Distorted Thinking

Distorted thinking is also known as cognitive distortions. Recognizing a biased or misrepresented way of reasoning allows you to change it. When our mind distorts a situation it can make it harder to overcome or find a solution. Irrational thoughts affect our emotions. All of us experience distorted thinking sometimes. When it is dramatically unreasonable, it can be harmful and hurtful. Low Self-Esteem and depression are common results of such thinking.

disturbed elderly man


Examples to Take Note of:

All-or-Nothing – thinking in absolutes blocks the middle ground. Decrease your use of “never”, “always”, or “every” – these absolutes are false.

Mind Reading – Assuming what someone else thinks is dangerous without any proof. We can’t know with certainty what someone else is thinking. We must ask.

Magical Thinking – Sort of believing in magic or fairy tales to change a situation. Our thoughts or actions cannot affect unrelated circumstances. Safety, illness, disease are real things which may require real help to manage.

Jumping to Conclusions – Reaching a conclusion with little information or evidence is dangerous indeed.  Better to stick with facts.

Personalization – No, we are not responsible for things happening outside of our control. Therefore, we cannot take responsibility for them. We aren’t always as powerful as we may think.

Magnification and Minimization – This is when we exaggerate or minimize things. This is when people discount their own talents or attach greater importance to others.

Have You Ever Done This?

Overgeneralization – A poor decision, a single event or a few miscues doesn’t mean broader interpretations apply. “Never” and “Always” are likely not accurate.

Catastrophizing – Such a destructive distortion because things are rarely as bad as imagined or without other possible outcomes.

Disqualifying the Positive – the damaging opposite of accentuating the positive. When upset, it is helpful to recognize some positive aspects of the situation, even if it as a learning experience.

“Should” Statements – These are particularly unhelpful as they are in retrospect. Should have, but didn’t is berating yourself. Reframe it as “Would” do it differently, next time.

Practice makes Change

Distorted thinking is just some of the ways we trap ourselves in negative thought patterns.  It causes us to discount facts and circumstances of singular events. By identifying common distortions we become more aware of them and make necessary corrections. People and situations change. Some cognitive distortions are deeply embedded in our thinking. They can be instilled in us as young children. Parents, teachers, coaches can plant faulty ways of thinking which we carry into adulthood. Thoughts and feelings are different things. By changing how we think about things, our feelings change too.  Some consequences are a direct result of our actions but others are not.  Life is more complicated than that. Oft times we can relabel things solve problems and improve situations. Because life goes on and the sun rises daily, we get other chances and opportunities.