Emotional Cognition: Self-Defeating Beliefs (SDB)

A List of Some Common Self-Defeating Beliefs (SDB).

I find myself frequently falling victim to these beliefs. What I’ve found tremendously helpful is to read through this list when I’m going through any sort of significant emotional turbulence; anger, sadness, depression, fear etc…

C.S. Lewis said “It is not reason that takes away my faith. On the contrary, my faith is based on reason. It is my imagination and my emotions. The battle is between faith and reason on one side, and imagination and emotion on the other”.

Faith doesn’t have to mean a religious conviction (it isn’t so for me). You can have faith that your doctor is telling the truth when he tells you you’re going to be okay. Or you can have faith that when your significant other tells you that they love you, they’re not lying. You can have faith about virtually anything. The problems come about when we forget that the content of our faith is true, and we let our imagination and emotions control our beliefs and our reasoning.

  • Brushfire Fallacy
    • People are clones who all think alike. If one person looks down on me, the word will spread like brushfire and soon everyone will.
  • Spotlight Fallacy
    • Talking to people is like having to perform under a bright spotlight. If I don’t impress them by being sophisticated, witty, or interesting, they won’t like me.
  • Magical Thinking
    • If I worry enough, everything will turn out okay.
  • Entitlement:
    • you should always treat me the way I expect.
  • Fear of Rejection:
    • If you reject me it proves there’s something wrong with me. If I’m alone, I’m bound to feel miserable and worthless.
  • Approval Addiction:
    • I need everyone’s approval to feel worthwhile.
  • Over-generalization:
    • You view a single negative event as a never-ending pattern of defeat. You may tell yourself, “this always happens” or “I’ll never get it right”.
  • Mental Filter:
    • You dwell on the negative details, such as an error you made, and ignore all the other things you did right.
  • Discounting the positive:
    • You insist that your accomplishments or positive qualities don’t count.
  • Jumping to Conclusions:
    • You jump to conclusions that aren’t warranted by the facts. There are two types:
  • 1. Mind reading: Assuming people are being terribly judgmental and looking down on you.
  • 2. Fortune telling:You tell yourself something terrible is about to happen. For example: tonight I’m going to die of Sleep Apnea.
  • Magnification and Minimization:
    • You either blow things way out of proportion, or shrink their importance. You see your negative qualities as huge as mount Everest, but then looking through the binoculars backwards, you see your positive attributes as tiny and far away.
  • Emotional Reasoning:
    • You reason from how you feel. Such as, I feel afraid of death, therefore I’m going to die.
  • Should Statements:
    • You criticize yourself or other people with “shoulds,” “shouldn’ts,” “oughts,” “musts,” and “have-to’s.” For example, “I shouldn’t feel so shy and nervous. What’s wrong with me?”
  • Labeling:
    • You generalize from a single flaw or shortcoming to your entire identity. Instead of saying “I made a mistake,” you label yourself as “a loser.” This is an extreme form of over-generalization.



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