Avoid Cognitive Distortions (“Disqualifying the Positive” & “Jumping to Conclusions”)

What are cognitive distortions?  Cognitive distortions can be considered slips in our thinking that we all make at times. They are a derivative of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).  The main premise behind them is that your thoughts have an enormous impact on your emotions and the way you are feeling.  So, if you are feeling terrible, there is a big chance that you are thinking in an unhelpful way.  These unhelpful thinking styles cause us to jump to incorrect conclusions, make false assumptions, and much more. 

Ten main cognitive distortions cause us to feel bad about ourselves, others, and situations/circumstances.  The cognitive distortions all or nothing” and “mental filtering” were introduced during our last blog post.  During this blog post, the cognitive distortions “disqualifying the positive”  and “jumping to conclusions” will be presented, along with a way to overcome and avoid using these unhealthy thinking styles. 

Disqualifying the positive refers to processing information in a biased way.  Specifically, seeing everything through a negative lens.  It is a mental process that transforms any positive into something to be considered as neutral or negative in your mind. When we see things through a lens that continues to disqualify the positive, the positive things don’t count because of some made-up rule in our minds.  Like, “I got lucky,” “anyone could do that,” and “that doesn’t count because (insert made-up rule).” 

For example, consider getting complimented for your performance at work. Rather than accepting that you did a good job, you would think “he/she are just saying that” or “yeah, I got lucky.”  Or you finally make it to 90 days sober and think, “it doesn’t really matter because anyone could do that.” Rather than feeling positive about yourself and your achievements, you end up feeling cynical and disappointed. 

There are two central strategies we can use to combat this unhelpful thinking.  First, we can practice accepting compliments and allowing ourselves to acknowledge our strengths.  We can do this by paying attention to our responses to positive information and practicing acknowledging positive aspects about ourselves and others.  Second, we can change our language.  For example, rather than saying, “I got lucky.”  You would say, “I am getting this compliment because I worked hard and earned it.” 

Jumping to conclusions typically includes one of two things.  Either “mind-reading” or “fortune-telling.”  When we “mind-read,” we make assumptions about how others perceive us.  When we “fortune-tell,” we anticipate the worst possible outcome and accept it immediately as fact.  In either case, we are making negative interpretations or predictions without any concrete evidence to support our conclusions.

For example, consider walking into a meeting and seeing two people having a private conversation.  If you are “mind-reading,” you would think, “they are definitely talking about me.”  An example of fortune-telling would be thinking that you are definitely going to get the Corona Virus because other people in the state have it.

To combat this unhealthy thinking style, we should consider all of the evidence that is available to us.  For example, what is the evidence you would have for knowing that those people were talking about you when you walked into your meeting?   What are the facts related to someone acquiring the Corona Virus?  Just because people are having a private conversation does not mean they are talking about me.  Just because people have the Corona Virus in my state does not mean I am going to get it.  Today you can avoid cognitive distortions (“disqualifying the positive” & “jumping to conclusions”)!

(Photo by Charles Deluvio)