10 Cognitive Distortions That Mess Up Your Brain And Will Hurt Your 2018

Kaye Ramos
Jan 1, 2018 · 9 min read

Your mind is filled with random things every day. They scroll through your mind automatically and have a huge impact on how you feel. They create thoughts that spur into feelings and determine how you respond to a situation.

The brain is the command center of your body that is able to rewire based on how you train it.

It can help you strengthen a habit or weaken it. It can improve your performance if you dedicate time to connect your neurons together. It can increase your productivity with simple brain exercises that can lead to your compounding growth.

The brain is truly a wonderful organ that can serve you well. It can either aid you or fail you. It all depends on how you program it.

But the truth is:

Not everything that is programmed in your brain is true or valid.

You are apt to unconsciously follow your brain’s messages because they come automatically. You have successfully programmed it in the past and it either benefits you or hurts you right now.

If you consciously go over all your thoughts in a day, you’ll realize of a lot of things in your mind are garbage. Garbage in a sense that they create negative feelings and perceptions even without an actual basis.

Yet, they feel as though they are real. They masquerade the truth even when every part of it points to zero evidence. And so, you accept them as valid.

For instance, that lady in the shop who accidentally stared at you without a smile — you think she’s judging you in a bad way. That Facebook message that was opened but you never got a reply shows that a friend does not like to talk to you. That one failure you had last week is an absolute sign that you are actually a loser.

Then you create assumptions and accept them as reality which in turn hurt you. They occur to any of us.

We immediately create false messages without exerting effort which never fails to ruin our moods and day. Many of the negative messages and feelings you have are distorted in some way.

Since the brain is used to this kind of distortion, it becomes automatic. You are able to craft a negative evaluation in an instant without even being aware of it.

Psychiatrist Aaron Beck laid the groundwork for these distortions which were later on carefully studied and described by his student, David Burns, in his book Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy. These are what they call as “cognitive distortions.”

Cognition is the way you look at things which influence how you feel. Not all of them are true. And not all of them must be accepted.

David Burns has said:

“Your thoughts often have much more to do with how you feel than what it is actually happening in your life.”

You create feelings by the dialogue you are having with yourself. The brain is distorted in many ways but you’ll see below the 10 common cognitive distortions that may or already affect you.

Before you become crazy about what you’ll see, realize you are not alone. We all have certain cognitive distortions because of the experiences, practices or influences we had in the past.

If you feel like a certain cognitive distortion affects you, focus and work on that. Nobody, I believe, will be one hundred percent free from any of these distortions.

When you learn to change the way you think, you’re more able to control your responses. You’ll minimize future upsets that lead to depression. You’ll learn how to deal with your moods effectively and pinpoint the real reason behind it.

10 Cognitive Distortions that Mess Up Your Brain Chemistry

1. All-or-Nothing Thinking

You interpret everything in extremely black or white categories. This is where perfectionism comes in. You interpret events as either extremely good or bad— there’s no shade in between.

When you succeed, you think of it as a complete validation of yourself. You are a champion who is always victorious in every goal you set. However, all your previous victories become blurry when you encounter failure.

It doesn’t matter if you’ve won an award in the past, you passed your certification test or landed a good job. All those victories are nothing when one rejection confronts you. You immediately qualify yourself as a loser, inadequate or worthless.

You don’t realize that life has its on-going ups and down and this failure is just one of that. Instead of pursuing your journey, you get stunted by that particular “failure” without taking into consideration the previous victories you had.

2. Overgeneralization

You conclude that what happened to you once will occur over and over again. You believe that the past hurt you had will reflect again in the future.

You think that rejection from one person means rejection from future people you’ll meet. You don’t engage in a serious relationship after seeing one failed relationship. You regard that all relationships are doomed to failure even when there are many healthy relationships that surround you.

The past experience clouds your hope in the healthy future you desire.

3. Mental Filter

You see the negative in any situation, dwell on it and perceive the entire situation as negative.

Mental filter happens when you call your husband insensitive for not listening during dinner time and disregard all other good things he did that day. It’s when you are having an oral presentation and saw someone yawning. You immediately interpret it as a failed performance and disregard the positive feedbacks you got. It’s when you prepared a party and the weather did not cooperate. Your guests still enjoyed it but you conclude it as a total failure.

