Written by Dr. Gloria Walters
Interpreting events using dysfunctional beliefs or cognitive distortions is not uncommon and is often done without our conscious awareness. However, we can become more aware of these thinking patterns and begin to change them. Cognitive Restructuring (CR) is a set of cognitive behavioral techniques that helps us to become more aware of our thoughts and to challenge and change inaccurate thinking. The goal of CR is not to distort reality so that everything is positive and unrealistically rosy all the time. CR is a toolset that uses evidence and reason to challenge distorted thought patterns and replace them with more functional and accurate ones.
Some examples of cognitive distortions include:
All-or-nothing (polarized) thinking: Looking at things in black-and-white categories and failing to see the continuum of gray in the middle. For example, if your performance is less than perfect, you see yourself as a total failure.
Overgeneralizing: Interpreting a single negative event as part of a never-ending negative cycle while ignoring evidence to the contrary. If you use words such as always, never, none, nobody, or everyone, you are more than likely engaged in overgeneralizing.
Labeling: Attaching a self-deprecating label to oneself or others based on limited evidence. For example, answering a question incorrectly and calling yourself an idiot. This is considered an extreme form of overgeneralization
Filtering: Magnifying negative details while filtering out all of the positive aspects of a situation.
Emotional Reasoning: Assuming that our negative feelings absolutely reflect the way things really are. Because I feel it, it must be true.
Other Stress Management Techniques
- Relaxation Exercises
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
- Regular Physical Exercise
Gloria Walters, PhD is a psychologist and cognitive behavioralist in Los Angeles, California