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Cognitive Distortions: Examples and Tactics
Cognitive Distortions: Examples and Tactics
Family Marriage Couple Counselor  
Prof. Dr. Ekrem Çulfa
Cognitive distortions are your brain's making connections that don't reflect reality.
You have a thought, but that thought is not compatible with reality. As a result, it causes negative feelings. In this article, I will talk about the names of common cognitive distortions and what they mean. Finally, there are many tactics you can do with cognitive distortions. Please read it with interest and curiosity until the end and try to understand.
Another definition we can give to cognitive distortions is irrational thinking. For example, "I haven't even seen a unicorn in my life!" It is like thinking and crying. The disappointment will continue as long as one expects to see a unicorn, because this thought does not reflect reality, there is no such thing as a unicorn, it cannot see. While this situation is very simple in this example, our brain presents cognitive distortions as if it were so normal that we immediately believe it. And again, this thought that is not compatible with reality can cause negative feelings.

Cognitive distortions have become widespread with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).
Learning about cognitive distortions is important because how we interpret events, that is, how we think, determines the effect events have on us.
It is upsetting not the events, but the thoughts that you have distorted cognitively that upset you.
You may be objecting to this idea, but I want to consider it this way. First of all, it does not mean that we should not be saddened by any event where thoughts, not events, upset us. It's normal to feel sad when you lose someone you love. When you are fired, divorced, when something you have been waiting for has not come true, it is normal to feel upset. This doesn't mean change your thoughts and don't worry. But let's take a person with Alzheimer's, he is told that his wife has passed away, but he is not observed to be upset. As you know, Alzheimer's patients begin to have problems in their perception and memory, and when someone with severe Alzheimer's is told "your spouse is dead", they may not perceive them. In this case, the situation is the same, the death of his wife, but the lack of perception in the meantime prevents the emotion from coming. This is an indication that how we perceive events determine our emotions, not events. While it is normal to feel happiness in matters such as sadness, birth, and gain in situations such as loss, separation, sometimes our perceptions make what is in the outside world hit us, and this time we get into feelings incompatible with the actual events.
This is where the cognitive distortions are also.
You are seeing it in the black or white categories, you have completely lost the gray area. If the situation is not going exactly as you expected or planned, then it was messed up, everything was garbage. The most well-known example is that a dieting person eats one of the "banned" foods, "the diet went today! broke it again! ” that he thinks. (“If today the diet is broken, then I'll eat whatever I want, I'll start again tomorrow” is another cognitive distortion.) When he sees that someone waiting for 90+ grades gets 87 from the exam, he says “I can't, I'm stupid!” is also an example of black and white thinking. He believes that he is either successful or unsuccessful, and that he crosses this line from a grade of exactly 90 and he does not recognize the gray area.

It is the behavior of taking a single event and spreading it all over the future, just like copy and paste on a computer or phone, in over-generalizing words like "Always" or "Never". “I will never be happy again. Everyone will leave me. It's impossible for me to have a happy home! ” his thinking is an example to this. It is called taking an unhappy event and evaluating it as if the existence of that event makes all future events certain. Words to watch out for 🚨: always, never (never), always, never.

This is similar to overgeneralization but different. While overgeneralization takes an event and creates prediction for the future, the binocular gaze is the distortion of the perception about the event itself. The binoculars you hold normally magnify nearby things, right? A binocular you hold upside down also makes things farther smaller. This is the binocular look, magnifying one of your mistakes, flaws, and problems is the first. “My credit card was declined, this is the first time I have experienced something like this in my life! I was so offended that it was one of the worst things that happened to me, I will never go to the same shop again, I can't show them my face! ” We also know this as "making fleas a camel". Another is to diminish your abilities, achievements, and good aspects. “Yes, I was invited to the conference with a scholarship, they said they liked my presentation, but they say the same thing to half of those who came anyway. I think I have an ordinary presentation, there is nothing admirable about it, enough to give a scholarship. " In short, magnifying the bad things about you and making the good things smaller is called binocular view.

