There are many different cognitive traps, but generally they’re all a form of reacting when you don’t have all the information you need, or you aren’t fully considering everything.
All-or-nothing thoughts are characterized by absolute terms like always, never, and forever. It can also be thinking of something as only good or bad, perfect or terrible. Getting stuck in this cognitive trap can contribute to a sense of hopelessness. For example, “You ALWAYS leave the lights on” or “I ate a piece of cake while on a diet; I’m a complete failure.” Few things are ever absolute, and there are generally grey areas. When we are stuck in this trap, we forget those grey areas.
Confirmation bias is when we only find information that supports our existing opinion. We are attracted to information that confirms what we already believe. We search for or interpret information in a way that confirms our existing beliefs and thoughts. For example, if you believe that a co-worker is difficult to work with, you may only see him or her doing things that confirm that opinion—like being late or making a mistake. If you have a confirmation bias, you miss the positive things that co-worker may do, such as stay late to work on something, or help someone else.
Blaming others is when we focus only on other people as the source of your feelings or the cause of events. For example, “I couldn’t get to sleep early because my roommate kept me up watching movies.
Blaming yourself is when we only think about yourself in a situation, and not seeing the contributions of others. For example, your supervisor is quiet, and you assume he or she is upset about your performance. Instead, it may be that he or she may be thinking of something unrelated to how you are performing.
Mind reading is something we’re all guilty of at some time or another. It can come in two different forms: assuming you know what the other person is thinking, or expecting another person to know what you are thinking. One of the most common places this happens is in close relationships. After so much time together, you start to assume you know what your best friend or spouse is thinking and may expect him/her to know what you’re thinking.
Your thoughts about an event drive your reaction, not the event itself. If your reaction isn’t helpful, think about whether you are in a cognitive trap. If yes, then you can Examine the Evidence by asking yourself?
Your thoughts about an event drive your reaction, not the event itself. If your reaction isn’t helpful, think about whether you are in a cognitive trap. If yes, then you can Check for a Double-Standard by asking yourself:
Your thoughts about an event drive your reaction, not the event itself. If your reaction isn’t helpful, think about whether you are in a cognitive trap. If yes, then you can Phone a Friend or Ask by:
W(RAP) It Up: Create a plan to move forward.
You’ve learned how to incorporate balance your thinking into your life, which is important for resilience. Click on the link below, print it out and think about: what should you stop doing, continue doing, and start doing.
The appearance of external links on this site does not constitute official endorsement on behalf of the U.S. Air Force or Department of Defense.