4. Disqualifying the Positive

You transform neutral or positive experiences into negative.

You don’t feel worthy to receive praises, so instead of embracing them, you reject them. You shift the good things they tell you into negative.

Your husband bought you flowers, so you think maybe he did something wrong. Your wife prepared an elaborate dinner, maybe a huge expense is coming. Your relative dropped by your house, maybe they will borrow money.

Instead of seeing the positive actions others did for you, you purposely shift it into negative. Even though there is no truth in what you’re thinking, you believe that it is actually true.

5. Jumping to Conclusions

You immediately jump to a negative conclusion without considering the facts of the situation. It may happen in two forms:

You assume that you know what the other person is thinking.

You interpret that because the other person didn’t smile back, you think there’s something wrong with you instead of considering that he/she is pre-occupied with his/her own issues in life.

You predict that something bad is about to happen and you consider it a fact even though it is unrealistic.

There is no use in taking a risk or setting goals because you predict that you will never achieve them anyway. You predict there is no way that you could find true love. You failed before so why will it be a different scenario now?

6. Magnification and Minimization

You are either blowing things up out of proportion or shrinking them.

You don’t believe that you are capable of achieving more. You feel that one mistake can ruin your reputation and your entire career. You believe that if you show a sign of weakness, people will then perceive as you as a loser forever.

As a result, you become stagnant to where you are.

7. Emotional Reasoning

You accept your emotions as evidence for the truth.

You feel guilty about something and you conclude that you must be guilty even though no evidence supports it. You struggle with jealousy and you can’t resist accusing your partner with infidelity even though all evidence point to none. You feel irritated with someone, so you take them for granted even when they have not done you wrong.

8. Should-Statements

You create pressure to yourself by saying “I should do this” or “I must do that.” When you fail to accomplish it, you end up feeling defeated and unmotivated.

It also happens when you direct these statements to others. When they fall short of your expectations, you feel bitter and frustrated.

When you identify your goals, you motivate yourself by creating “I should” statements. You should accomplish “this” to be considered successful. You should get “this” to achieve happiness. They put so much pressure on you.

Even though it is good to challenge yourself, you find it hard to rebound when your performance falls short.

9. Labeling and Mislabeling

You create a negative self-image of yourself based on the errors you did.

You stand up by the philosophy: “The measure of a man is the mistakes he makes.” Labeling also happens when you generalize by taking one characteristic of a person and applying it to the whole person.

When someone is late for the first time, you label him irresponsible forever. When you fail one test, you label yourself a failure. Instead of objectively thinking about it, you label the feeling and believe it for a long time.

10. Personalization

You conclude that every negative event that happens around you is your fault or reflects your inadequacy even when you are not responsible for it.

You blame yourself for the death of a loved one saying if you only paid more attention to them, you could’ve prevented the incident. You treat the failure of your child as your responsibility, so you consider yourself a bad parent even when you did almost everything within your control.

The Power Over Your Thoughts Lies Inside You

While the list may seem exhaustive, it is helpful to identify the cognitive distortion that affects you most.

Eliminating the distortions that you have will not come easy. The negative emotions feel realistic and give a credible impression inviting you to believe them.

When you are clouded by distortions, you lose your capacity for clear thinking. You have trouble identifying the truth from fallacy. You let negative thoughts dominate your entire reality and dictate your performance.

When you work on the distortion that hurts your progress, you become more aware of how to prevent them. You’ll realize that not every thought which comes to your brain must be entertained or accepted. You’ll reevaluate the assumptions you create before you submit yourself to them.

You have power over your thoughts. When you know how to circle around them, your sense of self-worth improves. You can immediately take captive of your thoughts and lead them to your growth.

Eventually, your cognition muscle improves in filtering the valid and invalid thoughts.


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Kaye Ramos

Written by

Sharing things that Matter and Deliver. I aim to inspire you through my writing.


A network of business & tech podcasts designed to accelerate learning.

Kaye Ramos

Written by

Sharing things that Matter and Deliver. I aim to inspire you through my writing.


A network of business & tech podcasts designed to accelerate learning.

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