More Free Therapy – Anxiety Part 2. Cognitive Distortions

My last post was all about anxiety. The central idea was that anxiety is a bad mental habit. I have to wonder how that has gone over with the reader. I chat with other writer folks from time to time on the blogger machine of the internets, but I get very little feed back from my target audience. Statistically speaking, the amount of views was considerably more than any other post I have ever had. Maybe a butt-load of people think I’m on to something. Maybe a butt-load of people think I’m a maroon. I choose to believe the first one. I imagine tons of people really re-thinking their relationship with anxiety. With a cup of hot chocolate and a cozy afghan, they sit in a warm bubble bath and reflect on the changes they have made. As they toast marshmallows in the fire, I imagine little thought bubbles above their heads where they picture me receiving an honor for my brilliance. Just go with me on the afghan/bath/fire thing, I was on a roll.

I left off my last post with a joke about CD’s. I clarified that I didn’t mean cross dressers, but rather cognitive distortions, or “stinkin’ thinkin’. I tried to lift up anxiety’s skirt so we would get a clear picture of what we are dealing with.

Bad taste?  Too irreverent?  I’m sorry, there was the CD joke and I’m about 7 years old mentally and I almost can’t help myself. If you’re a cross dresser, I apologize if I have offended you. I’ll do better.

Anyhoo… I am going to present cognitive distortions. You are going to be amazed.

We all rely on self-talk to get us through the day. It dialogs with us about what we might have for lunch, for example. It can encourage us to walk across the room to talk to a stranger. It can discourage us from walking across the room to talk to a stranger. Sometimes it can keep a blog writer from using a joke about mulling over the risks of an attempted fart on a plastic chair to illustrate a point. Sometimes…

For those folks who skew a tad (or a lot) to the negative, self talk can be a problem. It is guided by our core beliefs about ourselves. Core beliefs are just that; beliefs. They aren’t called core facts, after all. Whatever junk we might have accumulated can flavor our core beliefs in a profound way.

Cognitive distortions are our minds convincing us of things that aren’t true in order to reinforce our negative core beliefs. They are tricks. They are like in Ninja movies, when the ninja’s suit has contrasting piping down the side like a track suit. That’s Hollywood BS, it isn’t legit. The point of a ninja suit in anonymity and stealth, a sliver stripe is all for show. It’s insulting. Don’t even get me started on how they would NEVER travel in packs like they do in movies. I’m digressing. Ninja movie ninja suits and CD’s are similar – the may seem rational and on point; they’re not.

Negative thinking and certain CD’s are fundamental building blocks of anxiety. I have included a comprehensive list of CD’s, just ‘cause. I will let you figure out which ones are more specific to anxiety.

You might read the following list, identify some of the CD’s and think, holy smokes, that’s me! Great if you do. Next time I will talk about challenging this thinking, so stay tuned. As is common in such things, people that are the most severely entrenched in a certain behavior, are the least likely to recognize it.  If you read this list and think, I don’t have any of these issues, you might be one of these people. It is certainly possible that you don’t. If one or more of them was particularly irritating for you to read, or you had a, that’s just stupid, kind of reaction, maybe you should ask a trusted friend what they think. Those might be some issues that you are unaware need work.

Here is a List of Cognitive Distortions

1. Filtering.

  • We tend to blow up negative details and filter out positive ones

2. Polarized or Black and White Thinking

  • Things are black and white/either or – no grey area allowed
  • All or nothing thinking
    • if I, you, or a situation is not all good, they are all bad

3. Overgeneralization.

  • Sweeping negative conclusions about life based on singular events
    • I got shot down by a girl once, no girl will ever go out with me; I am unlovable.

4. Jumping to Conclusions.

  • Any given scenario is already figured out so we make a negative mental leap to what we already expect to happen
  • The imagined negative outcome feels like a predetermined fact
  • We create self-fulfilling prophecies to validate our predictions

5. Catastrophizing.

  • Always waiting for the hammer to fall
  • Disaster is imminent
  • What if questions happen here
    • What if this blemish is an exotic, fast moving cancer…
    • What if space debris falls through my roof and crushes my feet
    • What if I’m wrong, what if I fail, what if…

6. Personalization.

  • You Deserve the blame for all negative occurrences even when not involved
  • We find ourselves apologizing all the time
    • I am so sorry that there is a short and curly in your salad; I should have never recommended lunch at some place as obscure as Chili’s! It is all my fault!

7. Control Fallacies.

  • Control comes from outside of us, we see ourselves as helpless a victim of fate.
    • I would move forward in life if the universe wasn’t out to get me!

8. Fallacy of Fairness.

  • We have yet to come to terms with the fact that life is impartial. It isn’t for us or against us.
  • Fairness really equates to the overriding idea that things should always favor us individually
    • Life isn’t fair, I don’t always get my way, why try? Wahhhhhh!

9. Blaming.

  • We assign our individual control to external sources
  • Someone else is the reason things aren’t working out

10. Shoulds.

  • Concrete rules and expectations of how we should be
  • Concrete rules and expectations of how others should be
  • When the (often irrational) shoulds aren’t lived up to, there is anger and resentment

11. Emotional Reasoning.

  • We buy into negative ideas about ourselves based on emotion
  • We assume that what we feel must be what we are
    • I feel lousy, I feel ugly, I feel like a loser, therefore, I am lousy, I am ugly and I am a loser.

12. Fallacy of Change.

  • People should change to better suit our needs
  • The world should change to better suit our needs.
  • As soon as people and the world change to meet my needs, everything will be great and I will be happy.

13. Global Labeling.

  • We take a specific negative trait or event and apply it universally to ourselves, others, situations and inanimate objects. I stubbed my toe on the dresser… even furniture is out to get me.

14. Always Being Right.

  • Being wrong is bad
  • We must be right at any cost
  • We are prone to think: why am I the Ahole here, I’m RIGHT!

15. Heaven’s Reward Fallacy.

  • We expect that every detail of our life is being monitored and that any second now we will be rewarded for all we do. Let that sh#* go, no one is watching.
  • Massive resentment while we wait to be recognized


Go get after getting your s#*t together, I love you!


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