We can also consider this as a type of binocular gaze. It is to think and believe the worst thing that can happen. It is a cognitive distortion that can be seen frequently in anxiety disorders. For example, when asked why someone who does not know how to drive and does not want to learn, "Because I can have an accident while behind the wheel, I can kill someone, I can have a guilty conscience in prison for the rest of my life." as he said. Or it is the thoughts in the mind of a mother who told her child to come home at 23:00, causing excessive anxiety at 23:10 "She had to come home at 23:30, she will never be late. Something happened to him for sure. I wonder if the moon was an accident, or someone kidnapped him, will they do something bad !! ” This can also be in the form of mental images, ie images. It is the state of playing the worst scenario that can happen to you in your mind like playing a video.

It is that your mind acts like a semi-permeable membrane. It is to accept everything that may be bad about an event and to either ignore the good things, or to turn them into bad and accept them as such. Imagine you are hosting your mother-in-law for dinner, you remember the evening after they are gone, and you have these thoughts: “He has never eaten stuffed dolmas, he just tasted one. He certainly did not like it. He already bought two forks from dessert, and I couldn't like it either. He asked where the recipe for the soup was from, as if I didn't know how to make it myself. He didn't even speak to me properly, always my grandson, my grandson. He still treats me like a stranger, he doesn't like me! ” It may be true that he does not like stuffed here, maybe it is not suitable for his taste. The only reason he didn't like the dessert is not that he didn't like it, maybe he was too full, maybe he ate dessert during the day, maybe he eats the dessert in smaller portions now, in short, that dessert specification might not be a decision. He may have asked for the recipe because he liked the soup, but the mental filter also turns this positive into negative. Likewise, taking care of his grandson is a completely normal situation, while the mental filter turns it into a negative experience and defines it as "he still doesn't like me". In short, it is the passage of negative events and the transformation of positive events into negative.

Let's say the mental filter failed to turn the positive into negative, there is another cognitive distortion that will still take care of the positive 🥋: don't ignore the positive. It is meant to ignore positive events by saying "But that doesn't count." A one-time chance is to act as if positive things never happened, either through events that happen outside of your control (external locus of control), or interpreting them as something anyone can do (binocular gaze). This is a cognitive distortion that feeds feelings of inadequacy and hopelessness. For example, someone said, "You look beautiful, I love your dress!" When he says, "He says so just to be useful, he does not like the fln, I am ugly anyway." Or "This painting is very beautiful, good health, do you think to sell what you are doing?" when someone says “Sell? I went to a little course, anyone who attends the course can do the same. " or after a successful big sale from a salesperson, “Luckily, they have gotten to buy. I didn't do anything, everyone could sell the same ”. that he thinks.

Although there is no proper evidence or data in the environment, it is a negative decision immediately. It has two forms: Mind reading and Fortune telling.
Mind-reading: It is to jump to the conclusion that he / she behaves / thinks negatively towards the other person despite the lack of any reaction or information. "He sure thinks 'how much weight he gained'." "He must be thinking I'm a fool because I forgot to bring the form."
Fortune telling: Making firm judgments about the future. "The exam will be a mess, I will sink!" "If I try to talk to him about it, he won't listen to me, I'll be left with boredom in vain!"
Both are ways of pretending to have information (what will happen in the future, what others think) that are not in the person himself.

It is the state of taking emotions as explanations of situations. In other words, feeling bad is a sign that something bad will happen. For example, “I am extremely afraid of getting on the plane. Planes are very dangerous and we could crash and die. " But fear is not actually expressing an existing danger, fear is the result of preconceived beliefs. Regardless of what the data is, it is to base judgment only on feelings. "I know my husband is up to something, I'm very jealous!"

Making judgments about how behaviors, events, feelings and thoughts should be. The person thinks that things should always be the way he expects. For example, "As a good mother, I have to help my children with their homework." Or a student who feels awful after leaving the exam says, “I must be successful, I cannot be an average student, I must get accepted for a good job with a high GPA! This test was not supposed to pass this badly. " This is the way in which a person points his must-must expressions to himself. This creates an environment for feelings of guilt and anger. One of the simplest is "I shouldn't have eaten that chocolate." guilt that comes after the thought. Another way is that the must-have statements are directed at others "It shouldn't be so stubborn." "If he cares about me, he should text me before bed at night." It also causes anger and irritation when directed to others. Many people try to motivate, "align" themselves with must-have statements, but this backfires. With the presence of all these must-have statements, the rebellious side of the person, just like the child side against his parents, emerges and behaviors contrary to these instructions are observed.

