Untangling from Cognitive Distortions, Part Two

Untangling from Cognitive Distortions, Part Two

written by: Melanie McGhee
by: Melanie McGhee
Cognitive distortion1 Cognitive distortion1

Yesterday, I opened the back door to the porch and this guy was RIGHT THERE! With his head in the air. Yikes. I closed the door. QUICKLY.

As I caught my breath, I realized how quickly the thought, "there's a snake on the porch," became a story. For those few moments, that story felt REAL!

Instead, I restored myself to calm and walked on to the porch to have a conversation with that snake....with rake in hand. I know, I know, it's just a regular old snake. I told him how much I appreciated him taking care of the mice—- but I do NOT want to share my porch with him. Could be a her.

Anyway, that thought, "there's a snake on my porch" felt like a full story. Though I was stating a fact, it became distorted as I imagined all manner of nasty encounters with that snake - worst case scenario style. I knew it was distortion.

Helping our clients (and ourselves) recognize distortions and accept them as distortions using body awareness, exploring how thoughts feel in the body, is one way to get a little space from them.

For example, a client recently told me about feeling overwhelmed by guilt, the guilt of being a terrible father. Most days he was wandering through life carrying the thought, "I'm a terrible father." He ruminated that thought into a full blown story. I know this man, this thought is NOT his story.

My knowing this, of course, does nothing to convince him. Nor does stockpiling evidence to the contrary change the story he had going. One big obstacle, is that he BELIEVED the thought, he thought it was real AND that thought WAS his story.

I asked him to look over at Huxley, the wonderdog, napping on the floor while thinking the thought, "Huxley is napping on the floor," and noticing how the thought felt in his body.

Does the thought feel like light air or heavy like matter?

Thoughts that are distorted FEEL like matter. While neutral thoughts feel like air.

Recognizing that he could feel the difference between the thoughts opened the door to work with the thought. He could feel the difference between thoughts in his body.

I walked him through Ivana End of Words and he neutralized the thought. "I'm a terrible father," no longer felt heavy to him. It felt neutral, like air and just untrue. This took all of ten minutes.

This experience fueled his inspiration for home practice. He uses a variety of tools he has learned to neutralize the charged energy of distorted thinking. He is gradually establishing himself in a better state of being while untangling from cognitive distortions.

Cool, right? What's your favorite trick for untangling from cognitive distortions?