21 Cognitive Distortions: Negative Thinking Errors

Cognitive Distortions: Negative Thinking ErrorsExplore strategies to correct cognitive distortions, the common negative thinking errors that impact our perceptions, decisions, success and relationships.

Alright, let’s take a tour through the amusement park that is our brain.

I’ll be sharing about Cognitive Distortions – which are basically our errors in thinking that wind up creating many negative situations in our lives.

With the help of self-awareness (and a little humor) you will learn how to better navigate these Cognitive Distortions.

I’m writing this guide to Cognitive Distortion because I’m a bestselling author on anxiety and leading Behavioral Change Coach – with about 2 million books sold globally.

Plus I founded the therapist recommended self-paced online course called The Anxiety Cure.

Coming up I will be sharing a description of each Cognitive Distortion – along with pragmatic strategies to correct them.

21 Cognitive Distortions: A Guide to Negative Thinking Errors

1. Disqualifying the Positive:

This is when you dismiss a compliment like it’s an annoying fly at a picnic. “Nice job on the project,” they say. And you’re like, “Yeah, but I missed a comma on page 87.”

It’s like receiving a gift and focusing on the wrapping paper’s tear. A comically tragic way we dim our own lights, insisting on sitting in the shade when the sun is begging us to bask.

Correction: Start a “Kudos to Me” jar. Every time someone gives you a compliment or you achieve something, write it down and drop it in. Feeling down? Pull out a note and read it to help you stay positive.

2. Labeling:

Ever met someone and instantly boxed them up with a neat little label? “Here’s Debbie Downer, and oh, look, Negative Neil.” It’s like we’re trying to organize a human library by the cover, forgetting each person is a complex novel.

Correction: Play the “Find the Exception” game. Every time you label someone or yourself, challenge yourself to find three exceptions to the rule. It’s like Where’s Waldo, but for complexity in personalities.

3. Lying, Redefining, Derailing:

Lying, redefining, derailing—the holy trinity of conversational cowards. Ever met someone who can turn “I forgot to take out the trash” into “I’m recycling by allowing the garbage to gain sentience”? It’s a dazzling display of linguistic gymnastics that would score a perfect ten if the event were “Avoiding Accountability.”

Correction: Embrace the “Ouch, My Bad” moment. Acknowledge the slip-up, then move on. It’s less about perfecting the art of excuses and more about perfecting the grace of accountability.

4. Catastrophizing:

Cognitive Distortions: Negative Thinking ErrorsCatastrophizing is the mental equivalent of assuming every door creak is a monster, when it’s usually just the house settling.

Or that every time your boss says, “Can we talk?” you’re about to be escorted out with your desk contents in a box, rather than being offered a promotion or, more likely, just asked about the client reports.

Here, we transform every raindrop into a tsunami. “Spilled my coffee? This day is cursed.” It’s turning a molehill into a mountain, then climbing it in flip-flops.

Correction: Ask yourself, “What’s the worst that can actually happen?” Then, prepare a mini-action plan so you’re prepared. Then refocus your attention on something that brings joy.

5. Super-Optimism:

This is the flip side of catastrophizing, where every cloud not only has a silver lining but is also made entirely of silver. It’s a delightful delusion that turns “This ship is sinking” into “Great! Perfect time for a swim!”  Or: “Lost my job? Fantastic, I’ll start my career as a kazoo artist.” It’s optimism on steroids. And sure positivity is a virtue. But when the ship is actually going down, it might be prudent to find an actual life raft that can get you to safety.

Correction: Wear “Reality-Check Glasses.” Acknowledge the good, the bad, and the ugly. It’s okay to visit La La Land, but you don’t want to live there.

6. Jumping to Conclusions:

A mental sport where we leap over logic and land straight in conclusion, without bothering with the facts. deciding that your friend is late to dinner not because of traffic, but because they’ve been abducted by aliens or, having dinner with someone who you despise. It’s a wild ride, often ending in a face-palm.

Correction: Implement a “Fact-Check” phase before reacting. Pause, breathe, and gather evidence. It’s like being a detective in your own life, minus the trenchcoat.

7. Black and White Thinking:

Life’s rich palette boiled down to yes or no, good or bad, with no room for the shades in between. It’s where every scenario is either a disaster or a triumph, where the soufflé is either a culinary masterpiece or a dish best served to the trash.

Correction: Paint your world in shades of gray (and the rest of the rainbow). Life is rarely either/or. Embrace the messiness. It’s where the magic happens.

8. Filtering:

A spotlight that only illuminates the negative, turning a garden of successes into a single, wilting flower of failure. “Won a million dollars but paid taxes? What a loss.” It’s like wearing sunglasses at night and complaining about the dark. Or like winning an Oscar and complaining about the weight of the statuette.

Correction: For every negative thought, force yourself to find a positive one. It’s like making your brain do push-ups, but for positivity.

9. Personalizing:

Then there’s “Personalizing,” where every event in the cosmos is somehow a direct reaction to your existence. It’s raining? That’s because you forgot your umbrella. The barista messed up your order? Clearly, a vendetta against your caffeine needs. It’s a self-absorbed waltz for one, where you forget that sometimes, it’s not about you at all.

Correction: Repeat after me: “Not everything is about me.” Practice seeing situations from other perspectives. It’s like switching camera angles in a movie.

10. Minimizing:

Here, we play down our triumphs as if they’re no big deal. “Oh, this old thing?” says the minimizer about their Pulitzer. Or a promotion is just seen as luck, and a good deed is merely a duty. It’s like using a telescope backward and wondering why everything looks so distant.

