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THINKING ERRORS

Thinking errors (aka. "cognitive distortions") are common thought patterns that can cause unnecessary stress. These are some of the most common ones.

CATASTROPHIZING

Definition: Making worst-case-scenario guesses about the present and future.

Other Names: Irrational fears, anxiety spiraling, negative predicting

Impacts: Anxiety and dread, pessimism, avoidance

Examples:

  • “I’ll probably get fired from my job without any warning.”

  • “I bet my new friends are going to stop liking me soon.”

  • "He's late. I hope he didn't get in a car accident!"

GENERALIZING

Definition: Putting an overly broad label on something/someone.

Other Names: Stereotyping, assuming, exaggerating, judging

Impacts: Rigidity, conflict, inappropriate responses

Examples:

  • “Never trust a man. They're all the same.”

  • “Don’t try to reason with a crazy person.”

  • “My ex is a total narcissist.”

MIND READING

Definition: Assuming you know someone’s thoughts, feelings, or intentions.
Other Names: Overthinking, assuming, walking on eggshells

Impacts: Social anxiety, conflict, miscommunication, resentment

Examples:

  • “I bet he’s acting this way because his job isn't going well.”

  • “I’m good at reading people just by looking at them.”

  • “She’s probably just saying that to make me mad.”

PERSONALIZING

Definition: Assuming things are about you or targeted at you (positive or negative)

Other Names: Taking it personally, sensitivity, defensiveness, low self-esteem

Impacts: Shame, isolation, blame, resentment, feeling targeted

Examples:

  • "I must have done something to deserve this."

  • “I don’t have any friends because I’m such a burden to be around.”

  • "She's mad at me for what I said earlier, I just know it."

ALL OR NOTHING

Definition: Thinking in extremes and dismissing the nuances.

Other Names: Black-and-white thinking, idealizing, moralizing, perfectionism.

Impacts: Extremism, perfectionism, intolerance, burnout, poor boundaries

Examples:

  • “I refuse to compromise on this. Any other solution would be wrong.”

  • “If you can't apologize, you obviously don’t care about me.”

  • “If I can’t do this project perfectly, I won't do it at all.”

FILTERING

Definition: Only looking for or noticing things that validate your opinion.

Other Names: Bias, selective attention, pessimism/negativity.

Impacts: False assumptions, inflexibility, resentment

Examples:

  • “They only invited me to be polite. They don't actually care.”

  • "I saw a sign today that confirmed I'm on the right patch."

  • “I refuse to listen to people who think that way. It's pointless.”

ADDRESSING THINKING ERRORS

We all fall for these thinking errors at times. Fortunately, we can change them through awareness and practice. These are some journaling prompts to help you understand and challenge your unhelpful thinking errors.

CATASTROPHIZING

  • What negative things am I assuming about what's happening?

  • How are my predictions impacting the way I feel and act?

  • What evidence do I have for or against my prediction?

  • How else can I manage my anxiety without planning for the worst? 

GENERALIZING

  • What stereotypes do I believe about myself or other people?

  • How is generalizing impacting how I function?

  • Am I assigning any negative labels? If so, are they fair and accurate?

  • What's a more neutral stance I could take until I find out more?

MIND READING

  • What assumptions do I tend to make about what others are thinking/feeling?

  • How is mind reading impacting my relationships?

  • What are the consequences of guessing instead of communicating?

  • What neutral questions I could ask others to challenge my mind reading?

PERSONALIZING

  • Who do I usually blame with something negative happens to me?

  • How does taking things personally impact my relationships?

  • What would this situation look like from another person’s perspective?

  • What's a more neutral perspective I could try to practice?

ALL OR NOTHING

  • What kinds of things do I automatically label as right/wrong or good/bad?

  • How does rigid thinking affect my reactions?

  • What do I still need to find out before I make a decision?

  • What are some more balanced responses that I could choose?

FILTERING

  • What beliefs or opinions do hold on to tightly?

  • Am I looking for confirmation of my opinion or am I being curious?

  • Is there information that I’m rejecting because it would be complicated?

  • Am I afraid of learning something new or being wrong?

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