S1E7: Cognitive Distortion: Why you are still depressed and anxious (2/2)

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Transcript S1E7

In this episode, we are going to continue to learn about these sneaky mind tricks called cognitive distortions that keep you anxious or depressed. We are going to finish defining the last 4/8 cognitive distortions. Then we talk about WHAT TO DO with it! We will practice "the mind court" using the Thought Record Worksheet to STOP unhealthy cognitive distortion cycles. I want you to feel free from these unhealthy cycles and ties to cognitive distortions. It might feel odd and unreal at first but I hope you can enter this brave space with me.

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Hi, this is Dr. Kim, your host, and dual board-certified psychiatrist for the It’s like this podcast. I just want this to be your safe space and brave space to explore your mental and spiritual health to make sense of it all. And this podcast, we're going to find out together who you are, what you're capable of, and how you're going to get there. I'm so excited that you're here. And let's enter this brave space together. So in this episode, we're going to be continuing to explore the last four of the eight cognitive distortions. And at the end, we're going to talk about what we can do with that. So stay tuned until the end.

The fifth cognitive distortion is magnification or catastrophizing versus minimization. So a magnification or catastrophizing means that you're taking the small detail and blowing it up to be the worst-case scenario. And minimization is you're taking a big, significant event, and you're minimizing it to nothing. So when your partner doesn't respond to a text, and you lead to, you know, he's cheating on me: that's catastrophizing because you get one detail of not responding to you fast enough and you're jumping to conclusions, right? We said that there will be overlap. And also catastrophizing into a worst-case scenario. minimization is when you have an alcohol issue, and multiple people, multiple family members, and friends came to you that you have an alcohol problem, and you need to get help is the minimizing their problems like I'm fine, I don't have an alcohol problem, I can control this. So this is an example of minimization. And why do we gravitate towards catastrophizing? It is because expecting the worst-case scenario gives us that comfort and knowing what the worst is, right? So that we can be prepared for it. But believing it leaves our life feeling meaningless and bleak. Because if you imagine every single detail of your life is always jumping into a worst-case scenario, what kind of life is that? Right? You're always living in chaos and imagined chaos. And minimization, you know, you know, this is easier to understand we gravitate towards minimization because as long as we don't think that the problem is big enough, we don't have to do anything about it. So there is that brief, fleeting sense of comfort, that everything is fine. And this is why we gravitate toward minimization. But you can understand that if you kind of stay in the state of denial about your alcohol issue, then it gets bigger and bigger, and it does more damage to you and also to people around you. But that's the danger of cognitive distortion of minimization. The sixth cognitive distortion is personalization, and essentially, is an egocentric view of the universe, meaning that everything is about you. So if you are the person who kind of grew up and your parents are you are bound up for nothing, you're not good at anything. And then you get a bad grade on the SATs, and you have a divorce. And you have a series of bad events. Personalization will sound like the world has gotten in for me. The world is out to get me and you end up feeling hopeless. Or you come home and your spouse looks pretty mad and upset. And you personalize it by he hates me and he wants a divorce. Right? And you can kind of see the jumping to conclusions and catastrophizing here too when it could be just him having a tough day at work. And personalization is one of the reasons why mental health is so draining to other people because mental issues and cognitive distortions make everything about us. And people who hate to be needy, but can't help to be needy because everything is about them. So eventually leads to isolating the person with this cognitive distortion when you need the connection. So imagine let's go back to the spouse whose husband comes back from work and he he's so upset and she personalized it and catastrophize and says, he hates me, he wants a divorce. And then she lashes out you know, like what's wrong with me? What did I do? You know, like you always look mad, you're making me feel uncomfortable. And then on top of that, let's say that he just had a tough day at work and he has no margin. He's yelling his fighting. Imagine fights like This day after day, in that it might actually end up with a divorce. And