Ways of thinking…

One of the things I noticed in treatment is that you can’t really “fix” anything or “grow” until you realize it has be changed. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had the same conversations over and over with my treatment team because I didn’t necessarily realize that something needed to be changed. Sometimes we avoid the dreaded change, but somethings we just don’t realize something needs to change.

One time in skinny camp I received a paper from a therapist running group. It was on distorted thinking patterns. As I read down the paper I realized that sometimes my thinking probably fits in one of these categories. The only problem was, I didn’t know I thought that way, and I didn’t know it was not normal! You don’t know what you don’t know! I will be honest and say when I went down the list and saw that I think all of these ways, and then realized it was NOT normal, I felt immense relief. It was a relief to know that the constant busy thoughts (that were always negative in my head) were distorted, and that they could be changed.

Once I realized that these were common distorted thinking patterns I could begin to see it in my daily routine (especially the “All-Or-Nothing Thinking”). Once you recognize them, you can begin to challenge the thoughts. I’m not saying that this is easy, because I know it’s not. But change can’t happen for the better unless you challenge yourself in a positive way. I am finding that a person can be happier and more at peace knowing these ways of thinking are distorted, and it is possible to find a way to create positive thinking patterns.

I searched the internet and found the handy-dandy list of thinking patterns.

If you think any of these apply to you, here are some key take aways:

Key Take Aways

  • Know the patterns. Familiarize yourself with the ten distorted thinking patterns.
  • Recognize distorted thought patterns. Once you know the patterns, you can start to recognize thought patterns that may not be serving you well.
  • Challenge your own thinking. See if the patterns resonate especially in situations where your thinking or feeling is not particularly effective. For example, you might find that you have a habit of jumping to negative conclusions, without actual facts, or you might find that you let negative emotions get in the way of interpreting your situation.


As you read…. remember…. you have more control over you thoughts than you think!


*Disclaimer  – I have no clue who Dr. Burns is, but that was also the name at the top of my paper in skinny camp. He/She was probably some guru in the thinking world. If you really care, google it. (Where was this world without google?)

Distorted Thinking Patterns (Cognitive Distortions)
Here’s the 10 distorted thinking patterns according to Dr. Burns:

  • All-Or-Nothing Thinking – You see things in black-and-white categories. If your performance falls short of perfect, you see yourself as a total failure.
  • Overgeneralization – You see a single negative event as a never-ending pattern of defeat.
  • Mental Filter – You pick out a single negative defeat and dwell on it exclusively so that your vision of reality becomes  darkened, like the drop of ink that colors the entire beaker of water.
  • Disqualifying the positive – You dismiss positive experiences by insisting they “don’t count” for some reason or other. In  this way you can maintain a negative belief that is contradicted by your everyday experiences.
  • Jumping to conclusions – You make a negative interpretation even though there are no definite facts that convincingly support your conclusion.
    • Mind reading. You arbitrarily conclude that  someone is reacting negatively to you, and you don’t bother to check this out.
    • The fortune teller error. You anticipate that things will turn out badly, and you feel convinced that your prediction is an       already-established fact.
  • Magnification (Catastrophizing) or Minimization– You exaggerate the importance of things (such as your goof-up or someone      else’s achievement), or you inappropriately shrink things until they appear tiny (your own desirable qualities or the other fellow’s      imperfections). This is also called the “binocular trick.”
  • Emotional Reasoning – You assume that your negative emotions necessarily reflect the way things really are: “I feel it, therefore it must be true.
  • Should Statements – You try to motivate yourself with shoulds and shouldn’ts, as if you had to be whipped and punished before you could be expected to do anything. “Musts” and “oughts” are also offenders. The emotional consequence is guilt. When you direct should      statements toward others, you feel anger, frustration, and resentment.
  • Labeling and Mislabeling – This is an extreme form of overgeneralization. Instead of describing your error, you attach a negative label to yourself: “I’m a loser.” When someone else’s behavior rubs you the wrong way, you attach a negative label to him: “He’s a goddam      louse.” Mislabeling involves describing an event with language that is highly colored and emotionally loaded.
  • Personalization – You see yourself as the cause  of some negative external event which in fact you were not primarily responsible for.



4 thoughts on “Ways of thinking…

  1. I remember, vividly, when my thinking fell into each one of these categories. I remember thinking… well F*** it, Im too f’ed up to even think I can get better.” But as I read your post and check off the ones that I still struggle with today I can honestly say it is only 3 and it is not all the time. Improvements may not be seen on the surface all the time, but rather internally, which in my opinion, is the most important change there is. The should statements, all-or-nothing thinking, and personalization still have roles in my thinking, however, I am now able to rationalize them when they occur and realize that my thinking is distorted… HUGE improvement from being a prisoner of all of these negative mindsets 24/7.

  2. CBT and cognitive errors, love it! I used both of these in my recovery. AND used them with my clients. And you’re totally right, you can’t fix anything at all unless you’ve had that internal “mind click” that tells you…yup, I gotta do something about this.

    PS – Skinny camp, I call it that too!

    Thanks for the great post.

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