CBT Thinking Errors Part 2: Changing Our Thoughts- Jumping to Conclusions, Catastrophizing and Mental Filtering
In our previous blog post we reviewed various cognitive distortions and thought processes that interfere with our sense of well being and mental health. We all experience anxious thoughts from time to time. It’s natural to worry about things like our health, money, and relationships. But for some people, these anxious thoughts can become so intense and frequent that they disrupt daily life.
CBT or cognitive behavioral therapy is a type of psychological treatment that has been found to be effective for a range of mental health issues. It is based on the idea that our thoughts, moods and behaviors are all interconnected, and that by changing the way we think we can change the way we feel and behave. One of the techniques used in CBT is called “reframing.” Reframing is a way of changing the way you think about your thoughts as well as changing the way you perceive daily interactions and experiences.
- Jumping to conclusions
In order to prevent jumping to conclusions, or making faulty negative assumptions about people or events, it is important to consider three main concepts. One should consider gathering all of the facts of a situation before making an assumption about what is happening or what will happen. One should also make an effort to challenge one’s automatic thoughts by considering if there would be another way to perceive or make sense of the situation. If there is a situation in which you are jumping to conclusions about another person’s thoughts, feelings or behaviors, consider asking that person directly or other people that were involved in the situation.
Catastrophic thinking is the habit of automatically imagining the worst-case scenario in any given situation. It’s a common coping mechanism for anxiety and stress, but it can also be very destructive. Catastrophizing is different from pessimism in that it involves imagining a negative outcome that is not just probable, but virtually certain. Reframing catastrophic thinking is a process of changing the way you think about a negative situation.
When you reframe a situation, you change the way you look at it, and this can often make the problem seem less threatening and more manageable. In these moments when we are reframing our catastrophic thoughts, it is important to acknowledge this type of thought process is happening and assertively tell our thoughts to stop, remind ourselves that our emotions will always change, that we often will encounter difficult or less comfortable situations and that we are capable of finding some way to cope with the situation if it is something we will eventually need to encounter.
- Mental filtering:
As discussed in our previous blog post, mental filtering is a way in which we tend to view situations and interactions with others through a lens of negativity, as if there is a dark veil over our eyes and perceptions. It is important to begin to recognize this type of thought process as it is occurring and identify it as a cognitive distortion, saying to yourself “I am engaging in mental filtering, which is a distorted way of thinking right now.”
Gently challenge yourself to not only validate the negative parts of a situation that you might be focusing on and spend as much time naming and identifying hopeful, positive or valuable parts of your experience as well. You can gently say to yourself “I might be feeling a certain way, but I know that not everything is bad or good. I can identify both of these parts in any situation along with the gray in between.”
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