Irrational thoughts or cognitive distortions are errors in thinking, meaning people can misinterpret real-world events. We can certainly all have these from time to time, dependent on what is going on in our life and how stressed we may be feeling.
Examples of cognitive distortions are:
All or nothing thinking:
You see things in black-or-white and if something falls short of perfect, you see it as total failure.
You see one or more negative events as a never-ending pattern of defeat. This is where we often think ‘always’ or ‘never’.
Mental filter (Also known as Globalisation):
You pick out a single negative detail and dwell on it, so your whole view of reality becomes darkened. eg dwelling excessively on a single criticism.
Discounting the positive:
You reject positive experiences by thinking that they ‘don’t count’, eg if you do well you tell yourself it wasn’t good enough or that others could have done just as well.
Without checking situations, you conclude someone is reacting negatively to you.
You predict things will turn out badly or predict worst-case scenarios.
You exaggerate the importance of your problems and shortcomings, or you minimise the importance of your good qualities.
You assume your negative emotions reflect the way things really are, eg “I feel so inadequate, I must be rubbish”.
You tell yourself that things should be the way you wanted or expected them to be. Characterised by the words ‘should’, ‘must’, ‘ought to’, and ‘have to’. These words directed at yourself cause guilt and frustration. They can also be aimed at other people causing upset.
This is of all-or-nothing thinking where you attach a negative label to yourself or others that describes the person in solely a negative way, eg “I’m rubbish”. “He is a waste of space.” This means you see the problem as with the person’s ‘character’, rather than thinking it’s their thinking or behaviour, so you end up as seeing them as totally bad.
Personalisation and blame:
Personalisation occurs when you hold yourself personally responsible for an event that isn’t entirely under your control. Blaming or scapegoating is the opposite: you blame other people or circumstances for your problems but overlook the part you might be playing in it.
It’s important to recognise there is a relationship between our thoughts and feelings:
Thoughts of loss / loss to self-esteem – sadness and depression
Unfulfilled expectations – frustration
Thoughts of danger to self or self-esteem – anxiety and panic
Thoughts that you are bad – guilt
Thoughts that you are inadequate in comparison with others – feelings of inferiority
Thoughts of unfairness – anger.
Solution Focused Hypnotherapy can help with this by reducing cognitive distortions to promote more balanced thinking. By clients listening to and learning more positive thoughts through imaginative and relaxing language patterns, new thought patterns can be learnt via the subconscious mind. Each week, with my hypnotherapy, clients can begin to look more positively at life. By understanding the primitive mind and how it works in stressful situations, clients can begin to change their behaviour and help to reduce negative thinking. Thinking processes can be ingrained, so practice and patience is needed. I was able to learn lots of this information while training with the CPHT in Bristol.