Cognitive Distortions and Thinking Errors of CBT (revisited)

Cognitive Distortions  is just another term  for “Thought Errors” or “Thinking Errors”.   A common strategy  for a client of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, for mood disorder (including depression), anxiety disorder and emotional management,  is  to:   “Catch”, and then “Correct”   Cognitive Distortions, aka  “Thinking Errors” or  ” Thought errors”,  before they trigger more intrusive thoughts, moods or actions.

Thought Errors are usually described as   thought in  symbols and verbal language, that are  irrational and self-defeating, and that lead to intrusions in ones life.  Because clients seeking Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (C.B.T.)  are often hypersensitive to judgment and self-judgement , cognitive distortion maybe the preferred wordage to Errors.  The jargon  is   descriptive rather than definitive of processes,  with the purpose of overall treatment.

An common Example of   Cognitive  Distortion is:

“I’m going to the a meeting today.  I’m sure that its going to be a disaster.  What If I lose my job?  How will I pay the bills?”

This is catastrophizing.  Thinking  of the worst possible outcome of an event, (while all the time denying, ignoring or minimizing other potential  outcomes.)  Very common.. everybody catastrophizes sometimes.  However if this  thought becomes chronic , repetitive , intrusive, or if it triggers other intrusive cognitions and actions, or complicates illnesses then considering therapies is not a bad idea.

“Catching”  Cognitive Errors can be tricky:   One learns to be mindful of them  when they happen. this takes time.
From   the phenomenological perspective of Gestalt Therapy,  these strands  of  symbols and verbal language, spoken or subvocalized (thought)  are experienced with intense emotions (excitement) as they form as figures out of the   consciousness  ground  of the present moment.  A client can learn to further explore and understand hidden tenants and semantics, such as thoughts, attitudes or physiological  reactions  in the “field” when  cognitive distortions  form.  — this is generally more of a Gestalt Therapy approach, but could be applied in other Therapies.

Good Strategies for preparing for “Catch and Correct” use repetition.
working through CBT Workbooks,  Journaling , and writing / memorizing plans can be  useful.
Good plans are short, privately practiced often, and can include “walking away”, self-talk, and Breathing-Exercise.  Therapists and clients, or even other family members can create plans together,

…  previously posted:

Common Thought or Thinking Errors:

Emotional reasoning – rationalizing a fact out of feeling.

. “I feel bad, therefore I am a bad person.

  • I feel bad right now, but everyone feels bad, sad , ugly, or angry sometimes. “Feeling bad Is not a reason to judge myself as a bad person.”

Catastrophizing – concluding the worst possible outcome of a potential situation, no matter how likey the possibility.

My son is out with the car and is late. He’s been in an accident!

  • There are many possibilities why my son is late. He could be held up in traffic, which is more likely”.

Personalizing. self – judgment : Blaming one self for something that isn’t their fault.

My Son failed his exam at school. This is my fault.

  • I am responsible for myself, and can only control so many things.

Black / White Rigid Thinking – One divides everything into good and bad, right or wrong, all or nothing.

I wish I could work at that place, its the perfect dream job

  • Everyone and Every situation(including jobs) has qualities and difficulties. Thinking A place or person job or situation, will be entirely perfect or entirely dismal will lead to disappointment.

Should statements: self -judgment and top dogging oneself.

I should be doing more with my life, right now.”

  • Although its important to wish, and to hope: Saying what I should be doing is self judging, and takes me away from who I am and can lead to resentments.

Over-Labeling: Applying an adjective or a descriptive trait of someone or something and assuming it is the whole of it.

he is a conservative…. he is a Liberal…. she is an academic

  • Someone may be conservative or liberal, etc, or have some values as such. But believing that some traits make the whole of something may lead me to the wrong overall conclusions or prejudgments.

Magnifying– 1.blowing out of proportion your error, or another persons success       2 overstating a the  importance of a situation.

” I just had a fender-bender,  I’m a horrible driver and I’ll never drive again…
” i didn’t get hired job after my bad interview.  this is a sign I will NEVER get a job.

  •   Accidents happen,  bad performances happen in Interviews.  That doesn’t reflect on  All my driving or actions.


Some other Thought or “Thinking Errors”
:
Leaping (to conclusions) – assuming the outcomes of events without evidence or information.

Mind reading – assuming what another person is thinking or feeling, without asking.

Minimizing – 1. denying ones own success and qualities. 2 denying the consequences of an action.

Read More on Thinking errors here.

Happy cognitions ;)

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Simple Pranayama Breathing Exercise for Stress

The following Breath Exercise is based on simple Pranayama, an Indian Breathing exercise and meditation.
Its a great way to release  stress, anxiety or irritability.
Find a quiet peaceful place to sit, for five minutes to 10… Its best  to sit with a confident , but relaxed square posture.
Remember that proper breathing  is done with the diaphragm. Try the following:

  • Let out all  your breath…slowly,
  • hold your breathe and relax (for a couple seconds)
  • Take in a deep breath…. slowly,
  • Hold your breath and relax (for a couples seconds)
  • Repeat this  for about five to ten minutes.

