You have a fallible brain that constantly and inevitably makes mistakes. Isn’t that great?! This means that we don’t have to be perfect because we can’t be perfect anyway. We are fully fallible human beings who learn from mistakes—our own and those of others.
Now our cognitive filters determine how we make sense of things and create meaning about things. This are our filters or thinking patterns and they inevitably control how we think, understand, perceive, and even experience things. Cognitive distortions refer to those thinking patterns that create distorted representations, thoughts, beliefs, decisions, and then emotions. And these are the filters that make our way of constructing meaning itself sick and dis-empowering. As thinking patterns, any and ever cognitive distortion create limitations and emotional misery.
These are mostly primitive ways of thinking which we learn as children. And they create faulty perceptions that get us in trouble. So, as adults, when we use these thinking patterns to reason, we inevitably create ill-formed and inaccurate mental models that imprison us in non-sense and limiting possibilities. Use the following Cognitive Distortions as a check-list of the thinking patterns in the back of your mind that you use to construct meaning and explain things. Step back and ask: What is the thinking pattern or perceptual filter informing my thinking and feeling? When you can simply recognize them for what they are, then you can truly know: The problem is the frame, not me. This will give you a great first step to clarity and choice. Cognitive distortions set up your “buttons” so that certain things can get you and rattle you. Then you react in unthinking and defensive ways.
You lie to yourself when you don’t tell the truth. When you misrepresent reality, when you give only part of the truth, when you twist and distort the truth , in these and many other ways—you lie. What you say or present is not “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” The difference that this makes depends on the degree of distortion and the effect it has on you and others. If you misrepresent value as Madoff did for years in his scheme to cheat billions out of others, you can create tremendous harm.
We often lie about where we were, what we did, or didn’t do. We lie to excuse ourselves, to put ourselves in a more positive light. We lie to escape responsibility. All that is content lies. Yet above and beyond those detail dies are a higher form of lies— meta-lies. In fact, a fact of reality that true at the primary level can become a lie—a distortion, a delusion, an illusion, a misrepresentation.
Cognitive Clearing and Enriching: To unleash our best potentials we have to grow beyond the simplicity of childish thinking. As we mentally grow, we develop an expanded philosophical understanding of things as well as more sophisticated critical thinking skills. The following thinking patterns enable us to create more accurate and useful mental maps. With them we can counter the older ways of thinking that distort our perceptions and experience an expanded and higher level of consciousness that empowers, unleashes, and actualizes. This endows us with the ability to create richer and more robust meanings.