COGNITIVE DISTORTIONS

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COGNITIVE DISTORTIONS

Topic |  
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psyche-thumbLast week we talked about perceptions and how it becomes the lens by which we see and interpret the world and all our experiences. This interpretation leads us to think and behave in certain ways until it becomes a habit and a way of life.

If our perceptions are positive, it’s not much of a problem. Because such a “rose-colored” view of the world will permit us to process our experiences in a constructive and productive way. It will be natural for us to see the glass half-full rather than half-empty, so to speak.

But if our perception of the world is distorted, narrow, and ugly, then we expect that our life experiences will also be filled with negativities. And when this pattern continues, it will become second nature to us and can lead us to a miserable life.

How can our perceptions be distorted? In psychology, we call these cognitive distortions. Loosely speaking, these are 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.

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One is Filtering. Are you the kind of person who magnify the negative details and filter out all the positive aspects of a situation? I have a colleague who always picks out a single, unpleasant detail especially during meetings and dwell on it exclusively and consistently which makes her vision of reality darkened and distorted.

Another is Black and White thinking. Have you met people who categorizes the world as perfect or failure, good or bad, pretty or ugly, and so on? To them there are no middle grounds or gray areas allowing for the complexity of most people or situations. Hence, if their performance falls short of perfect, they will see it as a total failure.

There are also people who come to a general conclusion based on a single incident or a single piece of evidence. We call this thinking Overgeneralization. Many of my clients hold this thinking, that because something unpleasant happens, it will keep on coming and repeat itself over again, in a never-ending pattern of failure or pain.

Other people also blow out of proportion some events or experiences even if they appear to be insignificant. This is Catastrophizing. They usually ask “what if” questions. What if tragedy strikes? What if it happens to me? And they continue to magnify the tiny or inappropriately shrink the magnitude of significant events.

Do you also engage with a person who are extra sensitive, or blames herself, and believes that everything others do or say is some kind of direct, personal reaction to her? This thinking is Personalization. These people also tend to compare themselves with others trying to determine who smarter, better looking, etc.

There are several other thinking distortions that, as I have said, appear to be rational or logical at the surface, but are actually just reinforcing the deeply entrenched beliefs of the person and the negative emotions they bring. But we will talk more about them next week.

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For now, let us look into our very own thinking processes and discover if we have these thinking patterns in excess. These cognitive distortions affect our perceptions, our decisions and feelings, and our way of life. We don’t want our freedom and happiness to be held by them.

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For consultations, you can email me at kitbalane@boholchild.com. Send your kids also to Bohol Child Head Start. Find us on Facebook or you may contact 416-1248/09295571136. (By Kit Nemenzo Balane)

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