Twisted Thinking: Your Thoughts Might Not Be Right

Definitions of Cognitive Distortions

Cognitive (thinking) distortions are exaggerated or irrational thought patterns.  Psychiatrist Aaron T. Beck laid the groundwork for these distortions. Later his student David D. Burns popularized the concept in The Feeling Good Book.

I first came across this concept in 1991 while suffering with anxiety myself.  I was fortunate to get some short-term help from “Freedom From Fear”, on Staten Island.   I still take this information out from time to time.

I also give this information to my clients who are stuck, overwhelmed, frustrated, are negative or are just having a difficult time making changes to their business.   Often they can find  the cause in the list below.  Sometimes they seek the help of a therapist for help.

Cognitive distortions are sometimes called “twisted thinking”  or “stinky thinking”  and often has an affect on our self-esteem, confidence, and the way we live our lives.    Here’s a good article, on exercises you can do to fix cognitive thinking by Dr. John Grohl  



Please seek the help of a licensed therapist if you’re feeling depressed or suffer from are anxiety.   

Life Coaches, like myself, are not therapists.  


1.  ALL-OR-NOTHING-THINKING: You see things in black-and-white categories. If your performance falls short of perfect you see yourself as a total failure.


2.  OVERGENERALIZATION: You see a single negative event as a never-ending pattern of defeat.


3.  MENTAL FILTER: You pick out a single negative detail and dwell on it exclusively so that your vision of all reality becomes darkened, like the drop of ink that discolors the entire beaker of water.


4.  DISQUALIFYING THE POSITIVE: You reject positive experiences by insisting they “don’t count” for some reason or other. In this way you can maintain a negative belief that is contradicted by your everyday experiences.


5.  JUMPING TO CONCLUSIONS: You make a negative interpretation even though there are no definite facts that convincingly support your conclusions.   *Mind Reading: You arbitrarily conclude that someone is reacting negatively to you, and you don’t bother to check this out.  *The Fortune Teller Error: You anticipate that things will turn out badly, and you feel convinced that your prediction is an already established fact.


6.  MAGNIFICATION (CATASTROPHIZING) OR MINIMIZATION: You exaggerate the importance of things (such as your goof-up or someone else’s achievement), or you inappropriately shrink things until they appear tiny (your own desirable qualities or the other fellow’s imperfections). This is also called the “binocular trick.”


7.  EMOTIONAL REASONING: You assume that your negative emotions necessarily reflect the way things really are: “I feel it, therefore it must be true.”


8.  SHOULD STATEMENTS: You try to motivate yourself with shoulds and shouldn’ts, as if you had to be whipped and punished before you could be expected to do anything. “Musts” and “oughts” are also offenders. The emotional consequence is guilt. When you direct should statements toward others, you feel anger, frustration, and resentment.


9.  LABELING AND MISLABELING: This is an extreme form of overgeneralization. Instead of describing your error, you attach a negative label to yourself: “I’m a loser.” When someone else’s behavior rubs you the wrong way, you attach a negative label to him: “He’s a louse.” Mislabeling involves describing  an event with language that is highly colored and emotionally loaded.


10. PERSONALIZATION: You see yourself as the cause of some negative external event, which in fact you were not primarily responsible for.



Feeling Good: The New Moody Therapy” by Dr. David D. Burns,

Taming the Gremlin by Carson,

Little Voice Mastery by Singer  and

Dr Benjamin has a well done PowerPoint on the subject




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