Thinking errors are automatic and based on our experiences, culture, upbringing and many other factors. If unchecked, they can generate anger and frustration tearing personal and working relationships apart. Thinking errors (or cognitive distortions) are subtle thoughts that tend to influence our behavior leading to stress and other mental health challenges overtime. Aaron Beck, an American Psychiatrist, developed the theory of thinking errors and suggested that distortions in thinking are habitual and only serve to reinforce negative thoughts and emotions. In fact, thinking errors only keep us in a negative frame of mind, feeling bad about ourselves and others.
So what are they and how do we make a change towards a more positive outlook and quality of life? The first step is to become more aware of habitual, negative thoughts. The second is to challenge the validity of such a thought and find exceptions to the thinking error…
Thinking Error #1: Black and White Thinking
Believing there are two types of people in the world is an excellent example of black and white thinking. This error in thinking may drive the perfectionist into believing that if it can’t be done perfectly; there is no reason to do it at all. Black and white thinking can also be the underlying motivation for the procrastinator when there is a big job to get done. This belief also holds back many people from trying new sports or activities for fear they will not perform well.
Black and white thinking can generate anger, frustration, and self-deprecating thoughts through the establishment of high expectations of self and others. Failing to meet those perfectionist standards may lead to enhanced stress and negative emotions such as disappointment and feelings of failure. By challenging these thoughts and learning to accept more grey than black and white we may find more room for other opportunities without the added fear of failure or being less than perfect.