Be mindful of breathing,
If thoughts intrude, imagine them floating away… and return to being mindful of breathing.
As with most breathing exercises, one can modify this, standing or laying down. its a good idea to learn it sitting first.

From  Youtube  “Simple Pranayama Breathing Pattern”:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Pranayama, is practice of controlled breath from Indian Yoga. With a commitment to regular practice, Pranayama  is a basis of Yoga meditation, that can be used to improver fitness,  health and wellness , or self realization and spirituality.

The simple and basic  version above, can be used as a breathing exercise for stress and anxiety management. I feel  sharper and a little more energized afterwards. This breathing exercise can be used along with other physical fitness exercise.

You might also be interested in the page:
Pennsylvania Echoes: Breathing
where some basic breathing exercises are listed.

Cognitive behavioral Thought Errors

“Thought Errors” definition: irrational and self defeating thoughts that lead one to feel bad or that  lead to intrusions in ones life.
Thought Errors”,aka “Thinking Errors“, “cognitive distortions”… from a Cognitive-Behavior Therapy (or C.B.T) point of view, are not meant to be a judgment of ones intelligence. Rather they are intrusive behavior-like forms of thought to be aware of ,and from the the C.B.T. View point, to be worked through rationally.

For people who manage disorders, Such as Bipolar Disorder, Major Depression and Anxiety Disorders: “thought errors” can build and snowball into more harmful or intrusive thoughts, feelings or behaviors, so learning to catch them (and eventually correct them) is a useful tool in staying well.

Personally I prefer the Gestalt therapy way of managing my mental wellness, (holistic awareness of mind/body/behavior and processes ), However every Mental Wellness manager is different. Plus, the awareness of ; and working through of ….Thought Errors is a useful tool of any management.

Common Thought or Thinking Errors:

Emotional reasoning – rationalizing a fact out of feeling.

. “I feel bad, therefore I am a bad person.

  • I feel bad right now, but everyone feels bad, sad , ugly, or angry sometimes. “Feeling bad Is not a reason to judge myself as a bad person.”

Catastrophizing – concluding the worst possible outcome of a potential situation, no matter how likey the possibility.

My son is out with the car and is late. He’s been in an accident!

  • There are many possibilities why my son is late. He could be held up in traffic, which is more likely”.

Personalizing. self – judgment : Blaming one self for something that isn’t their fault.

My Son failed his exam at school. This is my fault.

  • I am responsible for myself, and can only control so many things.

Black / White Rigid Thinking – One divides everything into good and bad, right or wrong, all or nothing.

I wish I could work at that place, its the perfect dream job

  • Everyone and Every situation(including jobs) has qualities and difficulties. Thinking A place or person job or situation, will be entirely perfect or entirely dismal will lead to disappointment.

Should statements: self -judgment and top dogging oneself.

I should be doing more with my life, right now.”

  • Although its important to wish, and to hope: Saying what I should be doing is self judging, and takes me away from who I am and can lead to resentments.

Over-Labeling: Applying an adjective or a descriptive trait of someone or something and assuming it is the whole of it.

he is a conservative…. he is a Liberal…. she is an academic

  • Someone may be conservative or liberal, etc, or have some values as such. But believing that some traits make the whole of something may lead me to the wrong overall conclusions or prejudgments.

Some other Thought or “Thinking Errors”:
Leaping (to conclusions) – assuming the outcomes of events without evidence or information.
Mind reading – assuming what another person is thinking or feeling, without asking.
Magnifying– 1.blowing out of proportion your error, or another persons success 2 overstating a situation.
Minimizing – 1. denying ones own success and qualities. 2 denying the consequences of an action.

Thought Errors (aka cognitive distortions)  are difficult to “catch” or be mindful of, at first. They are common to everyone, can be long standing thought behaviors and often come with a lot of emotion connect to them.
Catching them, or being mindful of them, can be improved by journaling, Mental Health Work books, or asking a therapist to help design plans.

Emotional Vocabulary and Literacy. more grammar foibals

Emotional vocabulary: A  single word or short phrase that best describes how one feels in the here and now.

I feel Happy“, “I Feel tired“,  “I feel sad“….

Emotional literacy: Being able to clearly and confidently express ones emotions in words.

I took  classes for Rogerian  Active listening (for a volunteer service) and I discovered that my own Emotional Vocabulary and Literacy was very weak.
I felt surprised because, I thought my Emotional vocabulary was limited “.

In fact, A word exist to describe a personality trait for not being able to express feelings in words: ” Alexithymia

So I worked on my literacy.

