Cognitive errors, also known as cognitive distortions, are exaggerated and unhelpful ways of thinking that perpetuate our problems. These patterns of thought are irrational and contribute to the negative beliefs you hold about yourself, others, and the world. Cognitive errors are based on selective information and selective scenarios that have been applied too liberally. Not being aware of these cognitive errors, or relying on them, can create more difficulty and problems as you try to navigate life.
Everyone experiences cognitive errors, and that is normal. However, if all your interactions and behaviors are driven by cognitive errors, you will likely feel that life is difficult and confusing. Some examples of cognitive errors include:
Filtering: Focusing only on the negative and ignoring the positive
Catastrophizing: Expecting the worst case scenario and minimizing or discounting any positive scenarios
Polarized Thinking: All-or-nothing or black-and-white thinking
Heaven’s Reward Fallacy: Expecting self-sacrifice and suffering to be rewarded
Emotional Reasoning: Determining reality based only on strong emotional feelings
Mind Reading: Assuming you know what someone else is thinking and their intentions
Magnification: Focusing on personal failings or blowing situations out of proportion
Jumping to Conclusions: Making conclusions without sufficient or supporting evidence
Overgeneralizing: Assuming that one experience applies to all others
We all know people who use these forms of thinking to make decisions and navigate their lives, but can we recognize our own use of cognitive errors? To correct cognitive errors it is important to be reflective and curious as you explore what errors you use and why you use them. One way that we can explore cognitive errors through reflection is through these questions:
· Is there evidence that a bad experience will always happen in the future?
· Am I aware of the complete context of this situation? Do I need more information?
· Are there also positive aspects about this situation that I am ignoring or forgetting?
· Is my decision based solely on feelings? And do these feelings make sense of the situation?
· Are these thoughts helping me to function better and feel good about myself and others?
As we start to explore our own cognitive errors, we will be able to start choosing whether or not we use them by default or if we want to change our way of thinking. This can be challenging as some of these cognitive errors have been a part of our thinking for many years. Working with a trained professional can help you identify, explore, and reframe these cognitive errors so that you feel more capable and empowered in your life.
If you recognize yourself in any of these cognitive errors, or if you want help exploring any errors you have, please reach out to our office today for the opportunity to work with one of our clinicians.