Cognitive distortions send us repetitive, and incorrect, feedback. They self-perpetuate, blocking self-actualization, personal growth, and happiness. In other words, twisted thinking is often a kind of unconscious self-sabotage.
Below are three really common types of twisted thinking that get you nowhere.
Black and White/All-Or-Nothing Thinking
You are engaging in black and white or all or nothing thinking if your thoughts (or words) tend to frequently (but not always), include the terms:
Always, as in: I always fail math tests. I always overreact to problems. She always yells at me no matter what I do. People always try to hurt me. My boss is always out to get me.
Never, as in: I never get things right. Things never work out for me. They never give me a chance.
Every, as in: Every time I try, I fail. Every single day is worse than the next.
You are engaging in should thinking if your thoughts (or words) tend to reflect the belief that things should be one way or the other, and sound like this:
I should always be friendly, no matter what. I should never feel sad. I should always listen to others, even if they insult me.
You are engaging in everything’s about me thinking if your thoughts (or words) tend to reflect the (sometimes “negative”, sometimes overly “positive”) belief that things are always about you personally, and might sound like this:
I hear them fighting in the other room—it must be my fault.
Everyone’s only coming to Jen’s party because I’m going to be there.
She’s crying just to irritate me.
But I Can’t Change The Way I Think, Can I?
This is one of the false beliefs I hear all the time. Yes, you can actually change the way you think. If a 1984-style government does it, it’s called propaganda. If a cult does it, it’s called brainwashing. If they can do it, you can do it!
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Last reviewed: 18 Oct 2013