Correction: Create a “Wins” log. Big or small, jot down your achievements. It’s like collecting trophies, but without the dusting. Or ask friends to point out when you’re downplaying your achievements. Sometimes, a little external perspective is the best mirror.

11. Overgeneralization:

This is a sweeping brush that paints every instance with the same gloomy hue. One setback becomes the forecast for a lifetime of rain, a single leaf dictating the health of an entire forest. “Burnt the toast? I’ll never be a chef.” It’s a surreal leap from a puddle to an ocean, ignoring the myriad of successes that counterbalance our missteps.

Correction: Look for counterexamples in your life. Found one exception? There’s your proof that not all is lost. It’s like breaking a curse with a fact.

12. Victim Stance:

negative thinkingHere, life’s a game rigged against us – where responsibility is an alien concept – and everything bad is the doing of others.

It’s a perpetual state of helplessness, a refusal to see ourselves as players on the board, capable of changing the game.

Correction: Identify what you can control and take action. It’s empowering to steer your own ship, even if it’s just adjusting the sails.

13. Magnifying:

And then there’s the “Magnifying” glass of the mind, where molehills grow to mountains and whispers become roars. It’s a world where a misspelled name on a coffee cup signals the decline of society, and a missed call is evidence of impending doom.

Correction: Scale back. Ask, “Will this matter in five years?” If not, downgrade the crisis level. It’s like turning down the volume on your panic alarm.

14. Rationalization:

Ah, “Rationalization,” the Houdini of mental gymnastics, where logic bends and twists to fit the shape of our excuses. It’s the craft of convincing ourselves that the shortcut we took was actually a scenic route for character development. Or where “eating chocolate at midnight” is a health choice because, well, it contains antioxidants.  It is where our inner lawyer takes the stage, turning “I shouldn’t have” into “I had to because…”

Correction: Challenge your justifications with brutal honesty. It’s like having a no-nonsense friend in your head, calling you out.

15. Anger:

Then there’s “Anger,” the feisty chihuahua of emotions that some mistake for a guard dog. It’s like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut – and it’s often released at the most inopportune moments. Yet, anger often parades around as if it were a noble defense.

Correction: Implement a “Cool Down” timer before responding. Take deep breaths, go for a walk, or count to ten. It’s like putting your temper in time-out.

16. Discounting the Change Agent:

Next up – there’s “Discounting the Change Agent,” where people view “self growth” with the same skepticism as a three-dollar bill. It is when the notion that someone might evolve is met with a chuckle and a pat on the back – conveniently forgetting that caterpillars can become butterflies.

Correction: Celebrate small changes in yourself and others. It’s like being a cheerleader for growth, complete with virtual high-fives.

17. Denial:

denial elephant in the room is sitting right next to youDenial is the grand illusionist, making uncomfortable truths vanish with a wave of the hand.

“Climate change? Surely, you mean the extended summer season.”

It’s when the elephant in the room is sitting right next to you, yet remains unacknowledged.

Correction: Confront the facts, even if they’re uncomfortable. It’s like pulling off a Band-Aid—better now than later.

18. Intellectualization:

Here, we turn every heartache into a case study, distancing ourselves from the sting of emotions with the armor of analysis. It’s like attending funerals with a notepad, ready to dissect the grief as though it were a frog in biology class. It’s a detached attempt to order those disorderly feelings.

Correction: Connect with your feelings before reaching for explanations. It’s like checking in with your heart before consulting your brain.

19. Dismissal:

Dismissal waves away concerns with the grace of a queen, treating real issues like they’re just flies at a picnic. It’s a highbrow way of saying, “Move along, nothing to see here.” It’s the highbrow cousin of the eye-roll.

Correction: Give every concern a “Fair Hearing” day. Even if you decide it’s unwarranted, listening is half the battle.

20. Blaming:

This is the beloved pastime of those who treat responsibility as if it were a hot potato. They toss it around so quickly you’d think it was scalding their fingers.

Correction: Adopt the “Own It” policy. If it’s your circus, those are your monkeys. Taking responsibility is the first step to solving any issue.

21. Closed-Channel:

And finally, “Closed-Channel” is the communication blockade, the Berlin Wall of open dialogue. It’s refusing to tune into any frequency that might challenge one’s cozy inner echo chamber.

Correction: Actively seek diverse opinions and listen. It’s like tuning into new radio stations; you might discover your next favorite song.

Summary: Cognitive Distortion and Negative Thinking Errors

These 21 cognitive distortion and negative thinking quirks are not just glitches in our mental software. They’re part of the human condition. Thankfully, armed with this guide, you’re now a certified brain whisperer, ready to gently nudge those mental misadventures back on track. So the next time your brain decides to throw a cognitive curveball, just remember: you’ve got this playbook. So, keep this guide handy – and share it with anybody you feel might benefit. Together, let’s turn those “Oops” moments into “Aha!” revelations.

And remember, it’s okay to ask for help. With this in mind, I encourage you to explore working with me in 1 on 1 coaching sessions to strengthen your mindset.

Get More Support to Manage Negative Thinking

Explore my bestselling and therapist recommended audio and video course: The Anxiety Cure.

Check out Karen’s Anxiety Cure online course.

Stay calm and happy – no matter how much “you gotta be freaking kidding me” life throws at you – with the research-backed relaxation tools, guided meditations, and grounding exercises in The Anxiety Cure Course.

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