Styles of Distorted Thinking

  1. Pejorative Labeling: You assign negative values to objects, situations, yourself, or others by pejoratively labeling them. For example, you label a driver a “jerk”, or you call yourself a “loser.”
  2. Minimization: You inappropriately reduce the importance or significance of something, e.g., “I drink too much, but it’s not a problem.”
  3. Disqualifying the Positive: You insist that your positive accomplishments or positive qualities don’t count. For example, someone pays you a compliment and you say to yourself, “They don’t really mean that, they’re just being nice.”
  4. “I’m Unique”: You believe that you are unique and special and that no one else is like you, so conventional wisdom does not apply to you. No one understands you and no one can help you.
  5. Vagueness: You avoid clarity and commitment with language and you avoid getting pinned down on issues by using responses such as, “I guess,” “probably,” “maybe” or,“I might.”
  6. Polarized Thinking: Things are black or white, good or bad. Everything is an “either/or”proposition with no middle ground. You have to be perfect or you’re a failure.“I either love you or I hate you.”
  7. Filtering: You dwell on the negative and ignore the positive. For example: Your visit to the beach ended with rain and you forget the hours of fun that you had.
  8. Overgeneralization: You come to a general conclusion based on a single incident or piece of evidence, and expect a never-ending pattern. For example, your girlfriend is unfaithful to you and you expect that every girlfriend that you ever have will be untrustworthy.
  9. Mind Reading: You assume that you know what the feelings, intentions, motivations, and thoughts of other people are, especially how they are feeling towards you, without their telling you. “That other driver is going slowly just to annoy me,” or, “He stepped on my toe on purpose.”
  10. What Will People Think: Over preoccupation with what others might think of you. It includes the assumption that others are thinking about you, and that what they are thinking is cause for alarm.
  11. Catastrophizing: You imagine and expect the worst, bracing yourself for disaster. Anticipation of calamity is not just a transient thought, but an uncomfortable preoccupation.
  12. Worrying: General apprehension and anticipatory anxiety about the present or future becomes a nonproductive preoccupation. “What will happen when my unemployment checks run out?” “Why isn’t my son back with the car yet?”
  13. Fear Rehearsal: Mental rehearsal of fear and failure for some future event rather than preparing for success. You practice the future ordeal over and over in your mind, imagining every obstacle and problem, while seeing yourself as unable to cope with these. Practicing for failure.
  14. What Ifs: You become preoccupied with negative unwanted possibilities. “What if the plane crashes?” “What if the elevator gets stuck?”
  15. Personalization: You think that everything people do or say is some kind of reaction to you. You also compare yourself to others, trying to determine who’s smarter, better looking, etc.
  16. Blaming: You hold other people responsible for your pain or failure or blaming yourself for every problem. Blaming is a form of “scapegoating.” A more subtle form of Blame is “Excuse Making”.
  17. Control Fallacies: These are a two edged sword. You feel externally controlled and see yourself as a helpless victim, or you feel responsible for the pain and happiness of everyone around you.
  18. Fallacy of Fairness: You feel upset because you think you know what is fair and other people won’t agree with you. “It’s my turn,” “Mom loves you the most,” “I always get stuck with this task”.
  19. Shoulds: You have a list of rigid rules and axioms about how you and other people should behave. People who break the rules anger you and you feel guilty if you violate the rules.
  20. Emotional Reasoning: You reason from how you feel. If you feel boring then you must be boring. If I don’t feel like getting out of bed then “I can’t”.
  21. Fallacy of Change: You expect that other people will change to suit you if you just pressure or cajole them enough. You need to change people because your hopes of happiness seem to depend entirely on them. “My life would be wonderful if only my husband would stop drinking.”
  22. Being Right: You continually prove that your opinions and actions are correct. Being wrong is unthinkable and you go to any length to demonstrate that you are right. You get the last word in.
  23. Heaven’s Reward Fallacy: You expect all your sacrifice and self-denial to pay off, as if someone was keeping score. You feel bitter when the reward does not come.                      NEXT: Antidotes to Distorted Thinking

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