Okay, welcome back to our podcast. I'm excited because we have a series that we're going to start over the next five podcasts.
In episode number three, we taught you how to identify the thoughts that are creating your feelings, and then also how to sit with it. And if you decide that that thought is not serving you, then we talked about how you can start moving into an intentional thought to improve your life.
So what we thought we would do is, over the next five episodes, talk about the 15 most common thought errors, which are also called cognitive distortions. And we're going to link an article that I thought was lovely. It was very easily understandable and had good pictures on it. It is from www.mindmypeelings.com. Like peeling, like an orange.
So, oh, that reminds me of another fantastic joke I have.
Here I go: Why did the orange go to the doc?
Well, I don't know, why did the orange go to the doctor?
Because he wasn't peeling very well.
Oh, I love that.
Did you see Dave Chappelle where, where he was, or I think it was Charlie Murphy was like, “I wish I had two more arms so that I could give it four thumbs down.” Anyway, that was very punny.
All day long.
Okay. Well, I'm going to start with the first one on this website. The article is called “15 Cognitive Distortions.”
The first one is polarized thinking. I've always heard it as more of like all-or-nothing thinking or black-or-white thinking. It is when there is no gray zone, it is all, or nothing.
And I will tell you that now that I've learned about this, it's a perfectionist tendency, and I have it. I'm working on it, but here's some examples.
For instance, exercise, we all know exercise is super important, but one interesting thing that I found is when I get super busy, I suddenly start thinking that I don't have time. Well, that's an error because what my mind is telling me is if I don't drive to The Studio, the place where I work out, which is 30 minutes away, do the hour long workout, and then drive back… if I don't do that, then it doesn't count. So instead of doing this two hour long process, I would do nothing, but that doesn't make any cognitive sense. Even moving five minutes would be a whole lot more benefit than zero minutes. Does that make sense?
Another example would be if your kid brought home all A's and one B, and you're like, “oh, it wasn't perfect.” And so maybe it doesn't count as much.
Also I had this giant paper pile in my kitchen, like giant, super giant. And every time I walked by it, I’d be like, “I don't have time to do that.” Because in my mind, if I didn't do the whole thing, it didn't count. But what would be a lot more useful would be, I don't have to do the whole thing, but I could have done five minutes. And over the course of like, you know, a week or something, it would be completely gone.
So this whole all-or-nothing, I've heard from some surgeon coaches, that this is a problem. I mean, for any doctor, really. By the time we finish residency, we can end up picking up several perfectionist tendencies. But I hear them talking about how, if there's a single small complication in their surgeries that day, that somehow the entire day is ruined, instead of thinking about all the 95% of things that went right.
And then the last thing I just noticed, my mom came to help me plant flowers, one time. I had crates and crates of pansies. I started and she was like, “are we going to stop now?” I'm like, “no, we, we still have some.” So this whole thing. It must be all or nothing. Like we are either planting all the flowers today or we're planting zero. And that's also happened, where I let the entire flat of flowers die because I didn't have time to do the whole thing.
So that's one thought error. And I don't know if any of you can see that in things that you do, but that's just something to be aware of: polarized thinking is what it's called.
I think that could be somewhat associated too with the perfectionist or overachievers wanting to accomplish something. And so that all-or-none kind of parallels that where you are wanting to accomplish, either that stack of papers or planting the pansies. And if you feel like, if you can't do it to accomplish it, then we shouldn't even start. So thanks.
Exactly. Yeah. That's kind of like an arrival fallacy sort of thing. Like the journey is not the point. The destination is the point. Like it's gotta be checked, checked off the list. Otherwise it doesn't count. Like, no matter how much progress you made.
So I have a question. Do you think, like if you're on an eating plan and you eat something that you weren't supposed to, and then you trash the whole rest of the day?
Super good example. Yes. That is a very common source of overeating. You know, if I've messed up once, then the entire food plan is shot. So let's just go crazy. And your brain offers up like, “this now would be a good time to eat all the things cause we've already messed up.” But you can see how, if you didn't have that mentality, it'd be okay. That's a great example too. A lot of the weight loss coaching focuses on that.
Okay. So the second cognitive distortion is mental filtering, and this one is actually broken down into two different types of mental filtering: negative mental filtering and disqualifying the positive.
So negative mental filtering, I think, would be the opposite of having rose colored glasses on. I don't know if you guys have people you work with that might fall into this category, but it doesn't matter what happens, there's always just so much complaining going on. So much complaining, and really things just aren't that bad generally. So it's where you're focusing on all of the negative things in a situation and completely ignoring the positive things. And I think we can probably all agree that is probably a pretty miserable way to think.
So to two things. We did have a partner who everyone loved, but his nickname was Eeyore, so yeah. But the second thing I'd point out is that that's a normal thing for the brain. Because if you think about it, if you took in all of the sensory stimuli coming at you, you would never be able to focus on anything. And the whole thing for your primitive brain is to keep you alive. So it makes sense that it would focus in on the negative, but it is a mistake because then you miss out on everything else in your world. So totally normal to do that, but not helpful as far as happiness and wellbeing goes for sure.