It is the extreme form of thinking in black and white. The person has now placed himself on the edge and defines himself as such. For example, a student who could not complete his homework "Oh, I'm too lazy. I can't do any of my homework." when he says it's black and white thinking. But to the same person, "How's the school going?" If he thinks, "I am a lazy man, how is it going to go?" it means that it has turned into a label independent of these situations. The problem with labels is that they are resistant to time and space. However, human personality is not that durable against time and space. There may be times when people are lazy, "I have disrupted my work a lot last month" or there may be areas where they were lazy "I am pure about work, but when it comes to house gathering, I am a single man." So there are no such people as "Lazy" "Stupid" "Loser" "Unsuccessful". In this way, “summary” definitions cause a feeling of inadequacy, anger, anxiety and low self-esteem. Likewise, this can be in the form of tagging others. While someone was telling about the holiday he went to honeymoon, "Officially, he knows how long I have wanted to take a vacation or not." Thinking is an example. When this is the case, the whole nature and existence of a person becomes "cheddar". He is now in a completely bad position. This can lead to the person being aggressive and exclusionary towards others. It does not spare any place for constructivism in communication.

It is the state of feeling completely responsible for a situation that is not completely under the control of the person. "If I hadn't called them to dinner they wouldn't have had an accident and wouldn't be in the hospital right now." or on her child with low grades: “If I were a good enough mother, my son would not have gotten such grades. I can't support him. " like a thinking mother. In the first case, calling for dinner is a factor in the chain of events, but not the cause of the accident. There may be nothing the mother can do about her child's school success, her son's grades may be low due to factors that she does not know completely and are not under her control. Taking on the events and attributing the reason to oneself causes feelings of shame, guilt and inadequacy.

It is the opposite of customization. The person blames others for their own problems and things they can control, and does not take responsibility for them. "This slender husband is the reason my marriage is going bad." "How can I sell when I have such a boss at work?" or "How can I lose weight when my wife is always bringing home cakes, chips, pies." This both prevents the person from seeing his part of the responsibility, and the other party who hears that he was accused goes back to blaming. The feelings of tension and nervousness increase between the two parties who do not accept the responsibility and the problem cannot be solved.

The person can act as if they are 100% under their control or act as if they have no control over the events. First of all, no one is in 100% control of everything that is going on, especially the emotions, thoughts and behaviors of others are not under our control. In addition, most of the events take place outside of our control. The person who sees everything under his own control will experience frequent feelings of anger and anger. Such a person may be angry when they get hungry earlier than expected, when their partner does not give the expected reaction, or when the employee does not deliver the report on time. He may not accept that events can develop independently and attempt to control and plan everything. On the other hand, a person who thinks they have no control over events loses their problem-solving ability. He allows himself to be drowned in the events of the problems he faces. "No matter what I do, nothing will change." he thinks. This is a more likely thought to be found in people who are particularly depressed. Anyone who believes they have no control over events will feel hopeless about the future.

It is the belief that one is always right and right and striving to show it. We see that people who think they do not have a wrong opinion or information have long discussions, especially on social media, and spend time and effort to justify themselves. In such cases, even though it is not seen to accept the difference of opinion, thoughts such as "I guess you are right, what you say is true" or "I don't know anything about this subject", the discussions can get very long. These people can struggle to be justified at all costs, regardless of who they are facing.

It is the belief that the world and life are in a just order. If a person starts to consider daily events as whether they are fair or not and constantly expects justice and equality, this can lead to feelings of guilt, anger, resentment and hopelessness. Unfortunately, the notion that the world is a fair and balanced place does not reflect the truth.

