Hack #58. Avoid Cognitive Distortions

Learn to avoid 15 mental mistakes that distort your emotions and in turn further distort your thinking.

This hack will help you recognize the kinds of irrational thinking that you, like everyone else, tend to engage in from time to time. Reducing your irrational thinking will often help you to become a happier, and therefore more rational and effective, person.

The techniques in this hack can stand alone—after you recognize these thoughts for what they are, they lose much of their power—but the techniques work better when you use them as part of the ABC model of emotion [Hack #57], so I recommend that you read that hack first. These distorted thoughts tend to occur at the B stage of that ABC model.

Three Core Irrational Beliefs

The primary cognitive distortions of self, others, and world are the foundations for many of the secondary cognitive distortions in the next section. You might think of them as clumps of thought—that is, distorted viewpoints, orientations, or ways of approaching your life rather than individual thoughts.

Table 7-3 presents some sample distortions and common triggers for each of these perspectives.1

Table 7-3. Irrational beliefs and their common triggers

OrientationExampleCommon triggers
Self"I must be absolutely perfect in everything I do; otherwise, I can't stand myself because I am completely worthless!"Failing a test, missing a deadline, creating an imperfect work of art (i.e., any work of art)
Others"Everyone I meet ...

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