Distortion Practice: 011

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 recently joined a writing contest on social media, you haven’t won but you were mentioned as one of the runners up. You put a lot of work into this and are feeling a bit disappointed with the results. You think: ‘I am a lousy writer; I didn’t win so I must be completely rubbish. Being a runner up means nothing, they probably made everyone a runner up to make people feel better. I will never become a successful writer.’

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

I am a lousy writer

You are calling yourself a lousy writer. You are labelling yourself with a negative label. You are taking this one isolated incident of not winning the contest and applied it to your whole person and gave yourself an overarching label.

I didn’t win so I must be completely rubbish

You are thinking in extremes about not winning the contest. You are all or nothing thinking. You are assuming that just because you haven’t won this one contest you must be a rubbish writer. In fact, this is just one contest, there will be others. Don’t forget that a lot of amazing writers have been left disappointed and turned down a lot before succeeding.

Being a runner up means nothing, they probably made everyone a runner up to make people feel better.

You are completely dismissing being mentioned as a runner up. You are disqualifying the positive. Being mentioned is still an amazing achievement and you cannot know that everyone got that honour. This is in fact a success even if not exactly the result that you have hoped for.

I will never become a successful writer.

You are making assumptions about the future. You are fortune telling. You don’t know what the future will bring. Being mentioned as a runner up is still good and if you continue working hard and persevering you are increasing your chances of being a successful writer.


🌇 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