Distortion Practice: 010

Spot the cognitive distortions in your life


You can get better at revealing the cognitive distortions in your life with a little practice. Try identifying the distortions that are happening in this short story:


📖 Short story

You have attended a lunch gathering with friends just after returning from hairdressers with a brand-new hair style. During the lunch conversations mostly centred around one of your friend’s divorce proceedings, one of your friends mentioned that your hair looks different, but it was very brief mention. You think: ‘My hair doesn’t look good, and they just didn’t want to tell me. I shouldn’t have changed my hair. Most of them didn’t mention my hair.’

Which of the following distortions are you experiencing? You can find the answers below.


📜 Common distortions

  • 👯‍ Generalizing: Assuming that because you experienced something in the past this must mean it will happen again. “A dog bit me when I was 5, therefore all dogs are dangerous and will bite me.”

  • ☄️  Catastrophizing: Are you focused on the worst case scenario? Regardless of how likely it is.

  • 🧠  Mind reading: Assuming what others think. They probably think I'm an idiot.”

  • ✨ Should statements: Pressuring yourself with things you should have done differently. I should have eaten healthier today."

  • 🌓  All or nothing thinking: Thinking in extremes. You are either a success or a failure. "She doesn't want to date me. I'll never find love.”

  • 🕹️  Out of your control: Are you worrying about something out of your control?

  • 🔮  Fortune telling: Assuming future events. “I just know that something is going to go wrong and I'm going to be late for my interview.”

  • 🚫  Disqualifying the positive: Focusing only on the bad. He said that I looked nice but he says that to everybody. He was just being polite."

  • 🏷️ Labeling: Taking one characteristic of a person and applying it to the whole person. “I failed a test, so I'm a bad student.”

  • 🔎 Magnifying the negative: Judging a situation entirely on the negative parts and not considering the positive parts. “I ate healthy this week, but I skipped the run I had planned.”

  • 🎭 Emotional Reasoning – Assuming that just because it feels bad, it must be bad. Forgetting that our feelings are just a reaction to our thoughts. “I feel anxious so it must be scary!”


💡 Answers

My hair doesn’t look good, and they just don’t want to tell me.

You cannot know what others are thinking, our thoughts are always private, and we can never tell what someone else has on their mind. You are mind-reading.

I shouldn’t have changed my hair.

You are pressuring yourself about your hair change choice, because you are assuming that your friends did not like it. You are using should statements. Whether they do like it or not, who is to decide what you should or shouldn’t be doing to your appearance. There are as many tastes as there are people, therefore you will never be able to please everyone. This is your hair and what is most important is that you like it!

Most of them didn’t mention my hair.

You are focusing on everyone who hasn’t noticed your hair change. You are magnifying the negative. In fact, despite the group's huge focus on your friend’s divorce, someone has still managed to notice your hair.


🌇 Conclusion:

Everyone has cognitive distortions sometimes. But we can prevent them from taking over our lives with a little practice everyday.

Here’s another powerful tool for defeating cognitive distortions: Triple column technique.


📚 Read more


📱 Practice more

Download Bold CBT. It’s an iOS app that I made which makes it easier to do CBT exercises like this one.


🙏 Thank you

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A guest post by
CBT Therapist, BABCP, http://www.fenixcbt.com/ , fenixcbt@gmail.com