Our Use of Thinking Errors

“Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;” (II Cor. 10:5, author’s emphasis)

“And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind…” (Rom. 12:2, author’s emphasis)

There are ways we can think that are just plain wrong! If we start with a faulty premise, we will arrive at a faulty conclusion. We very much need to do as the Scripture teaches us, to “take every thought captive,” and when we do that, we will often find that our thought is in error.

To gauge our health using the Bio-Psycho-Social-Spiritual- Model, it is necessary to examine our thinking. It falls in the psychological (the way we think) realm. These ways of thinking are sometimes called “thinking errors,” sometimes called “misbelief makers,” sometimes called “cognitive distortions,” and sometimes “ANTs,” (Automatic Negative Thoughts). The errors themselves are sometimes given different names. Regardless of the label, it is important for each of us to examine our thinking to see if we may be operating with a distortion of the truth.

There are differing lists of these, and I’m just listing below the 20 thinking errors I have often encountered in my counseling.

  1. All or Nothing (also called Dichotomous Thinking, or Black/White Thinking): There are only two possible right answers.
  2. Overgeneralizing: A small piece of evidence is applied “across the board.”
  3. Discounting the Positives (also called Negative Filtering): Legitimate positives are ignored, while focus is on something wrong.
  4. Mind Reading: You believe you know what someone else is thinking; also, you might believe they should know what you are thinking.
  5. Catastrophizing (also called Magnification): One takes a small problem and blows it out of proportion.
  6. Denial: One takes a large problem and turns it into no problem at all.
  7. Emotional Reasoning: Feelings are facts; feelings are concrete, and represent reality.
  8. Labeling: One focuses on one piece of information and makes that the reason for a label (can be directed at someone else, or ourselves).
  9. Personalizing: One takes something personal, that has nothing to do with him or her.
  10. Blaming: Someone else is given responsibility, which they don’t deserve, for a problem.
  11. Rationalizing: When you try to make something seem right, when it is not.
  12. Over-shoulding: When you pile up unreasonable expectations for yourself.
  13. Fortune-telling: Predicting the future.
  14. Comparison: Ranking one person’s gift, or one person themselves, as higher or lower than another.
  15. Perfectionism: The ONLY tolerable standard is a job or performance without any flaws. This can be applied to oneself or another person.
  16. Fallacy of Change: We expect other people will change to suit us if we just pressure them enough. We need to change people because our hope for happiness depends entirely on them. (This is related to Codependence).
  17. Victimstance: Denying personal responsibility for action, because someone else is at fault; “they did something wrong to me.” (This does not mean there never is a victim. If we have been one, however, we must eventually move past that).
  18. Uniqueness: “I am so special that rules don’t apply to me.”
  19. Closed thinking: “Nobody can tell me what to do.”
  20. Intolerance of Uncertainty: Things must be “just right” so the possibility of uncertainty does not exist. (This is related to perfectionism, but it has to do with the future.)

Dr. Kirby Reutter suggests, in his book, that we ask ourselves 3 questions:

            1.Is it logical?

            2. Is there evidence?

            3. Does it matter?

 A single “No” to any of the questions above means we have “Stomped the ANTs,” and one stomp is enough to kill it!

You can also see the explanation of some of these by Dr. Ted Witzig, Jr., in video form. Go to: https://accounseling.org/cognitive-distortions/

The list above has come from various sources, including the following:

  • ACCFS Website, (accounseling.org), and Dr. Ted Witzig, Jr. Clinical Director
  • Learning to Tell Myself the Truth, by William Backus, Bethany House Publishers, Minneapolis, 1994
  • The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook for PTSD, by Dr. Kirby Reutter, New Harbinger Publications, Oakland, CA, 2019
  • Psych Central website on “Cognitive Distortions”
  • Dr. Wyatt Mullinax, “Cognitive Renewal,” (teaching materials for use in prisons, religious settings, and in schools)
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