5 Thought Mistakes You Don’t Even Know You’re Making

Sometimes you think a thought that gets your blood boiling! “He should never have done that!” “ This always happens to me!” “That just completely ruins everything!”

By learning about distorted thoughts & how they affect your emotions, you can start feeling better pretty quicky. David D. Burns, MD lists 10 “cognitive distortions” in his book, Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy. For this blog, I have used the first five Dr. Burns has listed.

Tools for Though Times #2 describes first starting to notice what you are feeling and thinking in an upsetting situation, writing down your thoughts and feelings, & trying to come up with a coping thought to focus on.

The next step…………. look and see if your thoughts are falling into any of these thought traps, which get you into trouble.

I’m thinking that each of these listed can be a blog post of it’s own! If you are finding any of these mistakes in your journal, see what happens when you come up with a new coping thought that doesn’t include this way of thinking. I have included some examples of coming up with coping thoughts.



You look at things in absolute, black-and-white categories.


“My boss said I can improve on something in my mid year review and so I’m a total failure” ………

…….change to, “My boss said I can improve, and this will help me learn something new, and be a better worker.”



You see a single negative event as a never-ending pattern of defeat.

“This always happens to me”……

…… change to “This is happening to me now.”



You dwell on the negatives.

“I made a mistake, and that ruins the whole thing, I have to be perfect.”……..

………….change to “I made a mistake. It happens to all of us, and I can learn from this, which helps me grow wiser in the long run.”




You insist that your accomplishments or positive qualities don’t count.

Upon being complimented for an insightful comment you made on social media, you think, “They’re just being nice”, “What do they know?”, or “What else are they going to say?”……..

……………change to, “Thank you! It feels good to be appreciated.”



You assume that people are reacting negatively to you, when        there’s no definite evidence.

“My teacher didn’t like my comment made in the class discussion, and I am going to fail the class”……..

………………..change to, “I don’t know what my teacher is thinking. Maybe he/she/they are having a bad day. I don’t know what they’re thinking if I don’t ask.”


You arbitrarily predict that things will turn out badly.

“I’ll never meet someone right for me.”………

….….. Change to, “ With each new relationship I have, I learn more about being in relationships. Someday, I’ll meet someone who will be there for me.”


See if changing any of these thought mess ups helps improve your mood.

I’d love to hear how it helps you!

Tune into Tools for Tough Times #5 for Part Two, listing thought errors 6-10 on Dr. Burns’ list!


Book Shelf:

Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David Burns, MD

Thoughts & Feelings: Taking Control of Your Moods and Your Life by Matthew McKay, Phd, Martha Davis, PhD, & Patrick Fanning

Magnificent Mind At Any Age: Treat Anxiety, Depression, Memory Problems, ADD and Insomnia by Daniel Amen, MD