Distorted Thinking


Have you been educated on what a healthy relationship is? My parents modeled valuable aspects but they didn’t sit me down as teachers of Relationships 101.  When I decided to research what ‘healthy from the inside out’ meant, I began to experience what healthy relating is.

Healthy begins with an honest self assessment. It requires being prepared because it is a life-long journey. I say this because it takes work, time and awareness to identify then replace distorted information that your mind believes as truth…but it can be done. There are many layers to living honestly but here I expose a near-time experience known as distorted thinking.

Author and professor Benjamin K. Bergen explains in his book Louder than Words that we simulate experiences, actions and performances in our mind through a scientifically proven process called embodied simulation. “Meaning, according to the embodied simulation hypothesis, isn’t just abstract mental symbols; it’s a creative process, in which people construct virtual experiences—embodied simulations—in their mind’s eye.” (Scientific American, 2012) Bergen identifies that we do this deep within our brain processes, during our waking and sleeping hours. Therefore, mental imagery will create an inner dialogue that may either be harmful or health-promoting.

Below are fifteen styles of distorted thinking. Each includes a question to challenge a perspective of thought. The three strategies add dimension to design present and future experiences. Grab something to take note of which distorted thinking styles may be worth your time to challenge into change for better health.

  1. Filtering – You take the negative details and magnify them while filtering out all positive aspects of a situation.
  2. Polarized Thinking – Things are black or white, good or bad. You have to be perfect or you’re a failure. There is no middle ground. ‘
  3. Overgeneralization – You come to a general conclusion, usually based on an incident of distorted thinking.
  4. Mind reading – Without their saying so, you know what people are feeling and why they act the way they do. In particular, you are able to figure out how people are feeling toward you.
  5. Catastrophizing – You expect disaster. You notice or hear about a problem and start “what if’s”: what if tragedy strikes? What if it happens to you?
  6. Personalization – Thinking that everything people do or say is some kind of reaction to you. You also compare yourself to others, trying to determine who’s smarter, better looking, etc
  7. Control Fallacies – If you feel externally controlled, you see yourself as helpless, a victim of fate. The fallacy of internal control has you responsible for the pain and happiness of everyone around you.
  8. Fallacy of Fairness – You feel resentful because you think you know what’s fair but other people won’t agree with you.
  9. Blaming – You hold other people responsible for your pain, or take the other track and blame yourself for every problem or reversal.
  10. Shoulds – You have a list of ironclad rules about how you and other people should act. People who break the rules anger you and you feel guilty if you violate the rules.
  11. Emotional Reasoning – You believe that what you feel must be true — automatically. If you feel stupid and boring, then you must be stupid or boring.
  12. Fallacy of Change – You expect that other people will change to suit you. You need to change people because your hopes for happiness seem to depend entirely on them.
  13. Global Labeling – You generalize one or two qualities into a negative global judgment
  14. Being Right – You are continually on trial to prove that your opinions and actions are correct. Being wrong is unthinkable and you will go to any length to demonstrate your rightness.
  15. Reward Fallacy – You expect all your sacrifice and self-denial to pay off, as if there were someone keeping score. You feel bitter when the reward doesn’t come.
B. Bergen, Ebodied Cognition: Our Inner Imaginings of the World Around Us Make Us Who We Are, ScientificAmerican.com,December 28.2012  
Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, 15 Styles of Distorted Thinking, Download online PDF resources at: http://dbsanorthridge.org/resources/downloads/

GIG Design | Emotional Performance

STRATEGY^context

DESIGN^that inspires | Consider your personal beliefs and customs then incorporate ways or objects to bring them to life.

STRATEGY^occupation

DESIGN^over-responsive | Consider performance factors that direct exploration to healthy responses.

STRATEGY^sense

DESIGN^touch | Consider natural environments that fosters strategies to overcome distorted thinking.


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