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A basic handout I have used with groups. Ideally I use handouts only to get a conversation going. The handout becomes a frame work for people to open up and start sharing.

Cognitive Distortions and Strategies to dispute them

  • Personalizing: When you blame yourself entirely as the cause of something or blame someone else as the sole reason why something happens . “It’s my fault ” “It’s his/her fault.”
    Strategy: Don’t look for blame. Find other causes. List other possibilities.
  • All or nothing/black and white thinking: When you use extreme terms, “all”, “never”, “none”, “everybody”, “no one”. Also watch for “can’t”.
    Strategy: Look for gray areas. Modify your language by substituting less extreme terms such as “some”, “often”, “most”.
  • Catastrophizing: When you predict or expect the worst will happen.
    Strategy: Expect more positive outcomes and possibilities.
  • Should-ing: When you refer to (or rely on) your list of inflexible rules of acceptable behavior and believe you’re guilty or unworthy if you violate the rules. Or, when you get angry with others if they break the (your) rules. This results in “always having to be right “, or being “super human” or “perfect”.
    Strategy: Change your language: “I should/must” to “I’d prefer” or “I’d rather”.
  • Over-generalizing: When you make an overall assessment based on one example or incident.
    Strategy: Remember that no one situation can exactly predict future outcomes. Look for individuality in each case. Remember that possibilities may exist that have not existed before by recognizing that you have the ability to change, and that things are always changing.
  • Fallacy of fairness: When you expect things to work out based on some unseen system of “karma”, balance, morality, payback, justice, or what “should be fair”.
    Strategy: Change your expectations. There is no inherent system of fairness. Things can happen for no apparent reason.
  • Labeling/Name calling: When you attach powerful words or labels to yourself or others as if those words describe you, or them, or the situation completely. “This day is terrible”, or I’m stupid”.
    Strategy: Define the term, see if it is really accurate. Use only accurate terms. Avoid intense labeling and name-calling. Use less weighted, destructive or inflammatory words. Are you using a double standard? Are you judging yourself more harshly than others would judge you or than you would judge others?
  • Emotional reasoning: When you use your emotions or feelings as proof of how things are. “I feel so sad; things must be hopeless”.
    Strategy: Evaluate the evidence objectively. Feelings are not proof of how things are or will be. Recognize that emotions change.
  • Mind-reading: When you know what others are thinking and why they act the way they do. Particularly, you “know” how people think and feel about you.
    Strategy: Seek other explanations for why people behave the way they do. Don’t assume. Check it out. Ask for their thoughts, opinions and feedback. Remind yourself that you don’t know what they are thinking.
  • Disqualifying the positive: When you devalue anything “good” in a particular situation in light of the “bad”.
    Strategy: Make an accurate assessment. See that “negatives” or “shortcomings” don’t erase strengths and assets, but that these can co-exist.
  • Comparing: When you measure yourself against others, focusing on their accomplishments and attributes, or when you compare yourself to your own ideal.
    Strategy: One can’t compare apples and oranges. We’re all different with different qualities. We can usually find somebody who may be “better” in some way. So what? That doesn’t help. Focus on your own inherent worth and aspirations instead.