Some examples of Emotional literacy:

  • I feel like  no one understands me  and they won’t be my friend.” common mistake and indirect
  • I feel Alienated.”  – correct and more direct.
  • I feel alienated…because I think no one understands me and won’t be my friend. – correct and descriptive about ones thoughts”

Another example:

  • I feel like I am able to get this project done quickly.” (no no.)
  • I feel confident“. ( better and direct.)
  • I feel confident because, I think I am able to do this project quickly” (well said).

Another example of  learning to speak with emotional literacy:
”  You make me happy when you visit.”  (very indirect)
I feel happy when you visit.” (directly stated feeling)
Can you see the difference?

I and my classmates wrote down as many “feeling words” as we could in our class, to see how emotionally literate we were.
I think its a great drill, and I have worked to expand my own emotional vocabulary.

The following are examples of some feeling words.

Defeated, lonely   cheated,  betrayed  greif-strucken, deflated,
helpless, lathargic, uncaring, used, heart broken,
Explosive, paranoid,  annoyed, simmering,
Suspicious afraid, fearful, confused, jealous, empty,
unfocused, crisp confident,dull, powerful, motivated, in control,
Happy, loved, brotherly, playful,joyful,exited,exuberent
frustrated, ambivalent,pulled apart stuck, frozen
Curious, investigative, driven

A very large list of feeling words is located at:

http://eqi.org/fw.htm

You can write your own list, to see how emotionally literate you are.

If you get stuck remember these four basic feeling words : Mad,Sad,Glad, Afraid and see if you can find more descriptive words to replace them.

I  feel excited because, I think that  you would do well!

let X=X

Music is often used for trance or meditation.
soft music, Enya, New Age, Nature.
I often like Laurie Anderson’s:”Big Science“. An album of music from Anderson’s Multimedia post modern stage shows from the late 1970s.
Someone made a video to the song “Let x=x“, an exert from Big science.

~

~

the mellow, sterile drone; Laurie’s deadpan and sharp witted narration; and the interplay of horns….
let X=X. Let simplicity be simplicity
Mindful meditation is about letting go of ones normal thinking process for a short period.
Being both relaxed and confidently alert… And taking in with the senses.
In the case of music for meditation…taking in with just hearing.
pretty cool video made by youtuber :” sarcophogaxx“.
also great to see young people remember the classics, like Laurie Anderson.

sixty degrees and mindful

It was nearly 60(f) degrees yesterday… unseasonably warm day in February.
I have two breaks at work… The first break i usually meditate, the second i eat lunch with my co workers.

It was nice to step outside and take in the nice weather.
Sitting out on an unused dock, surrounded by skids, I had a view of the country side, moving clouds.. and the railroad tracks.

I sat and became aware of my breathing for a couple minutes…. Just observing and breath. Then …the senses. The damp cool breeze felt prickly across my cheeks and arms. As I allowed my consciousness to roam and observe… i watched the cloud tumble along the sky. the sound of the birds, rustling on the docks metal roof, became more detailed.

Every so often , my mind would drift into daydream, or think of a rational problem of the work day. But i am better at catching myself at drifting during mindful meditation. So I simply go back to observing my breathing…. my mind becomes an observer again.
….. and i go back to the intricate sense of my unseasonably warm outdoor scene.

There are times to ponder what the tumbling clouds are made of… where the birds all came from. There times to be concerned about the temperature of the day as the globe warms up.

But one fully cannot appreciate the questions of the nature around him… if one cannot just be with the nature around him, at least for fifteen minutes.
fifteen minutes for my first break. Then back to work…loving life and the environments around me.

Fundamental and Creative

I have two loose categories of meditating that i use today. I will call them “Fundamental” meditation and “Creative Meditation….

Fundamental Meditation

My fundamental meditation is a planned daily meditation, often with my daily exercise. I started years ago with Breathing exercises. Later I used basic Pranayama as my daily planned meditation. Today I use Zazen seated meditation, I find the most effective for me now.

The purpose of my fundamental meditating is to promote discipline in concentration, breathing, and posture over the course of a day. Also it helps keep me tuning in.
Zazen … similar to a morning jog, or shaving… is not always something i look forward to doing, But i always seem to feel refreshed afterwards.

Creative Meditation

My Creative meditation is spontaneous and unplanned. It can be a new breathing exercise to experiment with…Or using meditation and applying it to journaling, drawling, dancing or a work task… a meditation can be on the process of an activity or even on the process of thinking. It may be a the taking-in of a pleasant breeze or a self therapy for momentary stress.

The overall purpose of my creative meditating, is to promote spontaneity, and creativity as well as improve intuitiveness.

After all …
if we human are toolmakers, Then the toolmaker in us is : our inherit creativity and discovery, not just our rational problem solving.

Both these “categories” of meditation i use serve to sharpen each other.