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Cognitive Distortions Packet

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Cognitive Distortions
1. All or Nothing Thinking: You see things in black and white categories. If your performance isn't perfect, you see yourself as a total failure. 2. Overgeneralization: You see a single negative event as a never-ending pattern of defeat. 3. Mental Filter: You pick out a single negative detail and dwell on it so exclusively that is colors your whole vision of reality. 4. Disqualifying the Positive: You reject positive experiences by insisting they don't count. In this way you can maintain a negative belief even if it is contradicted by your everyday experiences. 5. Jumping to Conclusions: You interpret events negatively, even though there is no evidence to support your conclusion. This can be done by either of the following: A. Mind-reading: You simply assume that people are reacting negatively to you. B. Fortune-telling: You anticipate that things will turn out badly, then convince yourself the prediction is established fact. 6. Catastrophizing or Minimization: You exaggerate the importance of negative things or minimize your own positive qualities. 7. Emotional Reasoning: You assume that your emotions necessarily reflect reality ("I feel like an idiot, so I must be one") 8. "Should" Statements: You try to motivate yourself with shoulds and shouldn'ts which only leads to guilt. 9. Labeling: Instead of describing an error, you attach a global negative label to yourself ("I'm a loser"). 10.Personalization: You see yourself as the cause of some negative external event for which in fact you were not responsible.

Irrational Beliefs
1. The idea that you must have love or approval from all the people you find significant. 2. The idea that you must prove thoroughly competent, adequate, and achieving. 3. The idea that when people act obnoxiously and unfairly, you should blame and damn them, see them as bad, wicked, or rotten individuals. 4. The idea that you have to view things as awful, terrible, horrible, and catastrophic when you get seriously frustrated, treated unfairly, or rejected. 5. The idea that emotional misery comes from external pressures, and that you have little ability to control or change your feelings. 6. The idea that if something seems dangerous or fearsome, you must preoccupy yourself with anxiety and make yourself anxious about it. 7. The idea that you can more easily avoid facing many of life's difficulties and self-responsibilities than undertaking more rewarding forms of self-discipline. 8. The idea that your past remains all-important and that because something once strongly influenced your life, it has to keep determining your feelings and behavior today. 9. The idea that people and things should turn out better than they do, and that you must view it as awful and horrible if you do not find good solutions to life's grim realities. 10.The idea that you can achieve maximum human happiness by inertia and inaction, or by passively and uncommittedly "enjoying yourself".

Fixing Cognitive Distortions


Cognitive distortions have a way of playing havoc with our lives--if we let them. This kind of thinking can be undone, but it takes effort and lots of practice every day. If you want to stop the irrational thinking, you can start by trying out the exercises below. 11.Identify Our Cognitive Distortion. We need to create a list of our troublesome thoughts and examine them later for matches with a list of cognitive distortions. An examination of our cognitive distortions allows us to see which distortions we prefer. Additionally, this process will allow us to think about our problem or predicament in more natural and realistic ways. 12.Examine the Evidence. A thorough examination of an experience allows us to identify the basis for our distorted thoughts. If we are quite self-critical, then, we should identify a number of experiences and situations where we had success. 13.Double Standard Method. An alternative to "self-talk" that is harsh and demeaning is to talk to ourselves in the same compassionate and caring way that we would talk with a friend in a similar situation. 14.Thinking in Shades of Gray. Instead of thinking about our problem or predicament in an either-or polarity, evaluate things on a scale of 0-100. When a plan or goal is not fully realized, think about and evaluate the experience as a partial success, again, on a scale of 0-100. 15.Survey Method. We need to seek the opinions of others regarding whether our thoughts and attitudes are realistic. If we believe that our anxiety about an upcoming event is unwarranted, check with a few trusted friends or relatives. 16.Definitions. What does it mean to define ourselves as "inferior," "a loser," "a fool," or "abnormal." An examination of these and other global labels likely will reveal that they more closely represent specific behaviors, or an identifiable behavior pattern instead of the total person. 17.Re-attribution. Often, we automatically blame ourselves for the problems and predicaments we experience. Identify external factors and other individuals that contributed to the problem. Regardless of

the degree of responsibility we assume, our energy is best utilized in the pursuit of resolutions to problems or identifying ways to cope with predicaments. 18.Cost-Benefit Analysis. It is helpful to list the advantages and disadvantages of feelings, thoughts, or behaviors. A cost-benefit analysis will help us to ascertain what we are gaining from feeling bad, distorted thinking, and inappropriate behavior. Note: 1) clinical concept of secondary gain; and 2) refer to cost-benefit analysis. Reference: Burns, D.D. (1989). The feeling good handbook: Using the new mood therapy in everyday life. New York: William Morrow.