this is what we say kind of cognitive distortion kind of fulfills your prophecy. And this is how powerful cognitive distortion is it leads to emotions, it leads to behavior that creates a situation, the very situation you are most afraid of, and it makes a reality. The seventh, cognitive distortion is emotional reading, and I am so guilty of this. So, this is an example of when we take emotions as evidence of truth. So, for me, there was a turning point in our marriage when I thought, that just because he's making me feel this way doesn't mean he intended for me to feel this way. Oh boy, I wish every newlywed know this truth. Just because he makes you feel insecure doesn't mean that he wanted you to feel insecure. And I was doing this because he was making me feel insecure or anxious. And I was taking my emotions as evidence of truth, right? Of and then also, I was reading a little bit of mind-reading, right? Like he's intending for me to feel this way. Do you? Are you starting to see how cognitive distortions are so powerful? So let's go back to the cognitive triad and emotional reading and why we should not take emotions as evidence of truth. So cognitive triad goes thoughts to emotions, emotions to behavior, but if cognitive distortions, if your thoughts are twisted, it's gonna be more twisted in your emotions, right? It's going to be out of context with what's going on. And that's why you cannot use emotions because it's even more twisted than your thoughts. But I understand that it's so hard to ignore the emotions and not take it as truth because some people feel emotions in their bodies, right? It is evidence, but it doesn't have to be the evidence of the truth. So it is data. It is evidence, but it's not the truth. And the difference between reading your emotions as data and evidence versus thinking that is the truth. So when you feel anxious, you can express emotions, and it leads to connection. But if how you feel is perceived as truth and nothing but the truth, then it creates dissension and disconnect between you and others. And that's the difference between using emotions as a tool or emotional reasoning as part of cognitive distortion that isolates you. And the eighth cognitive distortion. One of my worst, I'm so guilty of this is the rules of shoulds. And should and must. So example a strong person shouldn't ask, shouldn't need to ask for help, or you shouldn't be emotional outwardly, It’s improper, or family must come first. This is what friends should do. All these rigid rules are like a yellow light or a red flag to pay attention to, we developed these shirts, you know, I mentioned cognitive distortion is kind of like a learned behavior or even being a part of a culture that you have to survive. And as a child, you absorb these shoulds and rules and must in your upbringing, but the reason why shoulds are so devastating is that nothing is as it should be. People who made these rules of shirts break their rules of shirts. So it always leads to a feeling of shame and guilt and self-loathing or leading to judging and anger and frustration that other people are not following your own rules. Your rules have shoulds and must, and it makes it kind of like black and white, right? Because not having the ideal nothing will be good enough. So if you're not doing what you should be doing, then you're a failure. So it further empowers other cognitive distortions and traps you in the cycle of bitterness and guilt. so I gave a few examples of how dangerous and powerful cognitive distortion is, right? How does it manifest I briefly touched on this. So a situation happens, you have these thoughts, it leads to emotion, it leads to behaviors. For example, that wife who came in with a tired husband coming from work, and she catastrophizes as she mind reads, and then she emotionally reasons and personalizes. It must be about me, he hates me, he hates his marriage. I want out, too. It, kind of like, fuels that anger, right? Like these cognitive distortions in your thoughts, leads to emotions. And then she chooses to start an argument, start asking these accusatory questions, like, why are you always mad? Why are you making me feel this way? And then he reacts, right? It alters the situation to fit your cognitive distortion. And it fulfills your prophecy to validate that cognitive distortion and it becomes another evidence of why your cognitive distortion is real. So enter another layer of color red lenses, right? Your read your world just became a little bit redder than it was before. So imagine if you're everybody's kind of walking around with these 20-30 layers of colored lenses, nobody's seeing the true colors. And you know, one of the songs I read was like hurt people hurt people, they just continue to cycles, and everybody's seeing one person is seeing red and one person is seeing yellow, nobody's talking, right? And nobody, nobody's talking to each other. And it just further distorts the reality of everybody around you.

