Thursday, May 29, 2014

Identifying and Changing Fear or Anxiety Generating Thoughts and Perceptions
Cognitive Distortions:  These are errors in thoughts, perceptions, expectations and attitudes that frequently result in either anxiety, irrational fear or depressed mood.  The list below represents such forms of thinking, which fall within the category of pessimistic or negative thinking and are not based in reality. 

The good news is that we can change our thinking.  By recognizing when we are engaging in irrational and anxiety generating thinking, we can replace such thoughts with rational evidence and reality based thinking that will result in our feeling in control, calm, confident about ourselves and optimistic about situations.

Distorted, Self-Defeating and Negative Forms of Thinking:

All or Nothing or “Black and White”: Engaging in extremes in one’s perceptions.
Example: “If I failed one course, I must be stupid or unable to handle college”

Over Generalization:  Attributing characteristics to all persons or circumstances without evidence.
Example: “All men cheat”

Minimizing:  Underplaying or dismissing real positive events or qualities.
Example: A parent responds to a child’s B plus on a report card.  “Couldn’t you have done better?”

Maximizing:  Taking one negative event and blowing it out of proportion.
Example:  A student, who did poorly on one exam states, “I will probably flunk the class”

Negative Predictions or Forecasting:  Making negative assumptions about what is likely to happen in the future without evidence.
Example: After a romantic breakup, a woman states, “I will probably never meet anyone and will be alone for the rest of my life”

Labeling:  Referring to oneself or others with a negative label that represents a mistake, shortcoming or negative action.  This is akin to attributing one’s behaviors to one’s genetic makeup.
Example:  A person, who tends to wait until the last minute to undertakes major tasks, states:  “I am a procrastinator”
Jumping to conclusions:  Making snap judgments before all the evidence is in.
Example:  Someone, who is job hunting states, “I have not heard from the company, where I applied one week ago, so they must have decided to hire someone else”.

Closing the Door Prematurely:  Making the assumption that others cannot be flexible.
Example:  I might as well not apply for the job that advertises preference given to teacher with
experience teaching creative writing; My experience is limited to teaching poetry.

What-If Thinking:  Thinking about and dwelling on various negative possibilities that may result from a reasonable action or decision.
Example:  “Suppose I buy a house and it burns down in a fire; or I lose my job?”

Unforgiveness or What-If Thinking about the Past:  This is the tendency to focus on regrets about past actions and decisions and entertain what might have happened, if a different course had been taken.
Example:  “If only I had left that job sooner, I would have been at a higher salary by now”

Overly Critical and Judgmental Attitude:  Putting oneself down and beating oneself up for mistakes, challenges or actions that one regrets.
Example:  “I am angry with myself and feel stupid for staying so long with someone, who mistreated me.  Obviously, something must be wrong with me”.

Perfectionism:  The tendency to never feel a sense of accomplishment or to give oneself credit for having attained a reasonable level of success.  A success or achievement is at best, briefly enjoyed and the focus is on doing more.
Example:  “Yes, I know that my colleagues seek me out to solve certain problems and that I get stellar performance reviews.  However, I do not feel certain about my competence. So, I usually stay late and work extra hours and volunteer to help with others’ projects to make sure I am doing a good job.”


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