YOUR PERSONAL COGNITIVE DISTORTIONS
This assignment is to help you identify the ways in which you distort things. Look at each cognitive distortion and see if you can come up with a personal example of something you have thought or said that fits. You might have something to write in every category, or just a few. (Tip: If you are struggling to come up with examples, ask someone you trust to give you examples of ways they think you are distorted, or skip it and come back to this assignment at a later time.)
1. All-or-nothing thinking:
4. Emotional reasoning (if you feel something, it must be real or true):
5. Mind reading (you think you know what people are thinking or feeling):
6. Personalizing (you take things that happen personally, as if done intentionally):
8. Magnification or minimization:
9. Mental filter (not being able to take in the good and the bad, i.e., filtering out things that don’t fit with your preconceived ideas) :
10. Shoulding yourself:
11. Labeling (a behavior becomes an identity, i.e., I overate, I am an overeater):
We want you to take time to do these assignments because awareness is necessary in order to change anything; you need to see the problem if you want to fix it. Once you are aware, you can begin to challenge and change old patterns. Even if you have been thinking a certain way for a long time, your brain has the capacity to learn to think differently. Remember that each time you counteract a negative, distorted, or extreme thought with a more appropriate or balanced one, you are practicing a skill and creating new neural pathways that will make this easier over time.
Challenging Your Thoughts
Learning to challenge your thoughts is a crucial skill not only for dealing with your Eating Disorder Voice, but also for challenging what we call the critical voice, the voice that is often still hanging around and causing trouble after the eating disorder is gone. You can’t always control the first thought that pops into your head, but you can learn to manage or work with subsequent thoughts to help you find a more accurate and balanced way of thinking.
RESPONDING TO YOUR DISTORTED THOUGHTS
In the space below, write down three examples from the assignment you did earlier regarding your personal cognitive distortions. Respond to these thoughts using the skills you learned in Key 2, bringing out your healthy self to challenge, counteract, balance, or dismiss distorted thoughts.
DIALOGUE WITH YOUR COGNITIVE DISTORTIONS
This assignment is just like having a dialogue between your Eating Disorder Self and Healthy Self, the difference being that the thought or cognitive distortion may not be about food or weight, or even eating disorder related (i.e., I am hopeless, I should be able to do this on my own, or nobody can help me. ). The goal is to have a back-and-forth dialogue between your healthy self and these kinds of thoughts, similar to how you learned to challenge eating disorder thoughts such as, If I eat this I will get fat in Key 2. Remember to always end the dialogue with a healthy selfresponse. This would be a good assignment to put on your weekly Goals Sheet because distorted thoughts continue to arise for a long time during the course of recovery, and challenging them is an ongoing process.
Response back to your Healthy Self (probably trying to argue with or to dismiss the healthy response yes, but .):
Don’t get discouraged if the dialogue is hard to do, if you feel stuck, or if the cognitive distortion seems stronger or more believable; you are still gaining valuable information. This kind of dialogue takes practice, but each time you do one, you learn things and strengthen your ability to respond from your Healthy Self. If it feels strained or uncomfortable, do it anyway, but don’t make up things that are not true. For example, if you say, I love my body when you don’t, we find that will just make this seem like a busywork assignment, not meaningful, and you can even feel resentful. Better to say, I accept my body for now, or I know I need to care for my body. Another example: Don’t say, No one would ever intentionally hurt my feelings, because in life this might happen. Better to say, I don’t know if this was done on purpose or not, or Whether or not he meant it on purpose, my feelings were hurt.
You will get sick of us saying this, but if you get stuck, remember to think of things that you would say to someone else. Again, this gets easier as your Healthy Self gets stronger.
Although writing these dialogues may seemed forced now, what will happen is that by practicing them in this way you will begin to have them happen in your head. They will require less and less effort until your healthy responses become almost as automatic as the unhelpful thoughts once were.