So how do we get out? How do we end this cycle? I have five steps. Number one, be aware of your cognitive distortions, this is easier said than done. Remember, these are automatic thoughts. It is automatic. And sometimes we won't catch it. But it takes a lot of practice, a lot of being present a lot of mindfulness to realize what you were actually thinking when something happened. So number one is to be aware. Number two, evaluate and challenge your cognitive distortions. And we're gonna be doing an example of that in a little bit. But you need to challenge that cognitive distortion. It's like, is that red? Is that the color red? Or is that something else? Right, you start to be curious and challenge that cognitive distortion. So that's number two. So number three is to know your behavior choices. So remember, thoughts lead to emotions and leads to behavior. And while it could be so automatic, and so quick, as you're stopping and challenging your cognitive distortion, now, you're challenging your emotions. And now you know which behavior choices you have, you can pick a fight with your husband, or you can kind of give him a cup of iced tea and give him some time. Or you can kind of, you know, bring it up like “Hey, why are you mad, right?” So you actually have three choices instead of acting out of your cognitive distortions and distorted emotions. Okay, number four, choose the best one, what would fit most right and appropriate in this situation. And number five, continue to stop the cycle is going to take time, right, this cycle has, if you're 20 years old, you've been practicing cognitive distortions for 20 years. So it's not going to be always possible to catch these automatic thoughts. But as you're catching one by one, you'll start to develop a habit of stopping before you act. And that's the whole point of, you know, what we talked about in the previous episodes of having a stronger mind, right and feeding what's good, you're going to be undoing that learned behavior of only relying on your cognitive distortions. So now we're going to be processing some of the examples and learn how to challenge the cognitive distortions, and lead to more appropriate and healthy conclusions, okay. And I have the attachment in the description box or the PDFs of the records. And you can kind of print it out and do this along with these examples. And then I have the blank one so that you can kind of do it with your own thoughts. So for example, let's say that your partner is not texting you back. Your automatic thought was, oh, my goodness, is he cheating on me? Now, this is an example of catastrophizing, personalization, and jumping to conclusions. So imagine if you're in the court of your mind, okay, and you're the judge, and you're the lawyers on both sides, we're going to bring up evidence that he is cheating on you, and evidence that he's not cheating on you. So let's, as silly as it might sound, or as little or unlikely as it might sound, this is where you collect all the data. Okay, all the evidence. So let's say the lawyer who's fighting for the evidence that he is cheating on you. The evidence might be, well, we have been getting in a lot of fights lately. And he did say that this relationship is really hard to upkeep. So he did say that in the last fight that we had, the lawyer that is finding, fighting against the fact that he's cheating on you. The lawyer can say, well, he ended that conversation saying that he wants to try working on it. And he did tell me that he has a lot of meetings today. So we have evidence on both sides. So what is a more comprehensive conclusion instead of oh my gosh, he's is he cheating on me? So conclusion might be most likely he's busy at work, but I can text him just to make sure that he's okay. And we can talk about it tonight. So, what are your behavior choices? You can text him or not text him Right now, and you can talk about it or not talk about it. So you have these choices, instead of acting out of your automatic thought and automatic emotions, so you can see how this is so much more healthier and productive, than acting on your automatic thoughts. So another example is let's say that and this is a real true story. I did this with my patient.

