How Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Helps You Address and Overcome Cognitive Distortions
The human mind can dream of distant worlds and analyze a flood of stimuli every microsecond. But perhaps its most important job is to protect itself. When you encounter distress or doubt, your brain goes into overdrive, rationalizing the situation to generate your ultimate response. It is a dichotomy that often pits the emotional against the logical, so it is essential to identify cognitive distortions when they arise.
When the mind is overwhelmed, rationalizations can become distorted. You may not be thinking as clearly as usual when you feel you are under attack, mentally speaking. Recovery can be a turbulent time in your life. In response, your mind may resort to extreme methods of coping. Your everyday perspectives might get twisted and refracted in ways that you never expected. Cognitive distortions can lead to behavioral challenges, which can trigger a relapse if left unacknowledged.
To address the dynamic of toxic thinking, we must examine its manifestations and learn how to overcome them.
What Are Cognitive Distortions?
There are many ways in which the brain processes data. We study what we see and hear on a surface level, assessing these external stimuli at their face value. But on a deeper level, we interpret what the world around us means and how it makes us feel.
Take, for example, a simple “hello” from a coworker. We exchange pleasantries with others daily, but cognitive distortions may subvert how we perceive them. If you overthink the tone of the person who greeted you or analyzed the look on her face when she spoke, it reflects how your mind operates.
Cognitive distortions may lead to you polarizing your everyday interactions. Instead of seeing the world as a spectrum of individuals, you may sort them into people who either love you or hate you. Hence, the morning salutation referenced above is perceived as your coworker is either “with” you or “against” you.
When emotional reasoning grips you, you begin to believe that the way you feel at any given moment is an actionable truth. If you are depressed, for instance, then the entire world is a scary place. This instance of cognitive distortion is especially dangerous when it comes to life in recovery. Your mood swings can jeopardize your sobriety through your thought processes.
The Evolution of Distortion
The ultimate moving target must be specified when speaking about mental activity. Your thoughts flicker brilliantly and rapidly, so you evolve alongside your consciousness. That is why we must evaluate cognitive distortions as a phenomenon that is continuously in flux.
In other words, cognitive distortion is not “wrong” or “bad” but rather a defense mechanism. If you have overcome personal obstacles and strife, your brain needs a break sometimes. You may jump to conclusions that tomorrow will be awful because yesterday brought trauma and tragedy. Or you may not be able to discern positive feedback because you have been so busy girding yourself against negativity.
In these examples, cognitive distortion protects you from disappointment. You are preparing for the worst out of habit and self-preservation. To move beyond catastrophic thinking, we must explore the opportunities of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).
How Can CBT Counter Cognitive Distortions?
To fix an issue, you must first identify it. That is the first pillar of cognitive behavioral therapy, a discipline designed to help you conquer duress through mindfulness.
CBT asserts that many of the psychological problems that may weigh one down are a product of cognitive distress. Distorted patterns of thought may evolve into destructive behavior, thus exacerbating the downward spiral of negativity. By breaking the distortion cycle and overreaction, a patient may forge new ways of thinking and cope with their biggest obstacles.
To put these rules into action, CBT encourages participants to reevaluate their cognitive distortions. Using the example from earlier in this article, let us revisit that coworker who may or may not have shared an icy “hello” with you. Cognitive-behavioral therapy examines your visceral reaction to the greeting. Why did you assume that she meant you harm?
By acclimating your mind to other people’s perspectives, CBT expands your horizons. You no longer have to see the world through a prism of negativity and absolutes. There may be many reasons why a person says “hello” to you, primarily because they want to wish you a pleasant day.
The Role of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in Recovery
As you advance with your progress in the CBT realm, you will gain valuable insights regarding stress management and coping skills. Cognitive distortions push you to extremes when faced with confrontations, but retraining your brain opens a whole new menu of ways to deal with external factors.
These self-management tactics are essential when it comes to sober living. You will face setbacks, and you must develop methods of overcoming these disappointments whenever they should arise. The more you triumph over adversity, the more confident you become to face your next life challenge. CBT creates an upward spiral of achievement and optimism.
The purpose of this article is to give you an overview of how changing your perspective can alter your thought patterns, but it may sound more comfortable than it is. You have worked hard to become the person you are, and your mind is resilient. Changing it overnight is impossible, which is why we are here to help guide the way. Contact the caring staff at Ethos, and together, we can brainstorm a brighter tomorrow.
Author – Chris Howard
Chris Howard is the Founder and Director of Ethos Recovery. He has a B.A. in Psychology from UCLA and has served as a community advocate/mentor for men and women in recovery since 2010.