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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Subvocalization, Inner Speech and Intrusive Thinking

If you listen carefully as you read this post, you will notice a faintly audible  whisper of the the words you are reading. It may be the same whisper you use to think in the symbols and code of language. It maybe an on going monologue or diaogue one has with his or herself, or narrative of scenes played out inside ones head. This overall process is dubbed “inner speech“, “inner monologue“,   “inner dialogue” or Subvocalization, depending on what you read.   Subvocalization is term usually used in the context of reading. However, because of the active verb subvocalizing, or to subvocalize, I prefer to use it here.
To subvocalize is more specific than to think, as one can “visualize” ,  “Be mindful“, feel, or even speed read while thinking without that low audible whisper of language. Subvocalization is thinking in Language, the way one would hear or speak it.

The following are a few difficulties with subvocal thinking.  This is my speculation based upon my experience.   I am not a doctor.   If your thinking is causing you serious health or life problems consult a doctor or health care professional.

Subvocalizing and  “Thinking Errors”.

One suggestion in neuroscience is that one side of ones brain creates emotional responses while the other side of ones brain uses the inner dialogue to rationalize the emotion.
Perhaps Affects (mood and emotion) influence on the process of  subvocalizing  is what produces  “cognitive distortions” or “Thinking Errors” aka “Thought Errors“).
These “errors” maybe   life- intrusive and/or self defeating, and are particular problem for people with Mental disorders (like me), and require a person to cope, and pay special attention to their inner dialogue.  People who suffer from long term Depression , for example will usually “hear” a excessive  negative or self defeating  subvocal thinking.

“Loud” or “Fast” Subvocalizing.

For some people, especially diagnosed with mental disorders, subvocalizing can seem “louder” than sensory intake .   For me in the past, my attention span was consumed  by inner thoughts, as if my thinking was so loud, that I had trouble keeping my attention span  on the  outside world. I have described this as being unable to focus, feeling lost in thought. very frustrating.

For Some with mood disorders, when their mood is elevated their subvocalization seems faster than normal. Faster than normal subvocalization is usually called as “racing thoughts”. For  those people experiencing  “racing thoughts” , they may have a sense of higher creativity or productivity, real or false. Consequentially  the speedy subvocalizing leads to fatigue and unstable moods, irrational thinking, or worse: the  delusional thinking of psychosis .

Intrusive thinking

Sometimes subvocalization can seem hostile to the person experiencing them:  such as the case with  “intrusive thinking”.
Some people can be overwhelmed with the very  intrusive  Thoughts   of self harm, or harming others, that are repeatedly    subvocalized …  “round and round in ones head”.   Ironically  the subject matter of this inner monologue or narrative is  NOT the intent of the person — instead it is very scary experience!
Intrusive thoughts are unwanted.  Intrusive thoughts are not  delusions. Instead they are pressing,  unwanted unreasonable  thoughts and fears that are repetitious. After time they can develop into obsessions. Intrusive thoughts are consciously rejected and uncomfortable, but extremely hard to get rid of for some people.

An example: A women suffering from  “intrusive thinking”  (perhaps symtoms associated with postpardom OCD, in this example), could have the constant thought (subvocalization) of harming her child. But it is not the true intension of the mother, usually its  the opposite: the scariness thing her  mind could conjure. Instead the repeating thought terrifies the young mother. Doctors and professionals associated Intrusive thinking   with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Anxiety Disorder and  ADHD, but they can be a symptom with other  diagnosis.

Its a possibility that,  in the case of someone  experiencing intrusive thinking, that this particular inner thought pattern   is  a behavior that is doing something else for the body:  perhaps  drumming up  Alert/anxiety centers  for the body to be in a state of readiness.  Being in a state of readiness and alertness may have helped early humans survive in their evolution. who knows… this notion is hard to prove. In any case, the problem is that in  today’s world  this thought pattern is scary and unwanted.
Often people suffering with intrusive thinking  willh believe they are evil or bad.. not realizing that,this is a process of the mind, somehow drumming up their most fearful thoughts…possibly to protect themselves. Ironic.

