What are Negative Cognitions?

I have been home from the cruise now for three days. Today was my first day back to work. Everything is in order.

A long to-do list

You would not have thought I would be back to my “new normal” in three days if you had been eavesdropping in on my head when we got home Saturday. I had laundry and ten days of mail to sort. There was no food in the house and I had errands to run. Not to mention having to be a loving puppy mother and to finish work for work. Ye gads! I can never do all of this! I am doomed! Epic fail coming at ya!

Yep, I was having bad thoughts once again. Making mountains out of molehills, or at least making bigger hills out of them. I was definitely dealing with negative cognitions.

What are negative cognitions?

Negative cognitions are distorted thoughts about yourself, others or a given situation. They are usually evaluations that are none too flattering or predictions something - or someone - is going to turn out badly.

My usual negative cognitions have to do with failure or incompetence. I tell myself I will never get things done. I will never be ready for an event or a responsibility. I am simply going to fail. I am a useless piece of...well, never mind.

Anyone out there with me on that? Anyone constantly predicting they will be found to be wanting? Not up to standard?

Self-doubt with vision loss

I imagine many of us started having the self-doubt and negative cognitions at “warp drive” speed when we started to lose our sight. How can we possibly keep up and maintain standards? We are worthless!

Being a DBT therapist and really BIG on reality and the middle path, I have come to understand reality is somewhere in the middle. Good as I ever was? I don’t think so, but a worthless piece of.. uh, never mind? I don’t think that either.

Self-care and distorted thinking

I found a nice summary of ways to walk away from these damaging negative cognitions. It was a piece in "The Importance of Self-Care" on the types of distorted thinking and how to stop them by Alisha. Not a professional, journal type of post but she did her homework.

The piece talks about avoiding black and white thinking and, yes, walking the middle path. Very little in life is 100% bad or conversely 100% good.

She also talks about mental filters. Some people wear rose-colored glasses and some people wear “glasses” that are the blackest of black. Know what color your “glasses” are and challenge your perceptions with a bit of reality. I had the laundry and shopping done - not to mention several other things - within the first 36 hours after we arrived home. Would I call someone else who had accomplished that worthless? No.

Overgeneralizing and jumping to conclusion

Overgeneralizing and jumping to conclusions are sort of related. Just because I have one failure does not mean I am a failure in all areas. There are still areas in which I can succeed even with my vision loss. And coming to the conclusion I will fail in everything else I may ever try really does not make sense.

Alisha reviews several other, logical errors that arise from our negative cognitions...or maybe our negative cognitions are examples of those logical errors. Whatever. She also has cute, homemade drawings to illustrate her concepts.

How to manage negative cognitions

But what to do about negative cognitions?

We talk about these in therapy and I have probably reviewed them before. Just the same, they are still valid if not original.

Keep a positive attitude. Do things that make you happyStay in the now. Don’t borrow trouble from the past or the futurePurposely change your interpretation of events. Did anything go right? Where is the silver lining?Be aware of how you are feeling and go looking for the distorted interpretation. Challenge itMy challenge to my feelings of worthlessness? A pile of clean laundry. Food in the refrigerator. A pile of mail sorted and dealt with. Hmmmm….maybe I am not so worthless after all. How about you?

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