Your Brain is Lying to you; Cognitive Distortion #1
If your brain is lying to you, how will you know it and most importantly what will you do about it.
In this series I will share the 10 Cognitive Distortions to be aware of and what to do about them when you recognize them.
For today’s post we’ll start with one of the most popular ones:
All or Nothing Thinking.
Don’t Do This: All or Nothing Thinking -Black and White Thinking
Do That Instead: Look for middle or the grey/color in the situation.
What is it? All or Nothing Thinking is a very strict way of looking at things. Experiences can only fit into two categories, there is no wiggle room. This simplifies life, people, and situations into only two categories, and those categories are usually either all good or all bad.
Why is this a cognitive distortion? As easy as this type of thinking can make life seem, in reality it causes a lot of distress and angst because life is not that simple. There are very few absolutes that can neatly fit in those two buckets. There’s a lot of gray or a lot of color in between black and white thinking that doesn’t get counted.
Can you guess what happens when things don’t neatly fit in those two buckets? The reason it’s a cognitive distortion is that when we can’t make it fit into one of the categories, it will automatically go into the other one and most of the time it goes in the “nothing” category.
For example, If I was in school and striving for an A grade in a class but received a B+, in keeping in line with the All or Nothing Thinking, you either did get an A or didn’t get an A. As a default, I would have to place this in the didn’t bucket. So instead of being excited about how close I came, learning from this experience and reviewing what happened, or happy to be done with the class, I instead may feel bad about my B+ grade instead because it wasn’t an A. The same thing can happen at work, it can happen in romantic relationships and in friendships. This can lead to a lot of disappointment in work situations, in our friendships and with ourselves.
If you catch yourself thinking in Black and White terms, take a step back and ask yourself
“Is there any other way of looking at this? Is it really this extreme? Am I missing the grey or color?
Also, asking yourself: Is this true? And, is this helpful? This will shed some light on the inner self talk.
These techniques take practice and will get stronger and become automatic as you continue to utilize them. Our thoughts can fall into many cognitive distortions at once; we are never in short supply of making ourselves feel bad unnecessarily. Instead of experiencing our emotions about something, we’ll add salt to the wound with our cognitive distortions.