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Common Cognitive Distortions (2 of 2)

In this second installment on common cognitive distortions we will briefly examine 6 more distortions that we should be aware of if we want to increase effective communication. While we are all guilty of these things from time to time, a consistency in allowing these distortions to play on our thoughts and communication will result in miscommunication and inherently drain and strain on relationships.

1. Mind-Reading: Making negative assumptions about how people see you without evidence or factual support.

Your friend is preoccupied and you don't bother to find out why. You're thinking:

  • She thinks I'm exaggerating again or • He still hasn't forgiven me for telling Fred about his illness.

2. Fortune Telling: Making 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 the housing market is good).

  • No-one will understand. I won't be invited back again (even though they are supportive friends).

3. Discounting the Positive: Not acknowledging the positive. Saying anyone could have done it or insisting that your positive actions, qualities or achievements don't count…

  • That doesn't count, anyone could have done it.

  • I've only cut back from smoking 40 cigarettes a day to 10. It doesn't count because I've not fully given up yet.

4. Blame & Personalization: Blaming yourself when you weren't entirely responsible or blaming other people and denying your role in the situation

  • If only I was younger, I would have got the job

  • If only I hadn't said that, they wouldn't have…

  • If only she hadn't yelled at me, I wouldn't have been angry and wouldn't have had that car accident.

5. Emotional Reasoning: I feel, therefore I am. Assuming that a feeling is true - without digging deeper to see if this is accurate.

  • 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.

6. Mental Filter: Allowing (dwelling on) one negative detail or fact to spoil our enjoyment, happiness, hope etc

  • You have a great evening and dinner at a restaurant with friends, but your chicken was undercooked and that spoiled the whole evening.

As you consider this list, do any of these standout to you? As in the last article consider the following exercise with these distortions in consideration. One step you can take to better your communication is to take an evaluation of these distortions. Consider each one and rate them on a scale of 1 to 5, 1 being you don't believe you engage in that distortion at all or hardly ever and 5 being it is a major feature in communication. Any that you rate as a 3 or higher, try to increase your awareness of when these distortions creep in and counter them with the truth.

To take the exercise to a more formal step and find better results, try to start a thought journal. When you see yourself making such distorted thinking write it down. Think about why it is distorted and write down the truth. Match this process with prayer and seeking God's help in overcoming these false thought patterns.

If you didn't read the previous article make sure you gibe it a read. Examining the distortions in our thinking and communication can help us to better communicate with other, but also better communicate with ourselves.

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