Descriptions, foundations and illustrations of thinking errors and their realistic and balanced alternatives (W Dryden)

Standard

In these illustrations, the beliefs (irrational and rational) are shown in square brackets and the thinking errors and realistic and balanced alternatives are underlined.

Descriptions of thinking errors and realistic and balanced alternatives

Illustrations

Jumping to unwarranted conclusions

Here, when something bad happens, you make a negative interpretation and treat this as a fact even though there is no de®nite evidence that convincingly support your conclusions

Sticking to the facts and testing out your hunches

Here, when something bad happens, you stick to the facts and resolve to test out any negative interpretations you may make which you view as hunches to be examined rather than as facts

`Since they have seen me fail . . . [as I absolutely should not have done] . . . they will view me as an incompetent worm’

`Since they have seen me fail . . . [as I would have preferred not to do, but do demand that I absolutely should not have done] . . . I am not sure how they will view me. I think that some will think badly of me, others will be compassionate towards me and yet others may not have noticed or be neutral about my failure. I can always ask them, if I want to know’

All-or-none thinking

Here, you use non-overlapping black or white categories

Multi-category thinking

Here, you make use of a number of relevant categories

`If I fail at any important task . . . [as I must not do] . . . I will only ever fail again’

`If I do fail at any important task . . . [as I would prefer not to do, but do not demand that I must not do] . . . I may well both succeed and fail at important tasks in the future’

 

Overgeneralising

Here, when something bad happens, you make a generalisation from this experience that goes far beyond the data at hand

Making a realistic generalisation

Here, when something goes wrong, you make a generalisation from this experience that is warranted by the data at hand

`[My boss must like me] . . . If my boss does not like me, it follows that nobody at work will like me’

`[I want my boss to like me, but my boss does not have to do so] . . . If my boss does not like me, it follows that others at work may or may not like me’

Focusing on the negative

Here, you pick out a single negative detail and dwell on it exclusively so that your vision of all reality becomes darkened, like the drop of ink that discolours the entire glass of water

Focusing on the complexity of experiences

Here, you focus on a negative detail, but integrate this detail into the complexity of positive, negative and neutral features of life

`As things are going wrong . . . [as they must not do and it is intolerable that they are] . . . I can’t see any good that is happening in my life’

`As things are going wrong . . . [as I prefer, but do not demand that they must not and when they do, I can bear it] . . . I can see that my life is made up of the good, the bad and the neutral’

Disqualifying the positive

Here, you reject positive experiences by insisting they `don’t count’ for some reason or other, thus maintaining a negative view that cannot be contradicted by your everyday experiences

Incorporating the positive into a complex view of your experiences

Here, you accept positive experiences and locate these into the complexity of positive, negative and neutral features of life

`[I absolutely should not have done the foolish things that I have done] . . . When others compliment me on the good things I have done, they are only being kind to me by seeming to forget those foolish things’

`[I would have preferred not to have done the foolish things that I have done, but that does not mean that I absolutely should not have done them] . . . When others compliment me on the good things I have done, I can accept these compliments as being genuine even though I also did some foolish things which the others may also have recognised ‘

Mind reading

Here, you arbitrarily conclude that someone is reacting negatively to you, and you don’t bother to check this out. You regard your thought as a fact

Owning and checking one’s thoughts about the reactions of others

Here, you may think someone is reacting negatively to you, but you check it out with the other person rather than regarding your thought as fact

`I made some errors in my presentation . . . [that I absolutely should not have made] . . . and when I looked at my boss, I thought he was thinking how hopeless I was and therefore he did think this’

`I made some errors in my presentation . . . [that I would have preferred not to have made, but that does not mean that I absolutely should not have made them] . . . and when I looked at my boss I thought he was thinking that I was hopeless, but I quickly realised that this

was my thought rather than his and resolved to ask him about this in the morning’

Fortune telling

Here, you anticipate that things will turn out badly, and you feel convinced that your prediction is an already established fact

Owning and checking one’s thoughts about what will happen in the future

Here, you anticipate that things may turn out badly, but you regard that as a prediction that needs examining against the available data and is not an established fact

`Because I failed at this simple task . . . [which I absolutely should not have done] . . . I think that I will get a very bad appraisal and thus this will happen’

Because I failed at this simple task . . . [which I would have preferred not to have done, but I do not have to be immune from so doing] . . . I may get a very bad appraisal, but this is unlikely since I have done far more good than bad at work during the last year’

Always and never thinking

Here, when something bad happens, you conclude that it will always happen and/or the good alternative will never occur

Balanced thinking about the past, present and future

Here, when something bad happens you recognise that while it may happen again that it is not inevitable that it will and it is very unlikely that it will always occur. Also, you recognise that the good alternative may well occur in the future and that it is very unlikely that it will never happen

`Because my present conditions of living are not good . . . [and they are actually intolerable because they must be better than they are] . . . it follows that they’ll always be this way and I’ll never have any happiness’

`Because my present conditions of living are not good . . . [but they are tolerable because they don’t have to be better than they are] . . . it does not follow that they will always be that way and I can be happy again’

Magnifying

Here, when something bad happens, you exaggerate its negativity

Keeping things in realistic perspective

Here, when something bad happens, you view it in its proper perspective

`I made a faux pas when introducing my new colleague . . . [which I absolutely should not have done and it’s awful that I did so] . . . and this will have a very negative effect on my career’

`I made a faux pas when introducing my new colleague . . . [which I wish I had not done, but I do not have to be exempt from making. It’s bad that I did so, but hardly the end of the world] . . . and while people may remember it for a

day or two, I doubt that it will have much lasting impact on my career’

Minimising

Here, you inappropriately shrink things until they appear tiny (your own desirable qualities or other people’s imperfections)

Using the same balanced perspective for self and others

Here, when you do something good and/or others do something bad, you can recognise this kind of behaviour for what it is

`[I must do outstandingly well and I am completely useless when I do not do so] . . . When I have seemingly done reasonably well, this is the result of luck and anyone could have done this. Whereas if another person had done the same thing, I would acknowledge their achievement’

`[I want to do outstandingly well, but I do not have to do so. I am not useless when I do not do so] . . . When I or someone else has seemingly done reasonably well, this may be the result of luck, but it may be because I or they

fully deserved to do well’

Emotional reasoning

Here, you assume that your negative emotions necessarily re ̄ect the way things really are: `I feel it, therefore it must be true’

Sound reasoning based on thinking and feeling

`Because I have performed so poorly . . . [as I absolutely should not have done] . . . I feel like everybody will remember my poor performance and my strong feeling proves that they will’

Because I have performed so poorly . . . [as I wish, but do not demand that I absolutely should not have done] . . . I think and feel that people will have different responses to my performance:

some negative and nasty, some compassionate and empathic and some

neutral and this is probably the case’

Personalising

Here, when a negative event occurs involving you which you may or may not be primarily responsible for, you see yourself de®nitely as the cause of it

Making a realistic attribution

Here, when a negative event occurs involving you which you may or may not be primarily responsible for, you acknowledge that you may be the cause of it, but you don’t assume that you de®nitely are. Rather, you view the event from a the whole perspective before making an attribution of cause which is likely to be realistic

`I am involved in a group presentation and things are not going well . . . [Since I am acting worse than I absolutely should act] . . . and the audience is laughing, I am sure they are laughing only at me’

`I am involved in a group presentation and things are not going well . . . [Since I am acting worse than I would like to do, but do not demand that I must do] . . . and the audience is laughing, I am not sure who or what they are laughing

at and indeed, some might be laughing

with us and not at us’

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