Let's say that you got 93 on an exam, and you were actually going for 95 Plus, automatic thought could be you should have gotten 95. This means that you didn't try hard enough. So you see the examples of automatic thoughts like cognitive distortions of the shirts, personalization, overgeneralization mental filtering, and all or nothing to you see how all these cognitive distortions can be packed into one thought. So now let's go to the court of the mind again. So why would the lawyer who's trying to prove that you didn't study hard enough? What would he bring up? So it's not your favorite subject? So it was a dread to study for? I left the exam, not sure if I answer some questions correctly. And there's, there's a room for improvement because I really hate this subject. So there is evidence that, yeah, like, I really didn't like studying for this test. And maybe I could study more. So the lawyer on the side that's trying to prove that you didn't study hard enough, was that I spent a lot of hours trying to understand the subject that was really hard for me. And sure, I could always study more. But I studied enough to know that if I studied more hours then I'll be sacrificing sleep. So I, I put a lot of several hours on it. So the conclusion that's healthier than automatic thought of you should have gotten 95. And this means that you didn't try hard enough, the conclusion might be, I try my best. And I still took care of my body and my brain, it was a hard subject for me to grasp. And there's always room for improvement. And maybe 93 versus 95 is half a question that I got wrong. And is this really worth, you know, considering this, as a life or death situation on my worth as a student? No. So now we lay out the behavior options, you can kind of accept the grade as because pat on yourself back then 93 is 93, right, and it's still good. And it shows that you knew enough of the subject to get 93. Or you can go back to your professor and ask for feedback or extra help so that you can understand the subject better. Or you can get as a study group and see if they can kind of teach you, you know, other ways to understand the subject. So all these three behaviors would be so much healthier and beating yourself up that you didn't get 95, you're a failure. And you're not going to do well on the next test. Right? So slow down, lay down your options, and choose the one that is most productive and helpful, and healthy for you. I just want to take a pause and you're kind of, you know if you're listening to cognitive distortion, and seeing how powerful it is, you might be feeling like, but what if it is real? What if I can't break these cognitive distortions, and I can admit, and understand that is scary to challenge your cognitive distortions. But remember, let's just start with one cognitive distortion at a time, we're not going to be you know, ripping out 50 lenses, colored lenses off your eyes, right now, we're going to be starting with one pair of glasses at a time, and is going to take a lot of practice. And remember that these cognitive distortions, as devastating and hurtful they could be, actually served a purpose for you to survive. Don't beat yourself up for believing in this cognitive distortion, it was there in your mind for a reason. But now that you're here, and we're in this brave space, we can openly challenge these cognitive distortions and see if the world is really that color. And just know that you're not going to be doing this alone. I would recommend really getting a therapist or a psychiatrist or a friend to do this with and challenging our world can be scary because we have to face the possibility of being wrong or disappointed or confronted or maybe getting reaffirmed that you or the world is that worst-case scenario. The reality is that is probably not all true like the cognitive distortion makes you believe that it is true. And in a way, I view life like this. There's always a part of us that wants and needs to improve. And sometimes cognitive distortions what they're saying could be true. But there's always part of us that is good and worth fighting for. And I think life is worth fighting for. I think you deserve to know all the different colors of the rainbow in this world. The True Colors of life good and bad. 

So in summary, it is like this: rigid attachment to these cognitive distortions makes us actually believe that the world and we are that color like the color red. It really limits us from seeing True Colors, true worth, and true experiences of this world and life. And my question for you, is this a sustainable way of living your life? Can you imagine? Can you imagine what your life will be like if you didn't have to constantly look at life through all these lenses? Maybe the negative thoughts subsided, maybe you might see yourself as a little bit different other than a constant failure? And do you want that? Do you want that bad enough that you are willing to just stop and question how did I get here? How did my thoughts get here, and this is what this podcast and this brave space are about is that we take one day at a time, one thought at a time, one moment at a time so that we can have a better chance at looking at the life with true colors that you deserve.

In the next episode, I'm going to be talking about anxiety and kind of break it down. And why is it so tiring, and draining for the person who has anxiety and also the people around them? And I hope that we can kind of study anxiety from a different angle so that we can get some relief from that episode. Thank you so much for listening to this episode and just being present with me in this brief space. If you know anyone who has cognitive distortions, you know, sick share this episode and see if they can benefit from it. Because we can all end our cycle of cognitive distortions, and eventually it helps each other out. Again, thank you so much, and I'll see you next time.