Monday, June 7, 2010


Many people go through life thinking in ways that affect their moods negatively which in turn affects their behavior and actions.  If these thoughts are distorted and unrealistic, they are called thinking errors.  Depression and anxiety can result.  One of the main goals of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is to correct these thinking errors which will result in you "feeling better" automatically.

Imagine walking down the hall at the office.  You pass a supervisor who looks straight ahead and does not acknowledge you.  You could think, "Oh my gosh I must have done something wrong. Am I going to get fired?  I must not be doing a very good job."  If you continue thinking this way, the remainder of your day would not be good, you might be preoccupied, thinking the worst, feeling insecure and going over your past performance looking for every mistake and maybe even fearing being fired. Depression and anxiety would certainly follow. As part of the solution, we need to discuss the many thinking errors that are at work here:  Jumping to Conclusions, Mind Reading, Fortune Telling and Mental Filtering. 

     When these thoughts are replaced with something more realistic or positive self talk, the impact is immediately lessened and you are able to go on and function confidently--simply feeling better.

The following is a list of some of the more common thinking errors that were developed and identified by the experts at the Beck Institure for Cognitive Therapy :

  • All or Nothing Thinking:  You see things in black and white categories.  If your performance falls short of perfect, you see yourself as a total failure. 
  • Overgeneralization:  You see a single negative event as a never ending pattern of defeat. You use words like always, all the time, never when describing your and others' behavior.
  • Mental Filter:  You pick out a single negative detail and dwell on it exclusively so that your vision of all reality becomes darkened like the drop of ink that discolors the entire beaker of water.
  • Disqualifying the Positive:  You reject experiences by insisting they "don't count" for some reason or other.  In this way you can maintain a negative belief that is contradicted by your everyday experiences.
  • Jumping to Conclusions:  You make a negative interpretation even though there are no definite facts that convincingly support your conclusion.
  • Mind Reading:  You artbitrarily conclude that someone is reacting negatively to you and you don't bother to check this out.
  • Fortune Telling: You anticipate that things will turn out badly and you feel convinced that your prediction is an already established fact.
Do any of these ring a familiar bell?  This week, try to catch yourself in your thinking errors and identify them. Next time we'll go over five additional thinking errors.  When you begin identifying the thinking errors that play a part in your negative moods, this is the first step in challenging and correcting them.    Try keeping a list--it will surprise you how these cognitive distortions creep into our lives.

1 comment:

  1. I think you ready my mind Laura, I was going through this yesterday and today woke up hoping to be more positive and not a Debbie Downer. It rang a major familiar bell and I so appreciate the help you give! I am going to make today much more realistic and positive and look forward to more tips.