WHAT A MESS I’VE MADE
I don’t know what I was thinking!
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Our brains are predisposed to making connections between ideas, actions & consequences, whether they’re truly connected or not.
While most people have a few CDs, ACoAs struggle with them long-term, having been formed as a way of coping with ongoing painful & traumatic life events.
The more CDs we absorb or develop, & the longer we ‘use’ them as the basis for living, the more they increase anxiety, deepen depression., cause relationship difficulties & auto-immune diseases.
THINKING: Cognitive Distortions (CDs) are available to the conscious mind but are usually slanted in a negative direction (CDs –Summary).
ACTIONS: Cognitive DEFICITS show up in the ways that using CDs – as a model for how to function – prevents us from successfully handling many of life’s situations. People use & maintain CDs:
• to deny responsibility for their actions & ignore the harmful results
• to avoid facing painful emotions, or having to change themselves
— even though acting on them ensures that we stay deprived.
CDs are like termites, damaging the whole system. Conscious (overt) self-abusing thoughts & talk reinforce themselves, creating a feedback loop of self-harm. Studies show how CDs impact a wide variety of
• SOCIAL problems: child molestation (religious & non-church pedophiles), juvenile delinquents, chronic substance abusers….
• PERSONAL issues: depression & worry, OCD, Bi-polar illness, difficulties with relationships, college success, job searches, physical health problems… partially caused by anxiety & prolonged stress
✶ CDs are visible signs of deeper, unconscious damage, needing to be addressed. The mantra used by the Behavior Modification school of psychology “Change your thinking, & all will be well” is not the whole story & does a great disservice to many suffering people. If we change our surface thinking but not the underlying wounds, the improvements which do occur are rarely permanent.
CDs represent holes in our reasoning. 3 themes have been observed:
• Current events are always interpreted negatively
• Depressed individuals dislike themselves
• The future is also appraised negatively (Aaron Beck)
SO, to identify one of several causes of depression, we can carefully focus on the connections between external events & our inner responses (“Anxiety & T.E.A.“). The sequence:
i. Activating event (objective Situation) : making a cold-call, asking for help, mulling over a problem
ii. Automatic Thoughts = Limiting Beliefs : “They’re too busy to talk to me” , “I should’t need help” , “He won’t want to listen to me”
iii. Logic Errors (CDs) : Assuming the Worst, Mind-Reading, Fortune-Telling….
iv. Consequences : painful emotions & the harmful actions / on-actions that follow
CDs & HUMOR
Humor styles are considered coping strategies to deal with internal CDs & external stress. The purpose of one study (U of Western Ontario, 2016) was to examine the relationships among CDs, positive & negative humor styles, & depressive symptoms.
Because CDs involve negatively biased thinking about self & others, it was hypothesized that people whose lives are impacted by them would tend to use maladaptive humor styles, which involve themes about : the assumption that others think negatively about them, their own incompetence, unlovability & worthlessness
As predicted, the frequency & impact of CDs in both interpersonal & achievement were in fact significantly associated with depressive symptoms.
1. Self-Enhancing (healthiest)
About emotional well-being, including self-esteem, optimism & pleasurable emotions. EXP: “Even when I’m by myself, I’m often amused by the absurdities of life”
Deals more with relationship connections than personal well-being, related to extraversion, intimacy, inter-personal competence, relationship satisfaction, social support & secure attachment. EXP: “I laugh & joke a lot with my closest friends”
This type is also mainly about relationship connections, but includes hostility & neuroticism. It’s not about agreeableness, competence, conscientiousness or satisfaction. EXP: “If someone makes a mistake, I’ll often tease them about it”
4. Self-Defeating (least healthy)
HIGH correlation between CDs & Self-Defeating humor is most closely associated with emotional distress – such as anxious attachment, depression, generalized anxiety, neuroticism, rumination & perceived stress
EXP: “I can often get carried away with putting myself down if it makes my family or friends laugh”
NEXT: CD Consequences – Part 2