It is a misconception that occurs when a person does things he does not like with the expectation that there will be a reward in the end. Although some unpleasant things end up with some kind of reward, this is not the case in most cases. One example is a person who expects to see a decrease in weight the next day after a "mindful / healthy" diet all day. Or it is the belief of someone who has worked and started a new business to keep the business and save his life after so much effort. Although business hesitancy is one of the possibilities, hard work and toughness of one is not always a direct guarantee of success, many efforts have failed. The belief that every effort will be evaluated with a reward can lead to feelings of anger, resentment, and hopelessness.

This delusion means believing that one can change others from himself. It is the belief that people who are in a new relationship or who do not want to admit that a good relationship has begun to deteriorate can change the other party to improve this interpersonal relationship. Another form can be to help our loved ones. "If I encourage enough, if I put enough pressure, he'll behave differently about it." Even though this thought is born entirely out of good intentions, people who see that they cannot change the other side may have feelings of anger towards the other party and sometimes inadequacy towards themselves. Another form is that one puts changing another as a prerequisite for a change in oneself. "If I can persuade my husband not to bring home a cake then I can lose weight."

Tactics Against Cognitive Distortions

Now you have caught yourself in a bad mood overwhelmed with thoughts, and this article came to your mind, you opened up looking at what you can do. First of all, you bring a pen and paper, write down these thoughts. Once you have some experience of evaluating by writing, you may find that you have accomplished the same by thinking. Go back to pen and paper when you feel the worst and the hardest. This will help you slow down your thoughts and calm down and think more clearly.
Put the thought on paper:
When you start writing, you may find that you are producing more than a sentence. If this is the case, read what you have written and try to summarize it in 1-2 sentences. What does this mean for you?

Name the cognitive distortion:
See the list above. What cognitive distortions are you doing or what? There can be multiple cognitive distortions within a single thought. I am aware that the list seems to be long and repetitive in places. It's not about determining exactly what cognitive distortion it is, don't ignore the binocular view, the mental filter, or the positive, it doesn't matter, there is something good in the end, but you're shrinking it, you're ignoring it. Don't get stuck where you can't tell, no need 😊
Write down the name of the distortions you detected under the thought. After that, you can try one or more of the tactics written below.
Evaluate the evidence:
 Think of yourself like a court, what are the findings of the correctness of this thought? What are the findings of the falsehood of this thought? List one on the right side of the paper and the other on the left. After listing all the findings, decide as a judge how many percent correct the opinion is. Often you will find that there is less evidence to support the thought and that the thought is not true.

Wish I had a friend. Often times we can be tougher and more ruthless to ourselves than to loved ones. So, if this thought you wrote about belonged to your best friend, what would you answer him? If necessary, write a dialogue and assist your dear best friend with this problem (in some cases you can also try to substitute someone under the age of your child or niece instead of your best friend.)

Do not look at this end one by one:
 One of the methods you can apply in your thinking about the future is to ask yourself the following 3 questions one after the other and answer them. "If this thought is real, what is the worst thing that could happen?" "What is the best thing that can happen?" and finally "What is the most likely thing to happen?" For example, you will have a job interview that will require you to speak English and you are very nervous about it. "I can't speak English." you think. 1- The worst thing that can happen is “I can't speak English, it will mess up the job interview. I have to go out in the middle of the call. I wouldn't be hired either. " 2- The best thing that can happen is "I will speak in English, the meeting goes well, they love me very much." 3- The most likely result is “I speak English by being stuck at some places. But the less I care, the more relaxed I am. Once you start talking, it gets a little easier. "

Loss analysis:
 "What are the consequences of thinking this way?" Ask yourself. What kind of result do you come across because you believe in this thought? For example, "If I can persuade my husband not to bring home cake donuts then I can lose weight." As a result of his thought “I cannot persuade my husband. He continues to buy and I continue to eat. As a result, I cannot lose weight. And I'm unhappy. "

And finally replace your thought with a new one:
 “How can I think instead? What thought reflects truth and doesn't hurt me, maybe even benefit? " Write the answer to this question at the bottom. Underline, put a star heart on the edge if necessary! As the thought written at the top came, hop, we put a new one in its place. Open and read if necessary.
Don't believe everything you think
And let this thought be your motto. All of these cognitive distortions have already shown that our brains are bullshit every once in a while 🙃.

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