ore than three decades ago, psychologist Aaron Beck and his student David Burns explored the idea of the cognitive distortion, or an assumption the mind makes that isn’t objectively true. Even though they are inaccurate, they sound rational, and so they trap us in a cycle of negative thinking and behavior. In alphabetical order, here are the most common cognitive distortions. Do you recognize any of them?
Black and White Thinking
We tend to place people and situations in either/or categories. Either something or someone is all good or all bad. Shades of gray don’t exist, leading us to view ourselves and others as failures if we aren’t 100 percent perfect in every way.
As victims of blaming, we either constantly chastise ourselves for things that are not our fault, or we transfer all responsibility to other people without objectively considering our own role in the situation.
No matter how many times life hands us lemonade, we expect lemons. Misfortune is likely in every situation and there’s little we can do about it. When we hear about something bad happening to another person, we feel certain that the same thing will happen to us.
We assume that, with enough effort, we have the power to transform others, and we believe that we can’t be happy unless other people change to suit our needs.
We may be either internally or externally controlled – and they’re both bad. Too much internal control means that we take responsibility for the pain and happiness of the people in our lives. Too much external control means that everything that happens is the result of fate and we bear no personal responsibility.
When we feel an emotion about something, we assume that something must be true. We believe our feelings are a completely accurate portrayal of reality, which is of course not the case.
We have an implicit belief that every situation must be fair and are constantly examining whether we are being dealt with in a just manner. Because other people won’t always agree with us about what is fair, and because sometimes the universe works in mysterious ways, we end up feeling cheated and resentful.
For the rest of the dysfunctional attitudes, head over to the full post at Intuit's Fast Track blog.