The principles of cognitive therapy suggest that negative thoughts popping up in the mind on various occasions are significant in the development or exacerbation of depression, anxiety, anger, low self-esteem, self-defeating behaviours and difficulties in stressful situations. Therefore one has to identify and challenge these negative thoughts which are automatically generated into the consciousness in order to enable a person to reduce distress and enhance the ability to cope with stressful situations. The psychological techniques of stress management can be summarized as follows:
• Learn specific strategies to think more realistically and positively about life.
• Avoid negative thinking and cognitive distortions.
These techniques are collectively referred to as cognitive restructuring procedures.
COMMON COGNITIVE DISTORTIONS
1. BLACK AND WHITE THINKING (ALL OR NONE THINKING)
Some people see everything in terms of ‘all good’ or ‘all bad’ with no middle ground. One may self suggest that being in a relationship with somebody or in an association with some movement must be all good, otherwise it is a terrible and unfulfilled relationship or association.
2. CATASTROPHISING (EMOTIONAL THINKING)
Some people exaggerate their mistakes or problems by blowing them up out of proportion. For example, suppose your boss asked you to do something again. If you think that it is ‘the worst thing that could have happened’ it is emotional thinking. Catastrophising or emotional thinking always causes tension and anxiety.
3. MIND READING
This is reading more into the behaviours and expressions of others than is really there. For example, if your boss calls you into his office to speak to you. While coming out from the room you think: ‘He looked at me strangely. He is angry with me.’ Not even experienced psychiatrists and psychologists have the power of mind reading. Mind reading is a negative automatic thinking.
4. FORTUNE TELLING (SELF FULFILLING PROPHECY)
Some people are in the habit of imagining the worst will occur in events and assuming all life events will turn out badly. Example: Not wanting to attend a party one thinks:”I know I’ll have a bad time and no one will speak to me.” Using this cognitive distortion can lead you to actually making a negative scenario a reality (At the party he feels uncomfortable and avoids contact with people). This is often referred to as ‘self fulfilling prophecy’.5. LABELING
You attach a negative label to yourself or others instead of describing the actual behaviours or actions. Example: calling one a hopeless loser rather than just acknowledging that one had made a mistake.
6. OVER GENERALISATION
This is drawing a general conclusion on the basis of only one incident. One bus conductor misbehaved to a passenger. The passenger draws a general conclusion that all bus conductors are bad and misbehaving.
7. MENTAL FILTER
Some are in the habit of taking into consideration negative things and incidents only. A clerk in a bank was working very well and was happy. At the fag end of the working hours a customer expressed some anger for the delay. The clerk forgets all good tidings of the day and broods over the angry response of a customer.
8. DISQUALIFYING THE POSITIVE
A girl’s friend said: “You look good in the photograph.” The girl’s response was: “Oh! It is only because photographer touched the negative.”
9. JUMPING TO CONCLUSIONS
The person has not arrived in the exact appointed time. One jumps to conclusion: “He will not come today.”
10. MAGNIFICATION AND MINIMISATION
Overestimation and underestimation of one’s own potentialities are self defeating negative thinking.
Owns others lapses and faults. The student failed in the examination owing to lack of preparation. The father of the student tells himself: “My son failed because of my lack of attention and proper parenting.”
12. “MUST DO THAT” THINKING
One should be able to understand others’ weakness and difficulties. Otherwise the individual will suffer from anxiety and tension due to lapses of others.