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How Thought triggers Emotion II

July 25, 2012

Aaron Beck, another disillusioned former psychoanalyst (there are quite a few), took Ellis’s ideas (see previous post) and developed Cognitive Therapy (CT). This approach is based on the theory that depression is due to distortions in the patient’s perspective which the therapist initially tries to highlight before encouraging the patient to change their attitudes. {Beck, Aaron T. (1975). Cognitive Therapy and the Emotional Disorders. International Universities Press.}

Beck’s Cognitive Distortions (Black and White Thinking)
1. All-or-nothing thinking – Thinking in absolute terms like “always”, “every”, “never” (ie “I’ll never be ready for the exam” ).
2. Overgeneralization – Drawing broad conclusions from limited evidence ( ie “People in big cities are unfriendly”).
3. Magical thinking – Expectation of certain outcomes based on unrelated events ( ie “I’ll have bad luck if I walk under that ladder ).
4. Anthropomorphism – Attributing human qualities to objects (ie “Computers just don’t like me”).
5. Mental filtering – Inability to focus on any positive features (ie “I can’t go out with my hair looking like this”).
6. Disqualifying the positive – Dismissing positive experiences for arbitrary reasons (ie “ I hate classes on a monday”).
7. Jumping to conclusions – Reaching negative conclusions from limited evidence. Two specific subtypes are also identified:
8. Mind reading – Sense of knowing the thoughts of others (ie “I can just tell that’s why he’s being nice to me” )
9. Fortune telling – Inflexible expectations for how things will turn out before they happen (ie “I know it’s going to be a really boring evening” ).
10. Magnification and minimization – Magnifying or minimizing a memory or situation such that they no longer correspond to objective reality (ie “everyone else is smarter than me” ). One specific subtype is identified:
11. Catastrophizing – Consideration of only the worst possible outcome or a sense of a situation being unbearable when it is simply uncomfortable or inconvenient ( ie “I think my headache is the first sign of a stroke” ).
12. Emotional reasoning – Experiencing reality as a reflection of emotions, e.g. “I feel it, therefore it must be true.”
13. Should statements – Patterns of thought which imply the way things “should”, “ought” or “must” be and create an inflexible approach (“You should have known the train was delayed”).
14. Labeling and mislabeling – Limited thinking that labels people or situations in a fixed way. Mislabeling uses emotionally charged language (ie “That’s his typical thoughtless behaviour”).
15. Personalization – Attribution of personal responsibility (blame) for events over which a person has no control (ie “if only I hadn’t let her go on that trip she wouldn’t have got ill”).

Ellis, Beck and many others who follow a cognitive based approach consider that all psychological problems are the result of defective thinking. However, although this is a very important area of study, I have already suggested in other posts that this is an incorrect claim which fails to understand other significant influences on our cognition.

I will continue to explain how and why different systems of the body interact in future posts.

Spencer Joseph

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