“If you eat a lemon, it will cause a sour face. If you think a lemon, it will cause a sour feeling.” – Me
How I Discovered My Twisted Thinking
One of the first most impactful things that helped me to begin understanding my mental illness was David Burns’ cognitive distortions. I’ve also seen them referred to as “thinking errors,” or “twisted thinking.” One of my best friends recommended his book, Feeling Good, to me for a friend of mine that was struggling. I ordered a copy for myself because I knew I was struggling. At that point, I was feeling terrible most of the time. Or at least that’s how I believed things were going (thinking error?). Now, I never finished the book. I didn’t get more than 25% through it. I skimmed through the rest and it looks terrific. But I was majorly impacted by 2 things in this book:
- The idea that thoughts cause our feelings.
- His list of cognitive distortions.
Thoughts Cause Our Feelings
When I read that thoughts cause our feelings, I was intrigued but not entirely convinced. Part of me was scared to take on the responsibility that comes from realizing this. But there is also great power that comes from this realization because we can choose our thoughts. It just takes practice and a continual effort. When my mental illness was at it’s worst, I needed help even sifting through my thoughts. There were times I could not do it alone. Thank you therapists and life coaches! Our minds have something like 60,000 thoughts per day. Most of them are unconscious: we are not aware of them and they happen by default. Our brains have learned them. But each one of these thoughts causes a feeling. If we can become aware of which thoughts are doing what in our brains, we access our greatest power to change the way we feel.
Cognitive Distortions (Twisted Thinking)
A cognitive distortion is an unnecessary thought that is causing us a negative emotion. Our brains are always at work, problem-solving, trying to find evidence that proves our beliefs right. Beliefs are just thoughts that recur and repeat in our minds. Many we are aware of and many we are not aware of. The idea with understanding thinking errors is that there are irrational thoughts that occur in our brains that can be detrimental to our emotional well-being. And if they are irrational, why do you believe them? Are they helping you? Are they useful? If you can increase your awareness of these thoughts, notice them, give them a name, describe them, then you will recognize them more readily and give yourself the option to choose a more useful thought. Then you can reduce the amount of unnecessary negative emotions in your brain and feel better. Amazing!
11 Cognitive Distortions
There is such power in just recognizing a thinking error. That is why I will be sharing a list of 11 cognitive distortions, one per post, in the next few weeks. I will include some of my personal experiences with them and alternate empowering thoughts I’ve discovered that work well for me. There are different lists floating around, ranging from 5-30+ items, but I like these 11.
Exciting or Daunting? I choose exciting!
This information can feel exciting or daunting, empowering or discouraging. Or maybe something more neutral. But the beauty is that you get to choose how it feels by choosing the thought you have about it.
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Please share your experiences with twisted thinking. Make comments. Let’s get a discussion going.
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