“Like food is to the body, self-talk is to the mind. Don’t let any junk thoughts repeat in your head.”
Hi, Max here from The Coaching Room. Thanks for checking this article out. Once you’ve read it, I hope that you will have a deeper understanding of how your self-talk and cognitive distortions can shape your reality and some life hacks that you can take to improve the quality of your life and level of emotional intelligence, if you choose to.
In part one of this article, I’ll be talking about how you can use the top 5 (of the 11) most common cognitive distortions as a checklist of the thinking patterns you may hold in the back of your mind, the problems the distorted thinking can create as well as the solution for an empowering response. If that is something of interest for you, continue reading – I’ll be covering the remaining 10 cognitive distortions in part 2.
One of the obstacles of improving quality of life is the painful and difficult one of the inner critic. The voice inside our heads that judges, criticizes, compares, condemns, blames and attacks us and others ruthlessly and constantly – what we refer to as the super ego.
We develop this part of ourselves as we grow up; to take on the role of inner conscious built through the environment we grow up in and as we start to separate ourselves from our parents, we begin parenting ourselves. We become a harsh judge and a cruel source of punishment to ourselves, developing into a ridged part of our minds that embodies inflexible rules and standards, blind to reason and deaf to reality. We are simply operating from a mistaken map, a map that simply does not enable us to navigate the territory very well.
That was certainly the case for me. As part of my own personal development, NLP training and with a life coach, I decided to stop talking myself into a terrible future by gaining objectivity of my cognitive distortions and take responsibility of my own thoughts, given that they are mine to choose
To begin, let’s look lightly at a question; what are cognitive distortions?
In NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) cognitive distortions refer to the thinking patterns that create distorted representations, thoughts, beliefs, decisions and emotions, which make our way of making sense of things constructing meaning itself, sick and disempowering. As thinking patterns, any and every cognitive distortion creates limitations and emotional misery, as we talk ourselves into a terrible future.
1. Over generalising
Taking only a few facts or none at all and jumping to “premature evaluations” (Yes, I said that right) and assuming them to be true, creating false cause-effect structures and making them pervasive.
“Because it didn’t work out the first time, it means that it will won’t ever work out and I’ll never succeed at doing this, why would I even try.”
Instead, think contextually to find clarity and precision in the distortion. What, when, where, which, who and why? Never? What does success look like?
2. All or nothing thinking
Black and white thinking that polarizes at extremes and reduces a situation to only two elements, this or that, good or bad, giving no other choices and nothing in the middle.
“I’m either in or I’m out, there is no in between. You’re either with me or you’re against me, 100% or not at all.”
Instead, expand choices through in-between thinking. Would there be any shades of grey in between the black and white? To what degree?
Accusatory thinking that transfers blame and responsibility for a problem to someone or something else, blinding them to responses for change and impairs the power of responsibility.
“It’s not my fault I’m unhealthy, work stresses me out and because of my boss I have no time to exercise and eat properly. It’s actually his fault I’m like this”
Instead, own your choices by taking responsibility for you. What am I response-able for?
4. Mind reading
When we project our thoughts, feelings and intuitions onto others without checking our guesses with the person and over trust our “intuitions” about other people, we see them through the lens of our own mental filters rather than checking out our interpretations and assumptions.
”I think because they didn’t turn up on time, it means that they are inconsiderate and do not care about other people. Even when they did turn up, it looked like they didn’t want to be there”
Instead, sensory thinking can straighten out relationship and encourage dialogue. How do you know that? How did you draw that conclusion? What are the facts?
Projecting negative outcomes into the future without seeing alternatives or possible ways to proactively intervene. Seeing problems and pain as permanent and never ending.
“I’ve always got bad luck. Things never work out for me. I just certain that something bad is going to happen that’s going to ruin everything.”
Instead, open up the future (which only exists in your mind by the way), identify leverage points and increase your ability to influence what happens by thinking tentatively while predicting the future, because the future is not real, so you might as well prophesize one that isn’t so terrible.
So, stop talking yourselves into a terrible future by using this simple NLP technique.
Identify an activity where you are not getting the results that you want.
Identify the cognitive distortions that create difficulties or limitations as you take a step back and look at it objectively.
In what way may it have undermined your sense of well-being, or has it served you well?
Update the cognitive distortions with empowering thinking patterns.