I can still remember my first session with my current therapist. Her office is in the “rich” part of town, and it has these floor to ceiling windows over looking the street below. I had been to therapy before so I thought to myself, “yeah, yeah, yeah, let’s get the ‘hi, here is a complete history of all my problems’ part out of the way.“
I was sitting on this larger than life couch when all of a sudden she takes out a booklet from her alligator briefcase.
She says to me “Now, I want you to read over this before our next session. It explains a lot about Depression, and the thought patterns that can lead to negative thinking.”
Wait… homework? No other therapist had ever given me homework. What type of therapy is this?
Turns out this is the therapy from a woman who has two Doctorate degrees and knows what the hell she’s doing. That night I learned a lot about defense mechanisms and cognitive distortions, some of which I had no idea I was using.
Before you keep wondering why you have underlying anxiety all of the time, see if you might also be guilty of using one of these 13 hazardous thoughts that are changing reality.
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Drawing quick conclusions without having sufficient evidence to back up this belief, or making general statements without looking at the whole picture.
“The woman at the counter is acting very weird. She must be on drugs.”
Thinking that things are worse than they actually are, or thinking that things will be worse in the future. Assuming the worst of a situation. Can also be called magnification.
“The new girl in class is so pretty. My boyfriend is totally going to cheat on me with her!”
Downplaying the significance of your positive characteristics.
“It really wasn’t a big deal when I won the National Medal. Anybody could have had the same idea as me.”
4. Ignoring The Positive
Focusing on the negative aspects of something, and negating any positive information. This is also called “filtering”.
“I am not good at my job because I didn’t beat my sales numbers from last quarter.”
5. Jumping to Conclusions
Coming to negative conclusions without having or observing any evidence that would back up this belief.
There are two sub-types of this: mind-reading and fortune-telling.
- Mind-reading: Making an assumption about what someone is else thinking . “My boss thinks I’m lazy. That’s why he hasn’t promoted me.”
- Fortune-telling: Making an assumption about what will happen in the future with little or no evidence. “It’s going to rain this afternoon, therefore I am definitely going to be late for my yoga class!”
6. Always Being Right
Continually trying to prove to others that you are correct; ignoring someone else’s feelings or beliefs to establish how right you are.
“You don’t know what you are talking about. I read all about pharmaceuticals, and it’s all a hoax.”
7. Must’s and Should’s
Setting up expectations about how things need to be different; making unrealistic expectations and creating high, concrete standards.
“I should have eaten a smoothie instead of a bagel for breakfast”
8. All-or-Nothing Thinking
Not making the connection between the “good” and the “bad”; failing to see the whole picture. A person with all-or-nothing thinking tends to forget the middle ground and chooses one extreme or the other.
“If I don’t do well on this first exam, I’m going to flunk out of college!”
Putting judgements on ourselves or other people based on one characteristic. Tagging ourselves (or others) with names that are used to sum up their being, rather than looking at them as a whole entity who can have many parts.
“I flunked that test. I am such a failure!”
Holding other people entirely responsible for harm or a bad outcome.
“If my parents did a better job of raising me, I wouldn’t have been in this terrible situation.”
- Personalization: On the other side of blaming is personalization, or taking responsibility for things that are out of your control. “If I was a better child, my parents would be more proud of me.”
11. Fallacy of Fairness
Assuming that you know what is fair, and being the judge of fairness. When others don’t agree or follow this standard it can lead to feelings of resentment.
“That’s not fair! I should be paid more because I have more clients.”
12. Fallacy of Change
Expecting someone else to change, especially if they are pressured or persuaded to do so. Thinking that you have the power to change someone else, even if they don’t want to change.
“My girlfriend loves cats. I’m going to help her be more of a dog person.”
13. Emotional Reasoning
Using feelings as “evidence” for something to be true or untrue. Giving characteristics to a situation based on how we feel about it.
“I feel like my best friend is lying to me. She must be keeping a secret.”