforce negative thinking or emotions — telling ourselves things that sound rational and accurate, but really only serve to keep us feeling bad about ourselves." 

The good news is that by learning how to identify the distortions in our mind, we can counter them and begin to live a happier, healthier lifestyle filled with rational, balanced thinking.  

Here is a glance at the most common types of distortions: 

1. Filtering- happens when we extract the most negative details, magnify them, and then filter out all positive aspects of a situation 

2. Polarized Thinking (otherwise known as 'Black & White Thinking)- suggests we have to be perfect or else we are failures 

3. Overgeneralization- is when a general conclusion is drawn based on a single piece of evidence, and now it is expected to happen over and over again 

4. Jumping to Conclusions- this is the self-proclaimed 'mind reader'; the one that believes they can predict a person's thoughts or behaviours ahead of time 

5. Catastrophizing- is when we believe major devastation or catastrophe will strike at any given moment  

6. Personalization- just as the name suggests, is a distortion where we take everything personally and blame ourselves for any possible adverse outcomes 

7. Control Fallacies- consist of two different but related beliefs, as some may experience the fallacy of external control- leaving the individual to feel 'victim of fate' while others may experience the fallacy of internal control- where he/she believes they are responsible for the pain and happiness of others that surround them.

8. The Fallacy of Fairness- can leave us feeling resentful, angry or hopeless when others do not act in accordance with what we know to be fair 

9. Blaming- we hold others responsible for our emotional pain- or we conversely blame ourselves for everything 

10. 'Shoulds'- this is a list of 'rules' we formulate and believe others should live by as well-  the emotional consequence of thinking this way is guilt when we don't measure up to our ideals

11. Emotional Reasoning- is when our emotions take over our rational thinking and logic 

12. The Fallacy of Change- is the most common distortion in relationships where we believe someone will change their behaviour with the right encouragement or guidance 

13. Global Labelling- is when we describe a situation with highly colourful, exaggerated, emotionally-loaded language 

14. Always Being Right- in this distortion, we put others on trial to prove our own opinions are still correct 

15. The Heavens Reward Fallacy- is perhaps the most controversial, depending on your religious beliefs- this fallacy suggests we will be rewarded for our self-sacrifice and good behaviour. 

Cognitive distortions can get carried away and negatively impact our lives if we let them. They can be brought on simply by a 'disagreement at work, an argument with a partner, or even a poor result in school or sport."
If we are not careful, "they can become repetitive and lead to lower self-esteem and a self-fulfilling prophecy in future interactions."

Your Moment of Truth: What cognitive distortions do you need to challenge today to live a better life?

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