Change Your Thinking and Feel Better


Changing Your Thinking

The way we think can make us feel sad or happy relaxed or anxious. Unfortunately, we are often unaware of our thought patterns. Traditional theorists felt that much of our thinking was in our subconscious unavailable to us. Current theorists think that most thinking occurs so quickly that most of us are unaware of it. Regardless of theoretical orientation, becoming more aware of your thinking can change how you feel. So how can we that happen? David Burns published a book, Feeling Good, in 1980 that popularized cognitive therapy that focuses on changing thinking to reduce negative feeling states. He presented 10 ways of thinking that leads to negative feeling states. Becoming more aware of one's thinking can reduce those negative feelings. Below are those 10 ways.

List of Cognitive Distortions

1. All or Nothing Thinking: Seeing things in black and white. If your performance falls short of
being perfect, you see yourself as a total failure. Examples: I lost the Handover account. I’m a
failure as a salesman. I need to find someone that will do it right…do it perfectly.

2. Overgeneralization: Seeing a single event as a never-ending pattern of defeat. Examples: I lost
my parking ticket. I can’t do anything right. They (Travel agents, contractors) can’t do anything

3. Mental Filter: Picking out a single negative detail and dwelling on it so much that your vision of
all reality becomes darkened. Examples: My nose is big, I’m unattractive. That tile is set too low,
I need to retile the bathroom.

4. Disqualifying the Positive: Rejecting positive experiences by thinking they “don’t count” for
some reason or another. In this way the negative belief is maintained despite positive everyday
experiences. Examples: It doesn’t matter that I have a college degree. It doesn’t matter I
checked the basement for water earlier today…

5. Jumping to Conclusions: Making negative interpretations even though there are no definite
facts that convincingly support your conclusions. There are two subtypes.

a. Mind Reading: Arbitrarily concluding that someone is reacting negatively to you
without bothering to check it out. Examples: I know he/she does not like me. I know
she doesn’t know how to do it.

b. Fortune Telling: Anticipating that things will turn out badly or feeling convinced that
your prediction is an established fact. Examples: I’m going to fail that test. I know he’s
going to screw it up.

6. Magnification (Catastrophising) or Minimization: Exaggerating the importance of some
events, such as your goof ups or someone else’s achievement, and/or shrinking the importance of
other events, such as your desirable qualities or another’s imperfections. This is also known as a
“binocular trick.” Examples: He has such a great sense of humor. I’m so socially inept. That
budget cut is going to create a disaster. It does not matter he’s done this a hundred times. He may
screw it up this time.

7. Emotional Reasoning: Assuming your negative emotions reflect the way things really are.
Examples: I feel I’m a bad person. I am a bad person. I feel it’s dirty.

8. Should Statements: Trying to motivate yourself with “should” and “shouldn’t. Musts and ought
are also offenders. The emotional consequence is guilt. Example: I should be making more
money. When such statements are directed towards others the emotional consequence is anger,
frustration, and resentment. Example: She should be treating me better. I should be perfect.

9. Labeling and Mislabeling: Using highly colored and emotionally loaded language. This is an
extreme form or overgeneralization. Examples: I’m a loser. He’s an idiot. She’s inept.

10. Personalization: Seeing yourself as the cause of some negative external event that, in fact, you
were not primarily responsible for. Example: It’s my fault my marriage is not working. It was
too hot in the room where I gave the talk. Why didn't I call maintenance.