I’m working with a new therapist via the betterhelp.com website, and I like his approach so far. (I’m also very happy with the level of help and the frequency of contact I get for their asking price — just $45/week, paid a month in advance. I don’t get any recompense for saying that; I just like them.)
I’ve come to my first sticking point in therapy with him since starting about a month ago. I am going to TRY his approach, but it just feels very, very uncomfortable. He’s asking me to learn about cognitive distortions, which are unhealthy or otherwise flawed ways of thinking. (See links at end of this post to learn more).
I’ve looked at his worksheet and also at some articles online about this topic. Some articles have longer or shorter lists, but his worksheet has 10 cognitive distortions:
- All-or-nothing thinking (black-and-white thinking)
- Overgeneralization (seeing a single negative event as an infinite pattern of defeat)
- Mental filter (dwelling on a single negative detail that colors everything)
- Disqualifying the positive (discounting positive experiences by insisting they “don’t count” for some reason)
- Jumping to conclusions
- Magnification or minimization (I can safely say that I *have* catastrophized!)
- Emotional reasoning (assuming your negative emotions reflect reality)
- “Should” statements (self-motivation based on shoulds/should nots, as if you have to be whipped and punished before you can be expected to do anything. “Must” and “ought” also count.)
- Labeling & mislabeling (a more extreme version of over-generalization)
- Personalization (seeing yourself as the cause of some negative event, even though you’re not primarily responsible for it)
Boy … I really have reservations.
Now, I’m 57, and by this age I harbor no illusions that I’m always right. But how do you critically examine your own thought processes and ignore your gut perceptions? It feels like he’s asking me to consider that the sky may be Granny-apple green while it still looks exactly robin’s-egg blue to me. It feels like a denial of the reality I perceive.
How in the hell do I do this when I am dealing with my past and present experiences of being gaslighted, disbelieved, discounted, dismissed, and/or treated to a rip-roaring case of cognitive dissonance?
If I’m having trouble with another person, how in the ever-loving HELL do I tell if the other person is actually acting inconsistently or irrationally vs. it being a case of ME misunderstanding the other person? How clear-cut is cognitive distortion, anyway?
What happens if you really DO know from experience that the other person is unclear/inconsistent/malicious or mentally ill himself, vs. your head being somewhat fucked up?
My fear: Who I am will be overwhelmed by someone else’s views of what “normal” thinking is. (I once dated a guy who worked as a counselor, years ago, and it took me a while to get his blathering out of my head. I don’t want to be that confused again.)
My hope: My counselor is right that learning the skills he’s teaching will make me far LESS vulnerable to gaslighting.
I think what this process is designed to do is teach me to examine my self-assurance about my thoughts before I stand behind my gut reactions. But I’m so leery.
Have you grappled with this? Any advice for me?
Links for you & me to explore
- 10 cognitive distortions sabotaging your brain
- 15 common cognitive distortions
- Cognitive distortions: When your brain lies to you (includes worksheets)
- Psychology Today’s 50 cognitive distortions (OMG, what a long list)