"If you would know the whole world
truly learn to know yourself ;
if you would truly know yourself,
learn to know the whole world
Emotional Wellness : Taking Stock of
Cognitive Distortions and
Our five sense - vision, hearing, smell, taste and touch - help us know where we are and what our situation is in the external world. When we put these impressions together and think about them, we’re better able to make sound decisions. We find our way in the world in a safe, effective way.
Our feelings and emotions give us similar information about the world inside us. If we hope to make good choices, here also we’ll need a calm, clear picture before we act.
There are perhaps eight primary human emotions ; emotions which arise spontaneously in response to certain experiences, essentially across all human cultures. The radiant smile of a child, the bursting forth of sunshine after stormy weather, for instance, almost universally stimulate joy ; to see a strong person bully a weaker person, anger and disgust. Unless trained or shocked out of us, certain emotions are more or less hardwired into the human body and physiology, as a birthright of our species. These primary emotions include fear, anger, guilt or shame, and sadness ; joy, interest, surprise and disgust. Other emotions will most often be found to be degrees, intensifications or combinations of these.
Mistakes in dealing with our emotions and feeling life can have consequences just as serious as mistake concerning our outer world. Here are some of our most common errors :
- Ignoring or denying feelings, or squashing them down. Because a particular emotion feels too painful (or in certain cases too joyful ) to bear, we simply try not to have it. The problem is that almost without fail, these emotions eventually find their way to come out anyway ; often with all the greater force.
- Acting out our feelings. Impulsively, we jump from angry to yelling at someone, or worse ; from attraction to jumping into the wrong person’s arms. We act too soon, neglecting to think things through, or get more complete information. The problem is that our bad choices lead to bad consequences.
- Distracting ourselves. We keep ourselves busy with entertainments, pleasures or work so that we don’t feel certain feelings, or feel only feelings we like. The problem, again, is that we never get full information about ourselves - and may make bad decisions in some of our most important choices.
- Judging our feelings. To control an unsettling emotion, we attach a thought - a judgment - to it. Now the feeling comes to mean something, “good” or “bad” to us. We judge a feeling, a situation, ourselves or another person, and get stuck in the judgment . We neglect to process the feeling, and are unable to receive information it provides - which might in fact be important to us. The problem with such judgments is that they’re almost always hasty, and almost never true.
Judging feelings also has the further drawback that the judgment itself triggers feelings. If I feel sad, and make the judgment that my sadness is a sign of weakness, I may now feel anger, shame or disgust with myself for the perceived weakness. The initial spontaneous and very natural emotion becomes a source of conflict with myself. Because these judgments are often not made very consciously, the secondary emotions are much harder to process. This is the point where the unavoidable pain that accompanies every human life, may cross over into suffering. This is a most common source of emotional unwellness in our lives. Patterns of suffering based in hasty, mistaken judgments can be very persistent.
A Checklist of Cognitive Distortions
- All-or-nothing thinking : You look at things in absolute, black-and-white categories.
- Over generalizations : You view a negative event as a never-ending pattern of defeat
- Mental filter : You dwell on the negatives
- Discounting the positives : You insist that your accomplishments or positives qualities don’t count
- Jumping to conclusions :
(A) Mind-reading - you assume that people are reacting negatively to you when there’s no definite evidence ;
(B) Fortune-telling - you arbitrarily predict that things will turn out badly.
- Magnification or minimization : You blow things way out of proportion or you shrink their importance
- Emotional reasoning : You reason from how you feel : “I feel like an idiot, so I really must be one”
- “Should" statements : You criticize yourself (or other people) with “shoulds,” “oughts,” “musts,” and “have tos”
- Labeling : Instead of saying “I made a mistake,” you tell yourself, “I’m a jerk,” or “a fool,” or “a loser ”
- Personalization and blame : You blame yourself for something you weren’t entirely responsible for, or you blame other people and deny your role in the problem
These are descriptions only. If you do these things, it doesn’t make you a bad person !
Self- Defeating Beliefs
- Emotional perfectionism : "I should always feel happy, confident and in control of my emotions"
- Emotophobia : " I should never feel angry, anxious, inadequate, jealous
- Conflict phobia : "People who love each other shouldn't fight"
- Entitlement : "People should be the way I expect them to be"
- Low frustration tolerance : I should never be frustrated. Life should
- Performance perfectionism : "I should never fail or make a mistake"
- Perceived perfectionism : People will not love and accept me as a flawed and vulnerable human being
- Fear of failure : "My value and worthwhileness depend on my (or my intelligence, or status, or attractiveness)"
- Fear of disapproval or criticism : "I need everyone's approval in order to to be worthwhile"
- Fear of rejections or being alone : "If I'm not alone, then I'm bound to feel miserable and unfulfilled. If I'm not loved, then life is not worth living "
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