Do you see and assume what is not there? (cognitive distortions)

Are you aware that you may see and assume something that is not there?

How can it be? – you ask – I am not crazy!

We all have common ways that our thought processes are dysfunctional, called cognitive distortions.

These inaccurate thoughts reinforce negative thinking patterns and emotions and convince us of a reality that is simply not true.

It can be liberating just hearing about these distortions because once you recognize that the reality you assume isn’t necessarily 100% accurate, you can open up to greater possibilities.

Even those of us who pride ourselves on being critical thinkers can get stuck in these traps.

The good news is that it is possible to overcome faulty programming by using CBT techniques. It is called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

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Listed below are the cognitive distortions you may recognize having. It is worth noting that I am not writing this to make you feel bad. I am writing this to make you aware and improve the quality of your life. We do not want to see or assume what is not there, don't we, ladies?

Funny thing is, I found that I have one of these lol. Actually, it is scary and crazy!

All-or-Nothing / Polarized Thinking:

It is ‘black and white’ thinking when we are unable to see grey areas. In daily life it translates into situations when we cannot see other factors or options available to us.

Think about it! If you cannot see ‘in between’ then you may be stuck between two extremes. This may result in you not being willing to compromise or make a decision.

On top of that, if everything is either perfect or awful there is no room for all the emotions and experiences that can be in between.

As an example, a person who fails at something. If they have this ‘black and white’ thinking they will immediately assume that they are a total loser and a failure.

They may not recognize that they may need to improve in that one small particular area and that a single failure does not define them as a whole.


In this distortion we over generalize everything and define a single occurrence as an overall pattern.

As an example - when we get ghosted by a date. We may assume that we are not that attractive and worthy to be invited for a second date.

We may then generalize further assuming that we will be disliked by everyone and no one will ever want to date or marry us.

This negative thought process will eventually convince us that we cannot be loved.

What we are missing here is that a single incident was used as evidence to conclude something. A single incident!

The biggest challenge with over generalization is that we may define our abilities or characteristics based on one single experience and then stop trying in the future because of that one bad experience.

I call it a mental block. Do you over generalize? Did you stop trying because of that one single crappy experience?

Jumping to conclusions:

This distortion happens when we assume what the other person thinks, feels or what their intentions are.

It is true that at times we may have a general idea of what the other person may think or feel but we may not want to acknowledge that we could be wrong.

As an example, a person who seems uninterested in what we want to say. Picking up on non-verbal clues we may immediately assume that they dislike or even hate us without knowing the real truth.

The simple truth could be that the other person may be distracted with something else in their life.

Our assumptions and ‘predictions’ are typically based on our own biases instead of reality.

Magnification (Catastrophizing) or Minimization:

This distortion happens when you exaggerate the meaning of something, or on the other hand – minimize it.

As an example a single mistake you may make, but magnify it to proportions of the Universe.

“This is it, I am done. There is no turning back. That one single mistake has destroyed all my plans and my dreams” – is a typical thought process of catastrophizing situations.

On the other hand, a person may do something great for you but will minimize your praise and compliments:

“Oh, no big deal, not worth mentioning, I am not that good to deserve all these compliments”

Emotional Reasoning:

This is an important distortion that we need to identify and address because it is very common.

Emotional reasoning is when we take our emotions as a fact. In other words, if we feel it, then it must be true and we find reasons to justify it.

Unfortunately, for many of us, it is difficult to see past our current emotional state.

For example, if we feel unattractive at the moment we may believe that it must be an overall fact of who we are.

We feel that way, therefore it is real.

The truth is that our emotional state at a given moment on a specific topic is rarely indicative of reality.

Always Being Right:

If you are a perfectionist you may experience this distortion. This is the belief that you must be right or correct at all times. Therefore being wrong is unacceptable and you will do whatever you must to prove that you are right, even when you are wrong.

Agreeing to disagree does not exist in your world and you may have destructive relationships, since you want to be right all the time at all cost.

Many times you are unable to admit mistakes, be fair, or to be open to other views and beliefs.

Heaven’s Reward Fallacy:

This is the belief system that suffering and hard work will lead to a just reward. This may lead to creating some unnecessary suffering in one’s life.

It can also lead to people getting frustrated when their hard work or suffering does not lead to expected results.

Sometimes no matter how hard you work on something or how much you suffer through a situation it will not lead to a reward or to achieve what you thought you would achieve.

We can also think of it from the perspective of Karma and assume that if we do good that a reward or something good must occur.

Good may occur, but if it does not meet our expectations or people do not react in ways that we expect, we may feel frustrated, angry, and even depressed.

Bright examples of this are one-sided relationships and unrequited love situations. We can try all we can ‘to make them love us back’ but suffering through this and working hard on this does not mean a reward will follow. A reward may never come and they may never love us back.

These are mental traps that may last for many years… the years wasted on a mirage.

Mental Filter:

Mental filters are very similar to overgeneralizations. This is where a person may focus completely on one thing, such as the negative aspect of a situation, without being able to see the other side, the positives.

For example: you may talk to a person and hear one negative thing, but neglect to recognize or remember all the positive things the person said.

This tendency can lead us to only focus on the negative things around us. We filter out everything good and focus only on the negatives.

For example, we may refuse to go out with someone because of some simple negative thing they did or said to us. And even though they are a great person and treated us right, that little negative will block us from moving forward.

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