• Spectrum of Life

Cognitive Distortions

It is surprisingly too easy to connect and perceive two separate and different events that happened coincidentally even if there are no real ties between them. These mistakes are known as cognitive distortion.


We processed information with our brain and we seemed to trust whatever that goes on in it. However, have you ever realized that our mind does trick us with something which is not true. It is not that the brain purposely lies or cheat us, it could be some developed faulty or non-helpful pathway that connected over past years. It is surprisingly too easy to connect and perceive two separate and different events that happened coincidentally even if there are no real ties between them. These mistakes are known as cognitive distortion and these inaccurate thoughts usually boosted negative thinking or emotions – making things sound rational and accurate, but in fact, it made us feel bad about ourselves.


For instance, a person might tell themselves, “I always fail when I try to do something new; I therefore fail at everything I try.” This is an example of “black or white” (or polarized) thinking. The person is only seeing things in absolutes – that if they fail at one thing, they must fail at all things. If they added, “I must be a complete loser and failure” to their thinking, that would also be an example of overgeneralization – taking a failure at one specific task and generalizing it their very self and identity.


Cognitive distortions are at the core of what many cognitive-behavioral and other kinds of therapists try and help a person learn to change in psychotherapy. By learning to correctly identify this kind of “stinkin’ thinkin’”, a person can then answer the negative thinking back, and fight back it. The negative thoughts will slowly diminish overtime and be automatically replaced by more rational, balanced thinking by disproving it again and again.


Before that, we will have to explore more on the types of cognitive distortions to be able to identify them.


1. Filtering

All negative details of a situation being taken and magnified where the positive aspects are all filtered out. For example, a person may pick out a single, unpleasant detail and dwell on it completely so that their vision of reality becomes darkened of distorted.


2. Polarized Thinking (or “Black and White” Thinking)

In polarized thinking, things are either “black-or-white.” We have to be perfect or we’re a failure – there is no middle ground. People or situations were positioned in “either/or” categories, with no shades of gray or allowing for the complexity of most people and situations. If your performance falls short of perfect, you see yourself as a total failure.