Many people, including myself, at one time or another, have suffered cognitive distortions. Cognitive distortions are ways that our mind convinces us that a situation, event, or object isn’t right. These thoughts augment negative thinking or emotions- convincing us that our thoughts are real when in fact they make us feel terrible about ourselves.
When I was younger, I thought cognitive distortions helped me deal with challenging events and thoughts.
One cognitive distortion I’ve dealt with is overgeneralizing. I believed by overgeneralizing that my exes never cared about me at all, I’d be able to get over them. Instead, it made me feel terrible, and I’d go into a mad rage once I saw them with their new girlfriends.
Another cognitive distortion that I struggle with is catastrophizing. I constantly have “What if” thoughts.
What if I forget to lock the door?
Then people will steal valuable items from my home, and my parents will kill me.
What if I don’t become successful in life? Not only will my parents be unhappy, but I’ll also be unhappy as well.
What if I don’t park my car in a certain way?
Then someone is going to hit my car, and I’ll be mad, and then I’ll have to deal with the aftermath!
A third distortion I struggle with is using statements that include shoulds, musts, and oughts.
I must earn an A in this class, or I won’t be successful in my own eyes.
I should have understood how school loans and health insurance work when I was younger.
I ought to be the best dancer in class or else I’m a failure.
Cognitive distortions wreck hell in my life as well as for others. Here are methods to banish them.
- Cost-Benefit Analysis: Write down the positives and negatives of having the thought. How is the thought helping you? How is it pushing you down?
- Identifying the labels: Examining the negative labels we put on ourselves such as, “dumb,” “stupid,” and “ridiculous.” What do these names mean to us? Why do we use it towards ourselves and what exactly is it mean? Delving into these labels can help us understand what behaviors in ourselves we dislike and what we can do to change.
- Double Standard Method: Instead of the harsh, critical self-talk we do towards ourselves, how about being compassionate and understanding? Don’t worry; I struggle with self-compassion as well.
Self-distortions are little buggers that I’m learning to control. I’ve habituated myself with this way of thinking for so long that it’s exhausting to change its trajectory to a more positive one. I have to change my negative thought patterns or else I’ll lose my mind.