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How Cognitive Distortions Harm Us

Reality Isn’t What You Think It Is!

 

Black and White Thinking

Do you think in absolutes? Things are all-or-nothing. You’re the best or the worst, right or wrong, good or bad. When you say always or never, it’s a clue that you may be thinking in absolutes. This involves magnification. If one thing goes wrong, we feel defeated. Why bother? “If I can’t do my entire workout, there’s no point to exercise at all.” There’s no gray and no flexibility.

Life is not a dichotomy. There are always extenuating circumstances. Situations are unique. What applies in one instance may not be appropriate in another. An all-or-nothing attitude can cause you to overdo or miss out on opportunities to improve and gradually attain your goals––how the tortoise beat the hare. Exercising for ten minutes or only some muscle groups have big health benefits, compared to doing nothing. There are health risks to overdoing, as well. If you believe you have to do everyone’s job, work overtime, and never ask for help, you will soon been drained, resentful, and eventually, ill.

 

Projecting the Negative

Self-criticism and shame generate anticipation of failure and rejection. Perfectionists also distort reality by assuming negative events or negative outcomes are more likely to occur than positive ones. This creates tremendous anxiety about failing, making mistakes, and being judged. The future looms as a dangerous threat, rather than a safe arena to explore and enjoy our lives. We may be projecting the unsafe home environment from our childhood and living as if it were happening now. We need to recruit a loving parent within us to shine the light of consciousness on our fears and reassure ourselves that we’re no longer powerless, have choices, and that there’s nothing to fear.

 

Overgeneralizing

Overgeneralizations are opinions or statements that go beyond the truth or are broader than specific instances. We might form a belief based on little evidence or only one example. We can jump from “Mary doesn’t like me,” to “Nobody likes me,” or “I’m not likable.” When we generalize about a group of people or gender, it’s usually false. For example, to say “Men are better at math than women,” is false because many women are better at math than many men are. When we use the words, “all” or “none,” “always” or “never,” we probably are making an overgeneralization, based on black-and-white thinking. Another overgeneralization is when we project the past onto the future. “I haven’t met anyone dating online,” so, “I won’t ever,” or “You can’t meet anyone through online dating.”

Perfectionists tend to overgeneralize by making global, negative attributions about themselves and about their negative projections. When we don’t measure up to our rigid, unrealistic standards, we not only think the worst of ourselves, we expect the worst will happen. If we spill our water at a dinner party, it’s not just an embarrassing accident; we’re mortified, and certainly, we made a clumsy fool of ourselves. We go one step further with a negative, projection and overgeneralize to imagine that everyone thinks the same, won’t like us, and won’t invite us again

What do you think?

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Written by Darlene Lancer, JD, LMFT

Darlene Lancer is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and expert author on relationships and codependency. She’s counseled individuals and couples for 30 years and coaches internationally. Her books include , and other online booksellers and her website, www.whatiscodependency.com,

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