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Distorted Thinking Part 2: Is that your other 'resting bitch face'?

Updated: Feb 3

By David Mark (https://www.human-wonder.com/team)

Last month we looked at the different types of cognitive distortions we can experience that can lead to negative emotions and unhelpful behaviours.

Sometimes we can look at someone and make all sorts of interpretations, about how they are looking at us, thinking they really hate us, when actually it’s just their resting bitch face.

As a 'quickity quick' recap, here are some of our top 10 cognitive distortions:

10 - Over genaralising - all encompassing conclusions without substantial evidence

9 - Dichotomous thinking - also known as black and white thinking

8 - Jumping to conclusions - can be described as mind reading or fortune telling

7 - Unrealistic expectations - this is the world of ‘shoulds’ and ‘woulds’

6 - Catastrophisation - (magnifying and minimising), can be thinking the worst, when the situation is more benign

5 - Disqualifying the positive - downplaying, discounting or rejecting a positive experience

4 - Emotional reasoning - when a person believes the feeling is actually reflecting a fact

3 - Self Reproach - Personalisation, believing all events are attributable to one person

2 - Self Reproach - Self criticism - blaming oneself without the evidence

1 - Self Reproach - Name calling - I’m such a loser

And our all time favourite:

0 - Magical thinking - the belief that unrelated events are causally connected despite the absence of any plausible link. Did you see that unicorn?

Do you recognise any of these ways of thinking in yourself or people in your life? Now be honest...

Okay, so well and good, we recognise these pesky distorted ways we may think. But what can we actually do about it?

Here are a few approaches we would recommend:

Identifying and challenging distortions

Awareness is a skill not a gift. Metacognition is a fancy way of thinking about our thinking and learning from it. Have you ever come across the phrase ‘breaking the fourth wall’ in film? It’s when a character in a production shows awareness of the fact that they are in a production. A bit like Deadpool speaks to the viewer in Marvel movies. Anywoo, the process involves recognising and challenging the accuracy of a distorted thought. From a practical perspective, you can write down your original thoughts and ...

then with a spirit of openness and creativity look at alternative interpretations. 

An example could be the guy (let’s call him Sam) who is dating Shauna, and although they have a happy relationship, and really connect on many levels, share similar values, love being in each others company and even have worked on how to work through conflict, Sam wants more. He wants to gel with all of her friends and family. Although Sam gets on well with some of them, others they are a bit 'Marmite' for him. Can you guess which distorted thinking is going on?

You got it, unrealistic expectations and maybe a little magical too.

Performing a cost benefit analysis

It can be helpful to consider how the thought patterns may have been helpful in the past and maybe even helped in coping. It is also worth asking what purpose do they serve? Is this about control, or maybe about avoiding taking responsibility or necessary risks? Ponder on this for a while...

The next part is to actively reflect on the cost of engaging with this distortion? If you can evaluate whether the cost of these thought patterns are greater than the the benefit, this could be the springboard for you to transform your thoughts, behaviours and more.

As an example: Jatinder, had lost her job and her dog (Coco) in the space of six months. Jatinder has felt very low and had had lots of self doubt. Jatinder stopped seeing friends and started to voraciously eat her emotions, through junk food and via her ole friends Benjamin & Jerry. She started believing that no one will want to hire her,, even though she is an excellent graphic designer. As you can see she has immersed her distorted thinking in a combination of dichotomous thinking, catastrophisation, and self reproach through self criticism.

By really analysing her own distorted thoughts, she may see that this is temporary, she has friends and support, she has skills and resources, and can find meaning in life, new work and may need to allow herself to grieve the loss of Coco.

Replacing absolutes

Ever hear the phrase ‘I always’ or ‘I never’ dissipate from your vocal glands out into the ether? This is dichotomous thinking. 

Kate is 16 years young: She is bright, thoughtful and fun. Sometimes when she’s with friends, she gets a bit nervous and feels pressure to say something really witty or clever. But sometimes, she gets nervous and the words come out in the wrong order, or she gets the punchline wrong.

This makes her not want to go out again, with her friends and says to herself, I always make a fool of myself, I’m such a loser, I should just hide under a big rock. 

Of course you can see her distorted thinking, is dichotomous and name calling.

Do you know Ed Sheeran used to have a slight stutter. As the legend has it, he decided not to accept that as his fate, learned to memorise some of Eminem’s raps, and then learned them backwards. He was not willing to accept possible distorted thinking and it seems Spotify is a better place as a result of it.

Thought records

A very useful approach is to create a thought record created by Greenberger and Padesky. 

Imagine you have just left your house and you see a friend on the other side of the street going for a run, and yes they have their Lycra running bottoms and air pods to boot. You wave and they completely ghost you. It is worth considering the following before diving into our cognitive distortions:


  1. Who were you with?

  2. What were you doing?

  3. When was it?

  4. Where were you?


  1. Describe your feeling with a singular word.

  2. Rate intensity of emotion (1-10)

  3. Circle or mark the mood you want to look at closer.

Automatic Thoughts (Images)

  1. Answer the first two questions, and then relevant questions related to your emotions.

  2. What was going through my mind just before I started to feel this way?

  3. What images or memories do I have when this happened?

  4. What does it mean about me, my life, my future? (depression)

  5. What is my fear of what may happen? (anxiety)

  6. What is the worst that could happen? (anxiety)

  7. What doe it mean about the other person (feel / think) about me? (anger / shame)

  8. What does that mean about the other person or other people in general? (anger)

  9. Did I break rules, hurt others, or not do something I should have done?

What do I think about myself that I did this or believe I did this? (guilt/shame)

Evidence that supports the hot thought

  1. Circle hot thoughts that support in section 3 for which you are looking for evidence.

  2. Is there factual evidence to support this? (Try to use facts not interpretations)

Evidence that does not support the hot thought

  1. What is the evidence that does not support these hot in the moment thoughts

Having done this, consider alternative balanced thoughts

This is now an opportunity to once again rate your emotions 

Work with a coach

Sometimes we can have some deep rooted cognitive distortions and they are so deep that even if we apply the above approaches, we still are struggling to even see them let alone change them. What’s the old joke?...

Cognitive distortions are like bad breath, you don’t know you have them but everyone else does.

This is where working with a coach can be powerful as they can hold a mirror to you, move it in different angles to help you see your blind spots (and also your good side). Furthermore, as coaches we will not only help you to identify these cognitive distortions, we can support you to challenge, consider and adopt better ways to think, feel, be and live. 

The integrative life coaching at the New School is taught in both year 1 and year 2, and every teaching weekend we have live triads, as we believe you learn by doing.

If you would like to train to become a qualified nutritional therapist and integrative life coach, feel free to check out our other blogs and FAQs and drop us an email about our upcoming open days.

To Wholeness!

From the team at the New School Of Nutritional Medicine

Learn about the Founder & Principal of the New School of Nutritional Medicine, Dr Khush Mark PhD HERE.

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