Common thinking errors

Common thinking errors (David Burns, MD)
• all-or-nothing thinking
• overgeneralization
• mental filter
• discounting the positive
• fortune telling
• magnifying or minimizing
• emotional reasoning
• shoulda-coulda thinking
• labeling
• self blame or blame of others

A simple (though not always easy) way to defuse these thoughts is to notice, label, and replace them with rational, realistic thoughts. Albert Ellis, Ph.D. is a trailblazer in this approach.

Dr. Martin Seligman, a pioneer of Positive Psychology, suggests these steps:

1) Look at the evidence
2) Look for possible alternative explanations
3) Realistically evaluate the implications.

In future posts I’ll go into detail on each of the thinking errors and provide examples of using various approaches to defuse them. For now, see which ones you think may apply to you. You may even try some of the approaches above and see if you can begin to neutralize some of your self-defeating thoughts some of the time.

Mind Matters: Thinking Errors

“I think, therefore I am.” (Rene Descartes, philosopher.) “I think, therefore I drive myself crazy.” (Many of us in the modern world.) Humans are the only species that has the ability, with thoughts, to make benign situations seem bad, and bad situations seem catastrophic.

This tendency has all sorts of names: stinkin’ thinkin’, thinking errors, twisted thinking, cognitive distortions, automatic thoughts. I’ll use the term “thinking errors” in this blog. You’ve probably figured out that if you do this sort of thing you are not alone. Heck, there’s even a whole method of psychotherapy based on it, called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

I probably don’t have to tell you that negative thoughts affect your creative process, your artistic or athletic performance, and even your practicing and training. Thinking errors affect all the other areas of our lives, too.

Sometimes these thoughts are like the air we breathe: we don’t even notice them.

The good news is that you can learn to identify and defuse them so that realistic, useful thoughts prevail. I hope this blog will help arrive at a client’s realization that “the constant ticker tape of (negative, worried) thoughts going through my head isn’t necessarily real.”

More on naming and identifying common thinking errors in my next post.