Cognitive Distortions Summary

If you’ve been following along for the past 15 posts, I’ve been dissecting cognitive distortions. There are 15 common distortions which I’ll recap and summarize now. Here’s a link to the intro.

In 1976, psychologist Aaron Beck first proposed the theory behind cognitive distortions and in the 1980s, David Burns was responsible for popularizing it with common names and examples for the distortions.

My experience with cognitive distortions is that they tend to become intertwined.

Sometimes it’s hard to tell control fallacies from always being right. Other times you might be motivated by heaven’s reward fallacy based on emotional reasoning.

The tough work involved in recognizing these thought patterns and overcoming them takes a huge amount of vigilance. First, you have to catch yourself. Then you have to change hard-wired habits. Giving yourself grace and showing love to yourself during the process is a huge key to winning this battle.

One of my biggest keys to success is a gratitude journal.

Being thankful somehow short circuits the above cognitive distortions in a way that will power just can’t do.

When I started, based on a request by my counselor, and against my internal objections, I was mad. Totally mad to the point of screaming internally. I did everything I could to try not to complete the homework. The I halfheartedly completed the first few days. By day 3, my whole outlook changed. It’s almost impossible to be thankful and resentful at the same time.

To get your head in the right place, look around and find three things for which you are genuinely thankful.

Start small and work up. My first few included my bed, comfortable shoes, and a fun snack in the afternoon. Then, slowly, pick one cognitive distortion to work on at a time until you go through the whole list. Eventually, you’ll become an expert at calling BS on yourself and find some mental peace.

Blessings to you on your journey.


Here’s a list of the previous posts along with a summary of the short stories within.

  1. Filtering. Nancy filtering out what Dan told her and only seeing the negative.
  2. Polarized Thinking (or “Black and White” Thinking). Linda and the new roof from a hail storm.
  3. Overgeneralization. Mary losing confidence in her work from one negative feedback incidence.
  4. Jumping to Conclusions. Regina taking personally that Jackie didn’t stop to talk.
  5. Catastrophizing. Emily as a new mom worrying about a possible catastrophe.
  6. Personalization. Judith taking everything from the neighbor’s lawn mowing to her husband’s bad mood and seeing them as her own shortcomings.
  7. Control Fallacies. Margo taking on her children’s struggles as her own and not letting them work through their own issues.
  8. Fallacy of Fairness. Ruth realizing, she wasn’t being treated fairly at work and working on herself instead of holding a grudge.
  9. Blaming. Elizabeth realizing she’d blamed everyone for everything wrong in her life, and eventually taking personal responsibility for her own decisions.
  10. Shoulds. Beth, a stay at home mom, realizing she couldn’t be everything to everyone and cutting out “should” from her vocabulary.
  11. Emotional Reasoning. Sophia and Mike taking opposite sides of emotional reasoning, one strongly in voicing their opinion and one too meek to voice anything.
  12. Fallacy of Change. Joe eventually realizing her strong personality had turned into her controlling and pressuring people around her to do her will.
  13. Global Labeling. Julia, the progressive-old-fashioned, who thought the world was falling apart, but with some distance and grace, began to see things in a more nuanced way.
  14. Always Being Right. Lana decided to pick her battles and be wrong once in a while to develop deeper relationships with people around her.
  15. Heaven’s Reward Fallacy. Ruby was a rock-solid volunteer who realized she was helping for the wrong reasons. After she aligned her priorities with her values, she was able to serve from a place of giving.



Abstract Kaleidoscope Watercolor Painting
Abstract Kaleidoscope

Here’s some art for putting it all together and seeing the beautiful shapes.


Find more artwork here!

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