WELL BEING: Cognitive Distortion

3 Aug

A + B = C

Cognitive Distortion is just a fancy clinical name for “jumping to conclusions.”

Think of the words.  Cognitive meaning “of the mind” and distortion usually has to do with a noise that is impossible to understand.  Imagine your mind is like a radio tuner.  The sound and clarity of your thoughts can be clear as a bell or you can lose the signal as your thoughts get confused like static between stations.

This very uncomfortable mindset occurs when our thoughts spin out of control because we exaggerate them or look at the world in a very black and white fashion.

Let’s do some simple math.

A + B = C

A is a circumstance.

B is your reaction to A.

C is the combined result of A plus B.

Now, let’s apply this to an everyday situation.

Perhaps A represents a loved one not arriving on time.

You don’t know where they are or how to get in touch with them but you do know they are late.

You never have control over A.

B, however, is 100% your choice.

How you choose to respond or react to any given situation is always your choice.

If your response (B) is anything other than acceptance that your loved one is late to arrive, there will generally be upsetting and distorted thoughts.

Often we leap to the worst possible conclusions.

“She’s always late.”  (“always”, “never”, “all men”, “all women”, unfair blanket-statements)

“He must have had a car accident!”  (catastrophic thinking)

“I’m sure they forgot about me.”  (imagined mind-reading based on emotions)

Fears may surface if you jealously worry that your loved one is currently choosing to be with someone other than you.

Do you see how this can spin out of control?

The fact is, you can suspect all you like but you do not know the details.  Until you do, any conclusions you choose to decide “must be” the reasons why they are not on time when they promised to be, could cause a great deal of confusion, undue pain, suffering, stress and anxiety.

Take a deep breath.  If you conclude that all is well and you will learn more later, you can see how the equation could turn out for the best even in the worst situations.  You will be calm, collected and happy to see them again at another time.

Save yourself needless pain and remind yourself not to take it personally.

For all you know, they could have been held up in road construction.

Maybe Grandma called and they didn’t want to rudely interrupt her to end the phone call.

It is possible they genuinely forgot when to meet you.  We all do that from time to time.

Whatever the reasons, good or bad, it will do you well to remember that what others do is always about them and their choices.  Yes, it may directly affect you and possibly even ruin your plans but then that gives you new choices to make when dealing with them in the future.  So instead of resorting to distorted thoughts that can lead to depression and anxiety, free yourself with the relief of knowing that your choices are yours and their choices always belong to them.

7 Responses to “WELL BEING: Cognitive Distortion”

  1. maggie August 3, 2011 at 9:19 pm #

    Excellent, Lynn. Very true. This is definitely something I could use help mastering. .
    Another great article!! Thank you ❤


    • Lynn Van Noy August 3, 2011 at 9:34 pm #

      Thanks Miss Maggie!

      This reminder is as much for me as anybody. It’s helpful to keep an open mind & be careful of projecting. *big hugs*


      • Michael Rudowsky August 12, 2011 at 1:01 pm #

        Excellent article. Really puts thinks in perspective.



  2. Lynn Van Noy August 12, 2011 at 4:57 pm #

    Glad it made sense, Michael. I’m always hoping this stuff is translatable. =)


  3. eldernorm December 14, 2011 at 2:09 pm #

    Very good article. I would like to post it (with references) on a site if its OK with you.



    • Lynn Van Noy December 14, 2011 at 6:17 pm #

      Certainly, be my guest. I’d love to see it if you don’t mind sending me a link, please!


  4. Alicia April 18, 2014 at 11:58 pm #

    See note on conflict


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