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”Well, that makes no sense”

May 9, 2022

I was with a group of very smart people last week and we talked about ”Cognitive Distortion”, well, maybe it would be better to say, they talked and I listened.
There is much done about understanding how our cognitive brain works. In simple terms it is: ”the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses.”
It pretty much is a cycle of: thoughts, behavior and emotion…..and depending on that process, our brain is conditioned to create patterns and make those decisions (right or wrong) faster, they become ingrained into our neural structures.
So, for me, who has experienced trauma, if a person comes up behind me and I am not aware of it, I might automatically turn around and throw an elbow to protect myself. Has anybody laid hands on me in 40+ years? NO! It is still part of my automatic response? YES! Over the years I know my ‘triggers’ and have learned new neural pathways, but on a bad day, I might still react.

Over the last few years I have noticed a ton of ’cognitive distortions’ that have crept into our culture and have made things more difficult. I think in part it is because of our busy lives and our lack of time to think and evaluate. Part is just the isolation we experienced during COVID. Our brain wants to create patterns and make the process easier for us, but we can fall into a number of different distortions:
Selective abstraction - when we draw conclusions based on just a few elements of a situation
Personalization - ’This is my fault’ - when we take responsibility for things that are not ours to carry or are really out of our control
Magnification - blowing things out of proportion
Minimization - downplaying the importance of a thought
Arbitrary inference - drawing conclusions when there is little or no evidence
Overgeneralization - making sweeping conclusions based on a single event

We live in a divided world, in politics, education, health, sexuality and so many other things. Of all created beings, we are the only ones who have the ability for cognitive reasoning. Let’s step away from fast answers and quick solutions and start thinking deeply, taking the time to evaluate what we do and how we think.
There is a simple ABCD to help us: A - what is the activating event? B - what is your belief system behind it? C - what are the consequences of that action? D - what is the disputation of your belief? How will you react to it?
We can change our neuro-pathways by changing the way we think about an event. So, instead of reacting the same as we have for the last 2 years, let’s step back, use our ABCD’s and learn to live together in a healthier way. We will discover some amazing things in other people!

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