Last time we talked about thinking errors and went over five of the most common. Were you able to catch yourself in these thinking errors? When keeping track, it can be surprising to note how often we fall into these negative traps. Last week, one of my clients who is going through a lonely and difficult time at the moment, reported seeing an old boyfriend with his girlfriend after having not seen him for some time. As they exchanged a few social pleasantries for a few minutes, she stated that her thoughts went something like this: "He looks so happy. I'll never be happy like him. He moved on to better and more exciting things--his life sounds exciting and successful. Look at her, why do other girls have all the luck and I'm not even dating. I should have a new boyfriend by now. No wonder we broke up, why would he want to be with someone like me." With thoughts like these, no wonder she spent the rest of the day in a depressed mood.
Can you identify some of her thinking errors from the list that we started last week? Following are five more (again, developed by the experts at The Beck Institute of Cognitive Therapy):
6. Magnification (Catastrophizing) or Minimizing: You exaggerate the importance of things (such as your goof-up or someone else's achievement, or you inappropriately shrink things until they appear tiny (your own desirable qualities or the other person's imperfections). This is also called the "binocular trick".
7. Emotional Reasoning: You assume that your negative emotions necessarily reflect the way things really are: "I feel it, therefore it must be true."
8. Should statements: You try to motivate yourself with shoulds and shouldn'ts as if you had to be whipped and punished before you could be expected to do anything. Musts and oughts are also offenders. The emotional consequences are guilt and lack of motivation. When you direct should statements toward others, you feel anger, frustration and resentment.
9. Label and Mislabeling: This is an extreme form of over generalization. Instead of describing your error, you attach a negative lable to yourself: "I'm a loser". Mislabeling involves describing an event with language that is highly colored and emotionally loaded.
10. Personalization: You see yourself as the cause of some negative external event which in fact you were not primarily responsible for.
What thinking errors did you come up using the example above? Now that you're getting good at identifying these pesky little thoughts, let's figure out how to combat them. Remember, unless our negative thoughts are substituted with those that are more positive and realistic, we will continue to feel bad, which, in turn affects our behavior and our actions.
Next time, we'll discuss how to challenge these thinking errors.
Until then, as always I welcome your thoughts...