To recap, Cognitive Distortions are distortions in our thinking that disallow us from having a rational view of what is happening around us. Because we are looking at the world with a distorted filter, this often leads to negative emotions creeping to the surface and if we are not aware, we won’t know how to deal with them. There are many Cognitive Distortions that we are affected by. This series is going to look at the top 15.
Welcome to part 4 (last part) of the 4 part series on Cognitive Distortions. In Part 1 of this series, we looked at the first three Cognitive Distortions, that is Filtering, Black or White thinking, and Overgeneralisation. In Part 2 of the series, we looked at the next four Cognitive Distortions, which are Jumping to Conclusions, Catastrophising, Personalisation, and Control Fallacies. In Part 3, we looked at Blaming, Control Fallacy, Shoulds, and Emotional Reasoning.
In this last part, we look at the final four distortions – Fallacy of Change, Labelling, Always Being Right, and Heaven’s Reward Fallacy.
- Fallacy of Change: When we think that if we pressurise people enough, or cajole them enough, they will change and see our point of view. We hear of instances when girls beg their boyfriends to not leave them, or vice versa. Or when they have already been dumped, beg them to come back. And when the boyfriend or the girlfriend doesn’t relent the affected person finds it difficult to handle the rejection.
At some level, most people are aware of some cognitive distortions at play in their lives, even if they can’t name them. And they are still unable to change themselves. So if changing yourself is so difficult, imagine how successful you will be at trying to change someone else.
- Labelling: Recently my son forgot to do something important at school, leading to a penalty having to be paid. When I was speaking to him about it, I told him that his behaviour had been irresponsible. A couple of days later, I asked him to describe himself to me. And he started off his negatives by saying, ‘I am irresponsible’. In his young mind, he hadn’t been able to differentiate between an irresponsible act and being irresponsible himself. He had labelled himself as irresponsible.
Other labels we hear of often are loser, sissy, no-good, etc. Labelling is when you assign a name either to yourself or to someone else. If you call yourself a loser and believe it, you have labelled yourself and signed yourself up for disappointment. If you call someone else a jerk, your actions towards that person will be those of mistrust and that could be a disastrous situation to be in, in case you have to deal with the person on a regular basis.
- Always Being Right: Or always wanting to be right is a distortion we engage in when we always want to win an argument or have the last word in one. The feeling is, no matter what anyone thinks, I am right and I shall prove it, even if it takes all day. Or, even if it hurts the other person, I cannot help it, because they should know the truth.
This could potentially lead to conflict or hurt feelings of loved ones, because we cannot bear being seen as incorrect and we will go to any lengths to prove it.
- Heaven’s Reward Fallacy: When we think someone up there is watching everything that we are doing, and if we do all right by Him, we will be rewarded, and if we do anything wrong, we will be punished, this distortion has kicked in. When we are expecting a reward, and we don’t get it, we feel disappointed. And if we have done something wrong, we constantly live in fear about when the axe of God will strike us. Sometimes, the Personalisation distortion combines with this. I have a client with religious OCD. When she experienced mild tremors in her city, she thought it was her doing, and that God would be punishing her entire city because she was ‘sinning’.
Also, when we see so much wrongdoing in the world, and we do not see the wrongdoers being punished, we are disappointed.
It is important to know at these times that no such thing will visibly happen. If karma has to make you pay back, it will happen so in its own good time, and in its own way, not when you are expecting to see it happen.
As can be seen, sometimes multiple Cognitive Distortions work together to contort our worldviews for us. In the interest of our own mental wellbeing, it is important to know about these distortions and make sure that they are properly identified, dealt with, and eliminated.