Cognitive Distortions – Intro (Part 1)

That doesn’t make sense!

PREVIOUS: Why are you Stuck?

ARTICLE: “Thoughts Change Brain Chemistry

See ACRONYM page for abbrev

1. DEF: Cognitive Distortions (CDs ) are forms of  false logic, called stinkin’ thinkin’ in AA, which are the technical ideas behind the ACoA Laundry List  – therefore represent self-defeating ways of Thinking.   (List of CD in Part 4)

They are ways our mind convinces us of things that are not actually true but sound rational if not looked at carefully. They’re used to reinforce negative beliefs & painful emotions, which only serve to keep us feeling bad about ourselves, & create constant problems in relationships.

A CD is: “Any type of inaccurate way of dealing with information, which predictably results in identifiable errors in thinking”. This includes:
– Deficient Processing, causing an unwanted consequence because we didn’t think about it at all, or didn’t think it all the way thru to its inevitable outcome – ignoring prior knowledge
– Deficient Thinking, which causes something to go wrong because of a faulty filter (CDs) applied to available information about a situation

• Anyone can use cognitive distortions. However – active addicts, people with low self-esteem &/or anyone living in traumatic, stressful, ‘trapos/neg newspped’  environment – will use these skewed ways of thinking more often than those who have easier lives.
The day-to-day situations of some, like war survivors, gang members, battered wives, the underprivileged, many addicts & millions of suffering children…. are so wretched & fear-filled, that without cognitive distortions, they wouldn’t be able to manage or function

• One study showed that depressed & non-depressed people were equally able to learn negative information, but depressed people found it much harder to learn / take in / remember positive information. Everyone seems to easily remember negative events, but depressives focus on them.
(Journal of Behavior Therapy & Experimental Psychiatry, 3/09)

• Kendall (1992) suggested that more accurate perceptions of the world do not always lead to better mental health or behavioral adjustment. CDs that are positively skewed can be very useful in certain environments, although a ‘too positive’ view of things may just be narcissism (or being dissociated / or in denial)!

thinking brain2. OUR BRAIN – A little Chemistry as it relates to our THINKING
a. Our brains has hundreds of different types of chemicals, arranged in a highly complex design.
Stimuli (what we hear, see, think, do, feel…) trigger 30 + known neuro-transmitters.  Some are relatively stable structural molecules that create the anatomy (hardware) of the brain.  Others are non-structural, making the physiology (software). It takes both types of chemicals to make our brain work.

• This chemistry influences hormone secretion from various sites throughout the brain, such as the hypothalamus & pituitary, and these hormones then carry messages to distant organs in the body (Post: ‘Anger & the Brain, Part 1‘)

b. THOUGHTS cause actual microscopic changed in this elaborate system. Each of the billions of brain cells make connections with others when stimuli or thoughts trigger chemical discharges (the neuro-transmitters). Electrical impulses, via ions, send that information throughout the central nervous system.

c. The biochemicals released whenever we think are pumped into the bloodstream, creating changes in the whole body. Every thought is embedded at some level in the molecules of our brain.
One group of chemicals is triggered by a negative state of mind (like adrenalin & cortisol, changes in norepinephrine levels, & a serotonin deficiency), while others (like serotonin & dopamine) are generated by positive thoughts. (from “Open2Transformation”)

d. All beliefs we mentally nurture (repeat / obsess about) actually influence brain chemistry. In general, the more we think something, the more connections are formed about it.  But harmful ones, such as project the disastrous outcome of an event, block the flow of energy to the whole body.

– ACoAs who constantly think scary, self-hating, what-if thoughts have formed deep grooves, with different neural links, making those the path of least resistance (easiest).
– In contrast, repeating pleasant, realistic, hopeful ideas will get stronger by forming their own grooves, which provide the impetus to become practical life-affirming habits (actions).

NEXT: CDs – Intro (Part 2)

2 thoughts on “Cognitive Distortions – Intro (Part 1)

  1. Hi Donna… great post.

    I learned about CDs in a set of sessions a Psychiatrist lead me through. He was also a 12-stepper himself and focused mainly on working with recovering addicts and alcoholics.

    The names Dr. Burns gives to the various CDs in his book, Feeling Good, really help identify the common distortions in a way that we can more easily recognize them in our thinking.

    For me a big one was the Labelling. I have a sarcastic bent that seems to come naturally. Yet I feel it turned around and bit me by helping me habitually make constant overstatements to the negative to describe how I saw or felt about things. When we say it, the subconscious picks up on it and it drives us deeper and deeper into believing these negative thing.

    I personally believe that negative overstatement is most often an expression of self-pity. For instance, “all I do is pay taxes”, is a statement that is highly improbable as an actual fact. And wouldnt that make for a pathetic person who all they ever did was pay taxes and had nothing for themselves? I believe the sick side of our thinking wants us to believe these negative overstatments so we can continually be dragged further and further down.

    When I did a course of CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy) sessions with an emphasis on identifying my common distortions, life began to change immediately. I saw the lies of my enemy (my negative internal dialogue) and exposed him for the liar he was. I then learned to look for, hear, and speak more truth.

    The result was depression and anxiety that I had known my entire life began to lift almost immediately. It was amazing. This simple set of discoveries is very, very powerful.

    Thanks again for the post.




    • Hi Chaz, nice to hear from you. Funny you should mention self-pity – I just wrote 2 posts on “feeling sorry for” – both positive & negative. Will be up in a couple of weeks.

      Amazing how powerful the right info is.
      Reminds me of the books & ads : “What the IRS / doctor / insurance co …. don’t want you to know”.
      For us it’s : “What your family / Introject don’t want you to know”.

      Well, we fooled them – we got the drop on their tactics & took away their power! Yeah!


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