To become more able to detect fallacious reasoning by others.
To become more accurate in our own thinking and
STEP ONE: Recognize common errors in thinking and
I think it will amaze and maybe horrify you to see how many ways
the human mind makes mistakes. This isn't a complete list. Indeed,
certain irrational ideas have already been discussed extensively in
previous cognitive methods, especially #3 above. These thoughts lead
to unwanted emotions which, in a circular fashion, further distort our
thinking. In addition, we all have our "touchy topics" or "sore points"
that set our minds reeling and mess up our thinking. For example,
making a mistake or being surprised may shut down your brain for a
moment, being laughed at or treated with disrespect may infuriate
you, being envious or jealous may distract your thoughts, etc. It is
important to understand what is happening to our thinking in these
situations, in order to gain some control and peace of mind.
The recent emphasis on Cognitive Therapy has lead to several
books cataloging an assortment of toxic ideas or beliefs. For example,
Freeman and DeWolf (1992) say the 10 dumbest mistakes are (1)
assuming a catastrophe is about to happen, (2) thinking we know what
other people are thinking (or they should know what we think), (3)
assuming responsibility for other people's troubles or bad moods, (4)
believing too many good things about ourselves and our future, (5)
believing too many bad things about ourselves and our future, (6)
insisting on being perfect, (7) competing or comparing with everyone
and losing, (8) worrying about events that never happen, (9) being
abused by our own excessive "shoulds," and (10) finding the negative
aspect of everything good. They offer solutions too.
Other books (Lazarus, Lazarus & Fay, 1993) list thoughts that
cause us trouble, such as "it is awful every time something unfair
happens," "why would anyone settle for being less than perfect?" "I'm
always losing," "you can't count on others, if you want something done
right, you've got to do it yourself." Likewise, McKay & Fanning (1991)
discuss basic beliefs that define our personality and limit our well-
being. Shengold (1995), a psychoanalyst, contends that infantile
beliefs ("I'm omnipotent," "Mom loves me most") continue into
adulthood and mess up our lives. Sutherland (1995) and von Savant
(1996) also attempt to explain why and how we don't think straight.
Hopefully, by becoming aware of the following typical "errors in
thinking" or "cognitive distortions," you should be able to catch some