Cognitive Distortion

It takes self control and practice to challenge a philosophy or cognitive distortion that has been held life-long. Despite human limitations, we are able to direct and take responsibility for our own lives. We can gain control with our cognitive ability, which allows us to think about thinking.

All-or-Nothing Thinking

This cognitive distortion is seeing life and personal qualities in the extreme, thus thinking things are either black or white, wonderful or awful. All or nothing thinking is clearly illogical because things are not often completely one way or the other. This distortion forms the basis for perfectionism. It causes you to fear any mistake or imperfection because you will then see yourself as a complete failure and feel inferior, worthless and depressed.

Remember: Reality lies within the gray areas.


Seeing a single event as a part of a never-ending pattern of defeat and thinking that once something has happened it will occur over and over again results in feelings of rejection with this type of thinking.

Remember: Not every event is connected to other events or to you.

Mental Filter

This distortion is picking out the negative details in any situation and dwelling on them exclusively. You then conclude that the whole situation is negative. It is much like wearing a pair of sunglasses that filter out anything positive.

Remember: Look for the silver lining on every dark cloud.

Disqualifying the Positive

This is one of the most amazing and magical of all thinking errors. When a depressed individual is confronted with data which clearly contradicts his negative self image and pessimistic attitude, he quickly and cleverly finds some way to discount the data. By disqualifying positive experiences in this manner, the depressed individual can maintain negative beliefs which are clearly unrealistic and inconsistent with everyday experiences.

Remember: Let yourself accept and believe in the positives.

Jumping to Conclusions

In this cognitive distortion, the person automatically jumps to a negative conclusion which is not justified by facts.

  1. Mind Reading: Assuming that others are looking down or responding negatively and not checking it out first. You may respond to this imagined attack by withdrawl or counter-attack.
  2. Fortune Telling: Imagining something bad will happen and accepting it as fact.

Remember: These self-defeating behavior patterns may act as self-fulfilling prophecies and set up a negative interaction when none originally existed.

Magnification and/or Minimization

Called the "binocular trick," a person is either blowing things out of proportion or shrinking them. When you look at your mistakes or another's talents, you look through the end of the binoculars that make things seem bigger than they really are. In contrast, when you look at your own strengths or someone else's flaws, you probably look through the opposite end of the binoculars that makes things seem small and distant. Because you are magnifying your imperfections and minimizing your good qualities, you end up feeling inadequate and inferior to other people.

Remember: Don't use a yard stick to measure yourself and a ruler for everyone else.

Emotional Reasoning

This cognitive distortion is accepting your emotions as evidence for the way things really are. "I feel unlovable, therefore I am unlovable." Such thinking is erroneous because your feelings simply reflect your thoughts and beliefs.

Remember: Self-hatred is only hating your own thoughts. Don't hate yourself for having the thoughts. Instead, gently change the thoughts.


This error involves seeing yourself as the cause of some negative event without supporting facts. The result is taking responsibility for things outside of your control.

Remember: Consider the facts and don't beat yourself up over that which you have no control.

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