Thinking traps are cognitive distortions that lead us to have an inaccurate perception or interpretation of the world. They’re often very unhelpful, and they can heavily influence our mental and emotional well-being and the beliefs we hold about ourselves and others.
Have you heard of cognitive distortions before? Here are six common ones, but there are many others that most if not all of us experience every now and then.
- All of nothing thinking – With all or nothing thinking, things are black and white – there’s no room for nuance, and things exist in absolute. All or nothing thinking can sound like…
– Doing this makes me a bad person
– I didn’t get up at 8am so there’s no use in getting up at all.
– Not completing my entire to do list means that the day was completely unproductive.
- Catastrophizing – When you catastrophize, you assume that the worst possible outcomes will happen, regardless of available evidence. You might also exaggerate how bad and how intolerable this worst case scenario would be. Catastrophizing could sound like :
– If I fail this test, I’ll never get my dream job
– If that happens, my life will be over
– If I make a mistake everyone will hate me forever.
- Overgeneralisation – When you overgeneralise, you might over interpret something that happened once or in a different context, and apply that conclusion to other, unrelated situations. Overgeneralisation can sound like :
– Everyone hates me
– No one ever helps me
– Everything I say is always wrong – I should stop talking
- Mental filtering – With mental filtering, you ignore evidence that goes against what you believe. You might refuse to see the good in situations you’ve deemed as bad – or vice versa. For example, you might go to a party, and afterwards you fixate on something negative that occurred and ignore all the positive things that happened, deeming the while party as completely awful, even if you had fun.
- Mind reading – Mind reading is basically jumping into conclusions. You assume that you know what other people think or how they feel without asking them or without having any actual proof that that’s the case. You might also assume that other people should “just know” what you’re thinking even when you haven’t told them.
- Personalisation – Personalisation tends to go hand in hand with excessive self-blame. When you personalise, when things go wrong, you assume that it’s your fault. When someone is being distant or not texting back, you might immediately believe that it has something to do with you.
Which cognitive distortions do you tend to experience?