Steps to Improve Relationships

thinkingThinking Patterns, Cognitive Distortions or Irrational Thoughts 

By Elizabeth Sukys-Rice, RCSWI

Our feelings and emotions can protect us from troubling or challenging situations, they can also hold us back from communicating effectively. We use thinking distortions to help us avoid dealing with uncomfortable feelings. The uses of irrational thoughts help guard us from dealing with our feelings. Thinking patterns, Cognitive distortions, and Irrational Thoughts commonly called mind traps, keep us from productive communication.  Feelings aren’t magical, they’re what make us human. It can be easy to express our opinions or thoughts on the subject but it’s difficult to express our feelings or our emotions. Being aware of your feelings and emotions can be effective in many situations, helping us to be more true to ourselves and others. Our distorted thinking patterns can cause us to have negative or uncomfortable feelings.  The following is a list of common cognitive distortions and and there explanation.

  • Catastrophizing– We get caught in this trap when we begin to think that even our smallest troubles turn into major crisis. For example ”I’ll never get over this.” “I will always be like this.”
  • Minimizing–this way of thinking is when we take something really big and make it out to be something very small in an attempt to avoid or reduce the consequences of our behaviors. For example,” It was only one time”,” I don’t know why you’re making it such a big deal”.
  • Fortune-telling or mind reading–the idea that we know the thoughts and beliefs of other people without any evidence. The expectation that the situation will turn out badly without any evidence. For example” she probably thinks I’m ugly”.
  • Black and White or All or Nothing thinking–this is a form of absolute thinking such as” always,” “never”, or “every”. For example “I will never get this right.”
  • The” should” statements–this is the belief that things should be a certain way.” I should always be friendly”

Recognizing your irrational thought patterns that might be causing harm is possible and awareness is the key. It is your job and responsibility to begin to monitor yourself, identifying your thinking errors as soon as they happen or shortly thereafter. When you catch yourself in a thinking error pay attention to what’s going on in the situation and how you might have thought about it differently or handled it differently. It might be helpful to keep a daily log or at the end of your day to just reflect over any situation that might’ve happened or any thinking pattern that was present and how you reacted in that situation. Remember anything worth the effort takes hard work, old ways of thinking feel comfortable but with awareness and practice you can begin to improve your ways of thinking and improve your relationships with others.

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