Since mid-January, I started going to therapy. As one who has a passion for mental health and speaks about the value of therapy, until last month, I hadn’t personally taken part in one session. So far, it has been a wonderful experience for me.
One of the things my therapist brought to my attention is the existence of cognitive distortions. Sure, that’s a big phrase to use, but once I describe what this is below, you’ll realize distortions are very common for us to have.
A cognitive distortion is a distorted way of thinking that brings you to wrong conclusions. It can affect how you process your mistakes, bad circumstances, and even respond to others. One distortion that I discovered I deal with, for example, is jumping to conclusions. Specifically when it comes to mind reading. This has led me to react negatively; from being mildly annoyed, to getting really upset at someone when they weren’t placing anything negative behind what they were saying. Like when I’m asked a question, and I assume there’s subtle disrespect in the question.
When you Google this term, you’ll find at least 10 distortions mentioned in PDFs and on websites that most of us tend to suffer from. I say most, but as I began to think about how imperfect we all are, it wouldn’t be far-fetched for me to say that everyone of us has at least one distortion that impacts us mentally.
Romans 12:1-2 speaks about how we are transformed by the renewing of our mind. While the context is speaking of knowing what God’s will is, instead of being conformed to sin, transforming our mindset has to be intentional on our part. Which means there are ways of thinking that are unhelpful to us. Cognitive distortion is one of those unhelpful ways of thinking. No matter the levels of success, giftedness, fame, goodness we experience in life, we need transformation.
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”Romans 12:1-2 ESV
Since we all deal with cognitive distortions, it is very helpful for us to understand our personal mental patterns, because of how influential they are to what we believe about ourselves and others, as well as gives us the opportunity to grow.
It has helped me in identifying when I’m jumping to conclusions, and I’m able to build better thinking into my life. I can challenge my thoughts by asking myself, “Is this really what the person is thinking/feeling towards me?” When I pray now, I’m able to bring this before God, and ask Him for the grace and sensitivity I need when responding to what people say to me. Here’s a list of ten below:
Are there any distortions on this list you’ve seen in your own thinking? Would love to talk more about it in comment section below! Take courage and know that your thought life is meant to change and grow, and God is intent on leading you and I to think more like Christ every day!