- Teresa Jacobson, DBH, LPCC-S, NCC
January 28, 2022
"Love is like a tree, it grows of its own accord, it puts down deep roots into our whole being."
- Victor Hugo
Who among us has believed the negative thoughts and narratives we tell ourselves? It is common for humans to adopt unhealthy core schemas and beliefs about ourselves on this journey through life, but they can cause lasting pain, like a fire that tears a forest apart.
Cognitive distortions or faulty logic do not exist at birth. These are shaped from external forces and by our perceptions of these forces, particularly during childhood. They can also be formed throughout the lifespan. Typically, the negative thoughts we have about ourselves are exceptionally more critical than what we would say to a stranger, let alone a friend.
Once we become mindfully aware of our unhealthy thoughts, we can do something about it. Self-love and self-compassion can be the impetus to change harmful schemas of belief. It is a sad reality that many people believe they are unworthy or undeserving of love, or they think they are not good enough. Some may feel like they are stupid, or a failure. Quite often it is such a habit of belief, it can lie under the surface and wreak havoc.
If we become aware of the unhealthy thoughts and decide not to change them, in a sense we are contributing to our own anguish, as if we truly believe these skewed thinking patterns. This contributes to internalized depression, and also forms the roots of anxiety.
When we attend to these thoughts in the moment with self-love and self-compassion; we take back the power and permission once taken away. We can then correct the fake news that lies deep within the roots of our brain and the depths of our souls, allowing the forest of life to thrive again.
Sound simple enough? As a human and counselor, I know it is not easy.
The 1970's work of Aaron T. Beck and colleagues who followed, recognized cognitive distortions as skewed thinking errors that contribute to depression and anxiety. "When a person with depression has negative thoughts, they often accept them as true, without question" (The Beck Institute). People with depression and anxiety often have errors in their thinking.
"Cognitive distortions are negative biases in thinking that are theorized to represent vulnerability factors for depression and dysphoria" (Runic, Dozes, & Martin, 2016). "Individuals experience automatic thoughts in response to events, which in turn lead to emotional and behavioral responses. The content of automatic thoughts is typically consistent with an individual’s core beliefs about important aspects of themselves, others, and the world."
When these harmful beliefs are activated and negative automatic thoughts result, such as thinking errors that are not factual, "a negative, neutral or even positive event may influence negative affect and maladaptive behaviours." When people with depression has negative thoughts, they habitually accept them as true without question, contributing to misery and anguish.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is an evidence-based practice which "is based on the theory that the way individuals pervceive a situation is more closely connected to their reaction than the situation itself" according to the Beck Institute, created by the founder of CBT, Beck, and his daughter, Judith S. Beck. "Individual's perceptions are often distorted and unhelpful, particularly when they are distressed."
Common thinking errors that most humans have at times was identified by Beck and colleagues. These often include:
Mindreading (i.e., assuming that others are thinking negatively about oneselff)
Catastrophizing (i.e., making negative predictions about the future based on little or no evidence)
All-or-nothing-thinking (i.e., viewing something as either-or, without considering the full spectrum and range of possible evaluations)
Emotional reasoning (i.e., believing something to be true based on emotional responses rather than objective evidence)
Labeling (i.e., classifying oneself negatively after the occurrence of an adverse event)
Mental filtering (i.e., focusing on negative information and devaluing positive information),
Overgeneralization (i.e., assuming that the occurrence of one negative event means that additional bad things will happen)
Personalization (i.e., assuming that one is the cause of a negative event)
Should statements (i.e., thinking that things must or should be a certain way), and
Minimizing or disqualifying the positive (i.e., ignoring or dismissing positive things that have happened).
Some theories suggest humans developed cognitive distortions as "natural consequences of using fast track defensive algorithms that are sensitive to threat" (Gilbert, 1998). "In various contexts, especially those of threat, humans evolved to think adaptively rather than logically." The unfortunate consequence of adapting to survive by adopting negative core schemas of belief, is the beliefs usually become maladaptive over time.
The good news is: we can combat it. But we have to do it mindfully, with intention, and non-judgementally, which is where the self-love and self-compassion come in. Not everyone is accepting of those concepts. If self-love and self-compassion are foreign, you can do it for self-preservation.
A guide to use to combat negative schemas from CBT includes: catch it, check it, change it. We have to: (a) become aware of the thoughts (catch each one you can); (b) ask yourself if it is healthy or helpful, or if you would say it to a friend or help you move forward (check it), then; (c) reframe each one to be accurate, helpful and healthy (change it).
So if my negative self talk was: "I am always making mistakes, I can't believe how stupid I am" (and I know I wouldn't say this to anyone else); I need to change it to be accurate, healthy and helpful. "I'm not happy about the mistake I made, but that doesn't mean I'm stupid. I'm human and it isn't realistic to try to be perfect; I'll keep trying to do my best."
By using the filter of "catch it, check it, change it", we can look at any of our cognitive distortions or faulty logic and check the evidence that it is true (not skewed logic), and finally reframe to be accurate and helpful. If we continue to allow the negative thinking patterns to exist, we are allowing someone else's negative influence on us to prevail. If you are someone who shares love and compassion with others, be sure to apply those also to you.
You may be amazed how much a little love and tenderness can help a hurting soul. Isn't it time for you to see yourself authentically, the way you've always wanted to be seen?
Teresa Jacobson is a Doctor of Behavioral Health and Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor Supervisor who is counseling Ohio and Kentucky adults of all ages and life experiences via secure Telehealth/Video visits. A strength-based, person-centered multi-cultural counselor, with an existential philosophy, Teresa can be reached by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, calling (513) 206-3026, or visiting
Beck Institute (2022). Coping with depression. Retrieved from
Gilbert, P. (1998). The evolved basis and adaptive functions of cognitive distortions. BR J Med Psychol,
71(4): 447-63. doi:10.1111/j.2044-8341.1998.tb01002.x
Rnic, K., Dozois, D.J.A, and Martin, R.A. (2016). Cognitive distortions, humor styles, and depression. Eur J Psychol, 12(3):348-362. doi:10.5964/ejop.v12I3.1118 Retrieved from