New blog series: Cognitive Distortions-What are they

Your thought life is arguably the most powerful part of your life. How and what you think impacts your choices and behaviors and in turn impacts everyone around you. So for the next several months, I am going to discuss a term used in the therapy world called, Cognitive Distortions.

Have you ever heard the term this term? Cognitive Distortions are inaccurate misrepresentations of reality based on the way you perceive and understand the world around you. First, allow me to nerd out and discuss a few parts of the brain to help you understand how it manages emotions, thoughts, and behaviors.

The front part of your brain is known as the prefrontal cortex (PFC). The PFC helps with making proper judgments, planning, problem-solving, decision-making, character expression, and cognitive behaviors. The amygdala is a deeply embedded part of the brain that assesses situations as safe or dangerous and can alert your body to use its trauma response (fight, flight, freeze, or fawn). Emotions want to be fed and often look for any evidence to confirm thoughts that are often biased. Therefore, we need to learn strategies for how to effectively manage our emotions such that they are not reacting to biased thinking.

One of the first steps in managing our emotions is to understand our thoughts and learn about how they can be distorted. In the next several posts, we will discuss the following cognitive distortions: Black and White or Polarized thinking/All or Nothing, Mental filtering, Fortune-telling or jumping to conclusions, Personalization/Negative self-talk, Globalizing/Overgeneralizing, Discounting/disqualifying the positive, Magnification (focusing on your own negative qualities over the good), Emotional Reasoning (focusing on emotions/feelings over truth), Should/Absolute Statements, Labeling (extreme unfair judgments), personalization/blame (blaming only yourself when it is not truly all your fault), Magical/Ritualistic thinking, Castastrophizing (always thinking the worst case scenario), and Controlling (not thinking about the perspective of others).

Once we can identify our own struggles with Cognitive Distortions, we can then activate our brains to respond appropriately as we slow down, take thoughts captive, and use some coping strategies such as the ABCDE cognitive behavioral strategy to reframe our thoughts and in choose to act and behave in more productive ways.

I also believe that learning to take control of our thoughts is biblical. 2 Corinthians 10:5, “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

I hope to provide you with some useful information in the weeks to follow :).

Dr. Atwell