THE 12 MOST COMMON THINKING MISTAKES
(ALSO CALLED AUTOMATIC THOUGHTS OR COGNITIVE DISTORTIONS)
Although some negative automatic thoughts are true, many are either untrue or have just a grain of truth. Here are a few common errors.
- All-or-nothing thinking (also called black-and-white, polarized, or dichotomous thinking): You view a situation in only two categories instead of on a continuum. Example: "If I'm not a total success, I'm a failure."
- Catastrophizing (also called fortune telling): You predict the future negatively without considering other, more likely outcomes. Example: "I'll be so upset I won't be able to function at all."
- Disqualifying or discounting the positive: You unreasonably tell yourself that positive experiences, deeds, or qualities do not count. Example: "I did that project well, but that doesn't mean I'm competent; I just got lucky."
- Emotional reasoning: You think something must be true because you "feel" (actually believe) it so strongly, ignoring or discounting evidence to the contrary. Example: "I know I do a lot of things well at work, but I still feel as if I'm a failure."
- Labeling: You put a fixed, global label on yourself or others without considering that the evidence might more reasonably lead to a less disastrous conclusion. Examples: "I'm a loser. He's no good."
- Magnification/minimization: When you evaluate yourself, another person, or a situation, you unreasonably magnify the negative and/or minimize the positive. Examples: "Getting a mediocre evaluation proves how inadequate I am. Getting high marks doesn't mean I'm smart."
- Mental filter (also called selective abstraction): You pay undue attention to one negative detail instead of seeing the whole picture. Example: "Because I got one low rating on my evaluation [which also contained several high ratings] it means I'm doing a lousy job."
- Mind reading: You believe you know what others’ motivations are, or what they are thinking, failing to consider other, more likely possibilities. Example: "He's thinking that I don't know the first thing about this project."
- Overgeneralization (also called global thinking): You make a sweeping negative conclusion that goes far beyond the current situation. Example: "[Because I felt uncomfortable at the meeting] I don't have what it takes to make friends."
- Personalization: You believe others are behaving negatively because of you, without considering more plausible explanations for their behavior. Example: "The repairman was curt to me because I did something wrong."
- "Should" and "must” statements (also called imperatives): You have a precise, fixed idea of how you or others should behave and you overestimate how bad it is that these expectations are not met. Example: "It's terrible that I made a mistake. That mistake was disastrous. I should never make a mistake."
- Tunnel vision: You only see the negative aspects of a situation. Example: "My son's teacher can't do anything right. He's critical and insensitive and lousy at teaching."
Solihull CBT offers therapy for all of Birmingham and the West Midlands