The Magic Dial

The Magic Dial

Reframing Cognitive Distortions

By David Burns

July/August 2021

As every therapist knows, sometimes people think about themselves and their lives in ways that are pretty illogical and even unfair. We make interpretations about what’s happening to us that are twisted and misleading, but we don’t realize it. That’s what cognitive distortions are: a highly misleading way of thinking about yourself and the world. It’s a way of fooling yourself. And when you feel depressed and anxious, you’ll nearly always be fooling yourself. This means that your negative thoughts do not reflect reality. Depression and anxiety are the world’s oldest cons.

In my first book, Feeling Good, I listed 10 common cognitive distortions, or thinking errors, that trigger feelings of depression and anxiety: all-or-nothing thinking, overgeneralization, mental filter, discounting the positive, jumping to conclusions (which includes mind reading and fortune telling), magnification and minimization, emotional reasoning, should statements, labeling, and blame.

You don’t need to be diagnosed with depression or anxiety to succumb to these thinking errors. We all fall into black holes of insecurity and depression from time to time, including me. I’ll give you an example.

After all my workshops, I have the audience members fill out a workshop evaluation. Reading these evaluations can be…

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