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Do you ever wonder why you have stress, anxiety, confusion, and worry in your life?
In this piece I’m going to share with you 5 cognitive distortions that cause us to think unclearly, create confusion, and stress us out. A majority of life’s problems come from our relationship to the way we think about the world, not actually the world itself.
#1 All or Nothing thinking.
“If you’re not first you’re last!”
This is an infamous example quoted by Ricky Bobby’s father in Talladega Nights. It’s simply not true!
You can be 2nd, 3rd,4th. Any number of positions. All or nothing thinking forces our emotions and thoughts into a box. Either we have it all and we’re a complete success or we have nothing at all and we’re a complete failure. It sets you up to be either the victor or loser. Being the victor gives you ultimate bragging rights over others but being the loser means everyone else is better then you. These are the general assumptions and thoughts of people who tend to steer towards all or nothing thinking.
In reality, you’ll gain SOMETHING from every experience you have, whether you come in 1st or not.
Don’t be so quick to judge yourself!
Overgeneralizing means we use words like, “Never” or “Always” about a single event. We say that, “I NEVER get the promotion.” Or that, “My friend ALWAYS gets the nice house and perfect life.” This simply isn’t true. Whenever you hear thoughts come up for yourself where you use this language ask yourself, “Is this really true? Do I really NEVER get the promotion?” Many of the times it’s a force of habit and we’ve conditioned our mind to say one thing over and over again without questioning it. Our thoughts and relationships to an event determine our feelings, not the event itself. OUR THOUGHTS AND RELATIONSHIPS TO AN EVENT DETERMINE OUR FEELINGS, NOT THE EVENT ITSELF. If you’re telling yourself “NEVER” or “ALWAYS” then your setting up extremes for yourself which lead to extreme emotions.
We use “should”, “need to”, “must have” and then feel guilty for when we don’t follow through.
- I should have got the painting done this weekend.
- They ought to have been more considerate of my feelings, they should know that would upset me.
Search your thoughts and see where this type of thinking comes up for you. If you spot it take note and then release the “should”, “need to”, or “must have.” Because this is guilt speaking to you. Guilt over the past is a heavy energy and will only hold you back from making even more progress moving forward. Hear what you have to hear and then move forward by releasing your “shoulds”, “need tos”, or “must haves”.
#4 Jumping To Conclusions
We jump to conclusions when we automatically assume what another person will think and say according our own thoughts. This is also called Mindreading.
- She thinks I’m exaggerating again or He still hasn’t forgiven me for telling Fred about his illness.
You’d be surprised how wrong our assumptions are. Test your assumptions and limiting beliefs by going against what you think another person will say or do. Don’t assume that they’ll act or be a certain way. Each moment is a NEW moment of creation. If you find yourself having assumptions about someone and that is keeping you from saying or doing what you know you need to do then voice that assumption to that person as well and then share with them what you feel pulled or called to share.
Another type of jumping to conclusions is called Fortune Telling. This is when we make negative predictions about the future without evidence or factual support.
- I won’t be able to sell my house and I’ll be stuck here (even though housing market is good).
- No-one will understand. I won’t be invited back again (even though they are supportive friends).
This causes us undue stress or anxiety and worry. Anytime you start to see yourself automatically assume or negatively predict or decide the outcome to an event stop and ask yourself, “Is this really true?” Is what I’m thinking likely? How likely is it? What evidence supports the likelihood of this happening?” You’ll find that most of your worst fears and worries are blown out of proportion.
#5 Emotional Reasoning
This one is easy to fall into because we get caught up in our own feelings and emotions and we swear that they’re right. We feel a certain way, have a certain thought, and then believe that thought about us or our reality/experience to be true without digging deeper.
- I feel such an idiot (it must be true). I feel guilty (I must have done something wrong).
- I feel really bad for yelling at my partner, I must be really selfish and inconsiderate.
Feelings are signposts to pay attention to something but the thoughts associated with them aren’t necessarily always true. Question the thoughts around your feelings and ask yourself, “Are these necessarily true?” Self-reflect and check-in with yourself to get to the truth of the emotion.
Recognizing the cognitive distortions that take up our time, energy, and awareness will bring you to a place of deeper trust, relaxation, and ease. Belief systems distort our experience of the world. And they show up in the form of repetitive thoughts. Pay attention to your repetitive thoughts. Questions them because they’re controlling a majority of your experience in life.
With Love and Excellence!