I run a free group in the community once a month. It isn’t a therapy group, but rather a group in which I give psychology away to people for free. Why? Because I want for people to be able to free themselves up to be able to trust and listen to their inner guidance. In psychology terms, I want to help people to be freer from psychopathology & more self-directed. So, I give it away freely & with gusto! I know that if more people will address their emotional well-being, the world will be a happier and safer place for all of us & for our children.
Anyway, at our last group, I reviewed cognitive errors, which is chapter 17 in my book The REBT Super-Activity Guide. The question came up over and over–“How can I correct these errors? I see what I’m doing–how can I fix it?”
So, today we’re having a follow-up to the last group, where the question came up. I’m going to answer the question for the participants. In case you can’t join us, I wanted to share the content with you.
These suggestions are based on some of what I use when I work with clients using REBT and CBT methods, by the way.
When you are feeling unhealthy negative emotions, you are feeling them for a reason. The reason is usually linked back to your thoughts. Use your unhealthy negative feelings as a signal that it is time to look at what you are telling yourself—what is the story that you tell yourself? What do you allow yourself to believe about the situation?
As you start the process of correcting your thinking error, remind yourself that thinking errors are normal to make & are encompassed under normal human error. As human beings, we are designed to make mistakes. So, just because YOU make a thinking error, it doesn’t make YOU wrong, bad, inadequate, crazy or a loser.
Why do we make these mistakes in thinking—why are we designed to do so? We do so because we are trying to simplify. We simplify to increase efficiency. The goal of efficiency is to improve our own (1) self-protection and (2) self-enhancement. However, it is when we realize that our thinking errors (1) decrease our self-protection and (2) are usually self-defeating that we begin to allow ourselves to correct these errors.
Start by identifying the thinking error & then look at the table to find ways to correct it. It takes diligent work to break a habit, but it can be broken. Here is a table that will help you with specific corrections for specific errors:
Corrections for thinking errors follow:
Overgeneralization Look for exceptions to your rule
Black and White Thinking Look for the shades of gray
Labeling Define the label. Find instances in which the person doesn’t meet the criterion for the definition.
Magnification/Minimization If exaggerating, try on the understatement. If understating, try on the exaggeration. Then, look at this with relative thinking.
Jumping to conclusions Slow down and get more data for your conclusion—ask yourself if you have all the information Fortune telling Do several prediction experiments and see how accurate you are. If you are not 100% accurate, recognize that you don’t have a crystal ball.
Mind reading Ask questions to determine whether your assumption about others is right or wrong. Work to find the actual reasons for the person’s behavior.
Making “should” statements Change the demand into a preference OR explain the opposite “should”. Remember that just because someone could doesn’t mean they must.
Blaming Look for other contributing factors. Draw a responsibility pie chart to determine how much blame could realistically be assigned to one factor.
Ignoring information Open your eyes to remaining information: what is the rest of the story? If you are focusing on the negative, spend 5 to 10 minutes discussing the positives that you are ignoring.
I feel therefore it is so or emotional reasoning Look at the evidence for and against your conclusion. Recognize that your feelings may be related to other causes (for example, something happened earlier, HALT, person reminds you of someone, etc.).
Awfulizing or Catastrophizing Finish the sentence, “At least _____” (For example, at least he still has a job or at least we are still talking) OR the sentence, “It could be worse. It could be that ______.” List lots of examples of how it could be worse. Ask yourself what good could come of this?
Low Frustration Tolerance or “I-can’t-stand-it-itis” or “I want what I want when I want it” Remind yourself that you are already “standing it” or you wouldn’t be alive! Then work to develop even higher frustration tolerance and patience. Challenge yourself to tolerate whatever it is that is going on but not focus exclusively on it. When you are not working on reducing the thing that is blocking you from your goal, work on finding things you can enjoy outside of the frustrating event. For example, you can work to accomplish another goal or to find pleasure in another life area.
I am my feelings/I am my problems Recognize other feelings that you have had in the past that are different from the one you have now. Then remember that just because you feel a certain way, it doesn’t make YOU into your feeling. Recognize other problems that you’ve solved in the past. Then remember that just because you are facing a life problem, it doesn’t mean that YOU are the life problem.
Here are some additional techniques you can try with any of the thinking errors (these are more techniques I use with my clients): Examining the evidence for & against your idea, experimenting to test your idea, looking at whether the idea is helping you or not, finding other explanations besides your conclusion, asking yourself how you’d talk to a friend in the same circumstance, asking other people how they’d see it, rephrasing what you say to be more kind/confident/etc.
Please note that sometimes people are stuck in an ingrained vicious cycle of thought & benefit from help, which is one aspect of the work I do as an REBT/CBT therapist. Sometimes friends, family, and unskilled therapists will inadvertently reinforce thinking errors , so it is important to be careful when selecting a partner in emotional healing.
Once you correct the thinking error, you release the block. Once you release the block, you can feel relaxed, joyous, peaceful, and harmonious, which I believe are the states which lead to an openness to your inner guidance.
To your success,
Pamela D. Garcy, Ph.D.
Dallas Clinical Psychologist & Coach
My new book is available on amazon & is called The REBT Super-Activity Guide
Author of the #1 National Bestseller The Power of Inner Guidance: Seven Steps to Tune In and Turn On
Co-author of the bestseller Wake Up Moments of Inspiration