Noting the problems with an  unhealthy subvocalizing  process ,  I  think it is important to disambiguate  subvocalizing from the generic  term “thinking” for the purpose of this  conversation.
here is why:

  •  Subvocalization uses language while other cognitive process do not.
  •  I am able to cognate (interpret, process and feel emotion) without relying on subvocalization all the time.
  • I am able to be mindful ( filling ones attention span) of mental formations other than subvocalizing with language, by just observing, visualizing  or meditating.
  • I am able to “quiet” subvocalization especially with meditation or medication.
  •  subvocalizing appears to be, in my phenomenological experience, to be an activity such as walking or talking.

 
These are important points because it helping me understand the following:
subvocalizing is not the whole of my thinking, and it does not have to control the whole me or my thinking.
When Someone says I am not my thoughts… this is what they are talking about:  the chattering and for some consuming “subvocalization” process or inner speech.  Subvocalization is part of me,  part of my cognation or thinking processes, but not the whole of me. The process is very useful in  daily life, but comes with consequences.

— As with “Loud Subvocalization” ” Racing thoughts”, “Thinking Errors”, and “Intrusive thinking” The inner dialogue and subvocalizing can as destructive as they are anything else . Learning to understand and control the inner dialogue may be important in managing Mental Wellness.

Ways to reduce intrusiveness of  Subvocalization:

  • If one is experiencing  what he or she thinks  are Intrusive thoughts, Thinking errors, Depression Mania, or any uncomfortable problems with your thinking — Its more than a good idea to Talk to your doctor or health-care provider. Doctors are able to prescribe treatment or medication that can help one manage health problems quickly — Yes these are real health problems.– Doctors and professionals  are the only ones who  diagnose a person with a disorder if needed.
     
  • Breathing Exercises and Meditation are excellent ways to learn to let go of subvocalization and be more mindful of other things.
     
  • A breathing  and/or counting exercise  can be a good plan to slow down or control an episode of negative, intrusive, or obsessive thoughts  when an episode arises.
     
  • Positive Self Talk.  When becoming aware of of a negative, intrusive or racing train of thought: verbalize   “STOP!” or “I AM SAFE”, followed by verbalizing positive  affirmations. learning to replace negative thoughts with positive ones take time, but is helpful.
     
  • Journaling – writing has been a way for to let go of thoughts that seem to go round in my head. I am not sure why it is helpful. perhaps the physical act of writing what is on my mind expels the energy of it all. Or perhaps it gives me a way to clarify my thoughts.

 
As far I can tell, our inner speech or subvocalization is not such a bad thing, much of the time, nor should it be.
Our use of language, thinking in language and speech helps us read, clarify our ideas, explore ideas more deeply, use rational problem solving, and communicate with other people.  But it is important to realize that it is not the whole of my thinking, or the whole of me.  And for those of us who suffer with excessive, negative, or intrusive subvocalizing, better understanding these process can make us happier and allow are thinking to be more useful tool and component for the whole of ourselves.

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.

Rain, Shine, Catastrophization

Catastrophizing—expecting or concluding only the worst possible outcome.
We often catastophize are circumstances present, past and future.
However,
Bad Things are usually never as terrible as they seem. Our defenses often overplay and distort circumstances that scare us.

Vodpod videos no longer available.
posted by  alefernandeschaves at youtube.

Beatles: “Rain” from 1966

If the rain comes they run and hide their heads.
They might as well be dead.
If the rain comes, if the rain comes.

When the sun shines they slip into the shade
And sip their lemonade.
When the sun shines,
when the sun shines.

Rain, I don’t mind.
Shine, the weather’s fine.

Can you hear me, that when it rains and shines,
It’s just a state of mind
Can you hear me, can you hear me?

Full Lyrics of Rain

*Catastrophizing is a form of thinking where one leaps to the worsed possible out come..
examples….

  • “My son is out driving and he is two hours late… my God he has been in a accident.”
  • “I made a mistake at work… I’m gonna lose my job”
  • “if this party doesn’t go perfectly… my relatives will hate me.”

~
The first step in reducing catastrophic thinking is awareness. writing thoughts down in journals.
working through this kind of thinking error takes time. One way is to right down the possible out comes.

“My son is out driving and he is two hours late…possibly Because :

  1. He was in a accident.
  2. He lost track of the time
  3. He is stuck in traffic.

which is more likely? This is a rational approach.
Also  we must find ways to express our emotions about the possible outcomes. create a dialog between the our thoughts and feelings.

  • ” I feel afraid and powerless over the possibility of my son being in an accident.”

The more aware we are of our thinking process :the more we are able to control the useful tool..

….and integrate it peacefully with the rest of our being.