Worksheet 51Information Reality Scramblers Exercise

1. Enlarging and shrinking: Your mind magnifies the awfulness of unpleasant events and minimizes the value and importance of anything positive about yourself, your world, or your future. For example, we may think, "It's horrible that we have to write six pages today. We can't stand it!" Truth is, we may not feel like writing six pages, but the task hardly compares with more trying events such as losing someone close or being diagnosed with a serious health problem.

2. Filtering: Your mind searches for dismal, dark, or frightening data while screening out more positive information. The not-too-surprising result? The world (or yourself) looks bleak or more frightening than it is. For example, suppose you receive a job evaluation that rates you highly on most areas but contains one average rating. You proceed to focus exclusively on the average rating and conclude that the evaluation was mediocre.

3. Seeing in black-or-white, all-or-none terms: Your mind views events and your character as either black or white, with no shades of gray. Thus, a single bad grade or performance, for example, indicates complete failure. Or when teenagers notice blemishes on their faces, they often conclude that they look totally horrible. The problem with such polarized thinking is that it sets you up for inevitable failure, disappointment, and self-abuse.

4. Dismissing evidence: Your mind discards evidence that may contradict its negative thoughts. For example, suppose you're preparing a speech and have the thought that when it comes time to give the speech, you'll be so scared that you won't be able to talk. Your mind automatically dismisses the fact that you've given numerous speeches before and have never been so afraid you couldn't talk.

5. Overgeneralizing: You look at a single, unpleasant occurrence and decide that this event represents a general, unrelenting trend. For example, a wife tells her husband that she's furious because he's always late, but in reality he's late only about 10 percent of the time. Words like always and never are clues to overgeneralization.

6. Mind reading: You assume that you know what others are thinking without checking it out. Thus, when your boss walks by you without saying hello, you automatically think, "She's really angry with me; I must have messed something up." In reality, she's merely distracted.

7. Emotional reasoning: You treat feelings as facts. For example, if you feel guilty, you conclude that you must have done something wrong. Or if you don't feel like working on your depression, you assume that means you're unable to. And if you're afraid of something, it must be dangerous merely because you fear it.

8. Unreliable forecasting: You presume a negative outcome without any real evidence. For example, you have an argument with your partner and believe that he or she will certainly leave you. Or, you avoid driving on the freeway because you're convinced that you'll get in an accident.

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