"She's not texting me back. She doesn't like me." "He always has something else planned whenever I want to hang out with him. He doesn't want to see me." "I have to be funny in order for everyone to like me." Are all those thoughts true? Absolutely not! I covered this in previous works, but it's now time to explain further into detail.
These are what known as cognitive distortions. A cognitive distortion is an irrational thought or belief on a situation that fails to see the situation for what it really is. In other words, a person distorts a situation and has their own thoughts on what is happening. Why do these occur? Because someone is depressed, suffers from anxiety, and has a bad past that leads them to be negative about everything. There are many types of these cognitive distortions, but I will explain the three most common ones that people deal with.
The first and most common type of cognitive distortion is filtering. In this situation, a person amplifies (filters) all the negative aspects of a situation and leaves out the positives of it. An example of this may be when a student works on a group project with a group of peers and the person does a really good job. However, come presentation day, the person may feel uncredited with what he did because all the other peer members of the group did their part just as well as he did. See what I am talking about? He feels inadequate about his performance because he feels that he is no better than the people he worked with.
The truth is, the person is actually just as good as his group members and will earn a good grade on the assignment because of his efforts and knowledge. However, a person distorting out the work he did and only focusing on how he feels on the subject fails to see any positives in a situation. When a cognitive filter is applied, the person sees only the negative and ignores anything positive.
The second most common type of cognitive distortion is polarized thinking (also known as "Black and White" thinking). In this instance, everything is all or nothing. We must be absolutely perfect at everything or else we are a complete failure. When I was about 17 years old, I was dating someone in high school but I felt like I didn't deserve to be with her. I kept thinking to myself, "How could a beautiful, smart, and classy girl like her want to be with…well me?"
The reality is it's not all that black and white. She dated me because she didn't care about what kind of grades I pulled or how I get my education (maybe she cared about how I looked but that obviously isn't the case either). Someone who has black and white thinking places people or situations in "either/or" categories, with no shades of gray or allowing for the difficulties in the situations. To summarize, a person with black and white thinking only sees things to the extremes when it's not the case at all.
The final type of cognitive distortion is jumping to conclusions. You've all probably heard of that phrase before right? In this distortion, a person assumes conclusions without even taking into consideration about what may actually be happening. It is never positive and we always assume the absolute worst.
Remember at the beginning of this article when I said, "She isn't texting me back. She doesn't like me?” Well, how do you know she doesn't like you? What possible reason does she have for not liking you? She obviously likes you enough to give you her number so the two of you can text and interact. She obviously has responded to you before. Why does she all of a sudden not like you? How do you know she isn't busy with schoolwork or her job?
Do you understand the meaning of this? Assuming the worst and jumping to conclusions will not make you think what is happening. In reality, it only makes a situation worse. Jumping to conclusions can also manifest itself as fortune-telling, where a person believes their entire future is pre-determined. So the next time you get out of a bad relationship, find someone else, and they ask you out on a date, don't assume that it will lead to another heartbreaking or abusive relationship just because you had one in the past.
Cognitive distortions are one of the biggest triggers and characteristics of depression. They give people a false sense of negativity when something is actually better than it seems. It is a sign of hopelessness, a sign of feeling defeated, a sign of feeling like a failure, and that everything will go bad. Everyone is bound for greatness and worth. You just have to see it for what it is.