Thinking Traps

by Amanda Sladky a Doxa Counselor

Also known as cognitive distortions, thinking traps are patterns of thought that prevent us from seeing things how they really are. Cognitive distortions are a core element of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), along with other evidenced-based practices. They often are automatic thoughts, but typically reinforce negative thinking and more difficult emotions. They can feel factual, but after examination, we often find evidence against those thoughts. 

Below are the most common thinking traps: 

  • Filtering

You focus on negatives while ignoring positives of a situation 

  • Polarized Thinking (Black-or-White/”Either/or”)

You think in an all-or-nothing kind of way, black or white with no shades of gray. You have to be perfect, or you are a failure. 

  • Overgeneralization

You draw conclusions based on a single event or piece of evidence. 

  • Jumping to Conclusions (Mind Reading and Fortune Telling)

Assuming that you know what people think and why they do what they do 

Making predictions about the future, typically negative predictions, then completely believing them. 

  • Catastrophizing

You predict the worse and blow things out of proportion. 

  • Personalization

You think that what people say or do is a reaction to you. 

  • Magical Thinking

Believing that the course of events in the world depend on your actions and thoughts. 

  • Fallacy of Fairness

You think that you know what’s fair, but other people don’t agree. 

  • Blaming

You hold someone else accountable for something that isn’t in their control. 

  • Shoulds

You have ironclad rules that you think you and others should follow. 

  • Emotional Reasoning

You believe that what you feel must be true automatically. 

  • Fallacy of Change

You think that you can change people if you pressure them enough. 

  • Global Labeling

You put negative labels on yourself or on other people. 

  • Always Being Right

You think you need to be right and you will go any length to prove it.

  • Heaven’s Reward Fallacy

You think that your sacrifice will pay off someday. 

Which one’s do you tend to fall into? Are there any that caught you by surprise? 

Identifying which thinking traps you fall into brings awareness to some of those automatic thoughts that may be hindering you. After you have become aware of some of the thinking traps that you tend to fall into, here are some helpful questions to begin exploring and challenging those thoughts: 

How do I know if this thought is accurate? What evidence do I have to support this thought or belief? Is this thought helpful? Am I making assumptions? What else contributed to this situation? Are there any other ways that I can think about this situation or myself? Do I have a trusted friend whom I can check out these thoughts with? 

If this is something that might be hindering your relationships or mood, please reach out. Sometimes we just need an outside source to help us explore our inner thoughts and emotions. If you would like to learn more about the thinking traps you fall into and how they affect your thoughts and emotions, contact me by calling or using the web form to schedule an appointment.  

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Amanda Sladky

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