Okay. So the second one is disqualifying the positive, and that is where we might acknowledge something good, particularly like if there's something that we accomplished, that was good. And say, “yeah, but it was just luck” or, “yeah, but, I only could do that because somebody else did something to help me.” So making something good, really, not even good anymore at all, just because our brain wants us to disqualify the positive outcomes. So. I think this is a common one that probably, especially women tend to use.
You know, I see it a lot in people who have imposter syndrome. They're like, “I just got lucky getting into medical school.”
Yeah, that happens a lot, right?
Because it's just chance that you could enter medical school. They let anybody in. So, and that is, that's really unfortunate because you're amazing.
I'm gonna really start trying to do this. If somebody is like, “oh, your outfit's great.” You know what I say? Every time? “Oh, it was from Target.” You know, do you know what I mean? Like really hard for me to take a compliment or just let it go without some downplay. You know what I mean? That’s work for me to do.
I did find that it's super common in imposter syndrome whereas objective evidence would suggest that they're actually better off than a lot of their class. Think about who thinks about that they might not be good enough. Not the doofus, they're overly confident. Know what I mean?
Yeah. That is, that is so true.
So a third thought distortion has been labeled as overgeneralization. So it's a thinking that occurs after a single event happens, that you might as well generalize every single event after that occurring exactly the same, even when there is no data to support that. It's a very safe and protective mechanism to not endure that situation again, or to not encourage you down that pathway again.
Either you were told no, or you had a negative interaction or something to that matter. So, in order to protect yourself from a negative response or a negative interaction, your brain wants to just say, well, every time that I make that phone call or talk to that consultant, that's going to happen.
So it stunts growth in an area. It keeps you from moving forward. Who knows if there were other extraneous factors as the reason for the no? And next time, it might be a yes,
I think a good example of that is for us as emergency medicine physicians, we deal with consultants a lot. I remember I had a patient that was a leaking AAA that came in timely because he had a blood pressure and he was alive. And I felt that this was good timing because the cardiovascular surgeon on call was available and in-house. But instead, when I got on the phone, all I got was a very negative interaction, full of expletives and things of that matter. And I still calmly asked the physician to come to the bedside because I felt like mortality was increasing with every minute that I was having to endure the negative interaction. And instead he said he was one person, and he had just got a dissection on the table…so therefore, anytime moving forward that I felt like I needed to consult cardiovascular surgery for anything, I already felt my blood pressure rising and really would at all costs try to pawn the patient off on somebody else. Anything to not call cardiovascular surgery, because I felt like any interaction with cardiovascular surgery would be the same.
Yeah. I have an opposite [example], completely silly and ridiculous. But forever we'd pass by, you know, that claw [toy grabbing] thing? Like if you go in Walmart or something, that stupid claw thing. My youngest, every time was like, “I want to play that thing.” I'm like, “no, no, nobody wins that. That's a complete waste of your quarters.” Well, somebody took him to (I wasn't there) and he went to some pizza place and they had the claw thing. So I had given him money for his pizza. Well, this fool goes to the claw thing, and he won the first time. So he thinks that every time you play the claw game that you win. So, I mean, I guess it could work in your favor, but we're usually talking about a negative experience.
Yes, exactly. Trying to think of other things I've tried once and then just never tried it again. Cause like, “Oh no. That's how that goes. Like never again am I trying that.” With no [further] evidence whatsoever. Thinking about it with our Facebook ads right now. I don't know what I'm doing, so clearly I can never figure it out. Exactly.
Oh, I know one. I know a good one. You cannot post a meme in poor taste because you'll obviously get banned for, like-
Well, I think that one might be true.
That one actually is true again. Sorry to anyone who might have seen my inappropriate memes!
Before though, David was like, “I wonder if you could get out of the shift so that we could do something” and, you know, I was like, “well, nobody's going to take that. It's a night shift and nobody's going to take it.” So I wouldn't even try, you know, cause I had evidenced from trying one time and it being difficult to trade, you know what I mean?
Right. And I feel like too, sometimes you become the victim of that. I work in another smaller ER, and my second shift ever of working there, I was on for maybe 30 minutes, and we got a call over EMS for a five vic[tim] MVC that they were going to bring all five vics there. Which meant that the single coverage ED was getting ready to get five MVC victims. And then within about two minutes of that, our entire ER waiting room filled up and all the things. Based on that one shift, I now get eye-rolls every time I walk into that emergency department.
You're the black cloud?
And they go ahead and post the black cloud and they go ahead and post trades off of the shifts. The nurses trade off shifts working with me because of one shift when we got like 12 traumas in the first two hours I was there.
Okay. Well, just to recap we went over polarized thinking, the whole all-or-nothing, mental filtering, which included negative mental filtering, but then also disqualifying the positive, and overgeneralization.
So those are our first three things to look out for your thoughts. If you're doing that, you really want to examine if that's even true.
And we will unpack some of these and give you tools, tips, life hacks in order to overcome these and think more curiously about these ways of thinking. And also how we can make them work for us instead of against us at times.
So we know that you are amazing and brilliant and have so much to offer. We love you and cherish your beautiful soul. So until next time: you are whole, you are a gift to medicine and what you do and the work that you do matters. See you next time. Bye guys.