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Cognitive Distortions, Part II: What Can I Do About Them?

Bridgette W. Gottwald, LPC, NCC

Here we are still talking about that negative thought loop and thinking errors that we refer to as cognitive distortions. Remember my last blog post that included examples of ten common cognitive distortions? I left off discussing magnifying or minimizing, and here’s part two and the continued list of cognitive distortions.

Mental filter 

With a mental filter, negative events are focused on and positive events are disregarded or filtered out. We have a choice about what we want to focus on and give attention to, and if you focus only on the negative parts of a situation, it will cause your entire perception to be damaging. Your thoughts and entire thought process makes up your reality, so choose wisely. 

Disqualifying the Positive 

This happens when we dismiss positive encounters and treat them as if they are of little importance or “don’t count.” In a way, this is practicing self-sabotage and encouraging yourself and your brain to attach to the negative elements of a situation instead of latching onto the positive, even if the negative overpowers the positive, it’s still there and it’s important to recognize. 


Personalization happens when we automatically assume responsibility and blame for a negative event that is out of our control. If you avoid taking things personally and making the situation about you, you will evade needless suffering. More often than not, the things that other people do has more to do with them than you.  

Shoulds and Oughts 

I often tell my clients to stop “shoulding” on themselves and it typically gives them a good laugh. Using words like “should,” “ought” and “must” is an “ironclad” way of thinking that is full of self-judgment. So, you tell yourself or say to someone that you should go to the gym? Says who? Maybe it would be more effective to reframe that into “I think my body and mind would benefit in positive ways if I went to the gym today.”

Emotional Reasoning 

Feelings are not facts. Emotional reasoning involves assuming and relying on feelings as evidence and fact, regardless of the evidence. Just because you feel it doesn’t mean it’s true. Treat negative thoughts like visitors – accept them, welcome them in and then let them go. 


Labeling leaves little room for change and it’s an “extreme form of all or nothing thinking and overgeneralization.” Individuals label and assign highly negative descriptions of themselves instead of describing a specific behavior and how it affects them. Instead of labeling yourself as stupid, you could reframe that into “I was in a hurry when I did this task and must have accidentally overlooked this.”

If some of these cognitive distortions seem familiar to you, you aren’t alone. These are some of the most common negative thought patterns and processes that people engage in, and there is a way out. If you have been experiencing some of these things, it might be a good time to start seeing a therapist so that you can develop the skills and tools to counteract this unproductive way of thinking. After all, life hasn’t been easy amidst 2020 and it’s important to stay on top of mental health concerns during challenging times especially. 

Find a Therapist at Symmetry Counseling Today 

In working with a therapist on cognitive distortions, you will recognize, accept, change and challenge your thought patterns more quickly. At Symmetry Counseling, there are many talented clinicians that you can start working with today. You can contact them at 312-578-9990 to set up an appointment.


Jacobson, S. (2019). Cognitive distortions (thinking errors). Retrieved from:

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