What Distorted Thinking Is and How To Stop It

Home / Emotional / What Distorted Thinking Is and How To Stop It

In the past there were few classrooms or households teaching exactly what a healthy relationship is. Parents may model valuable aspects but don’t physically sit down with their children as teachers of Relationships 101.

A healthy relationship from ‘the inside out’ identifies what communication can become.

Healthy relationships begin with an honest self assessment. It requires being prepared for a life-long journey of education. It is effortful work, time and awareness to identify then replace distorted information that the mind believes as truth.

There are many layers to replacing distorted thinking.

Author and professor Benjamin K. Bergen explains in 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. Follow these steps to slowly break down the style, focusing on one at a time:

  1. Take note of each style that resonates as a current way of communicating by writing it on a blank piece of paper.
  2. Begin to observe what triggers each style in day-to-day communication.
  3. Personally identify when a distorted thinking style presents itself by immediately calling it out by verbally recognizing it.
  4. Acknowledge it’s a learned behavior and forgive yourself because it’s a reactive coping mechanism.
  5. Replace the distorted thinking with reality.
Distorted Thinking Styles
  • Filtering – You take the negative details and magnify them while filtering out all positive aspects of a situation.
  • 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. ‘
  • Overgeneralization – You come to a general conclusion, usually based on an incident of distorted thinking.
  • 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.
  • 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?
  • 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
  • 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.
  • Fallacy of Fairness – You feel resentful because you think you know what’s fair but other people won’t agree with you.
  • Blaming – You hold other people responsible for your pain, or take the other track and blame yourself for every problem or reversal.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Global Labeling – You generalize one or two qualities into a negative global judgment
  • 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.
  • 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.

One Comment