Robert F. Mullen, PhD
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“Dr. Mullen is doing impressive work helping the world. He is the pioneer of proactive neuroplasticity utilizing DRNI—deliberate, repetitive, neural information.” — WeVoice (Madrid)
Cognitive Distortion #1: Blaming
Cognitive distortions are exaggerated or irrational thought patterns that perpetuate our anxiety and depression. In essence, we twist reality to reinforce or justify our toxic behaviors and validate our irrational attitudes, rules, and assumptions. Our attitudes refer to our emotions, convictions, and behaviors. Rules are the principles or regulations that influence our behaviors, and our assumptions are what we believe to be accurate or real. SAD and other emotional dysfunctions paint an inaccurate picture of the self in the world with others.
Consider this example. The entire office staff congratulates us on our promotion, except for one individual who looks the other way. Rather than embracing the support, we obsess over the shunner. That is Filtering – selectively choosing our facts to support our poor self-image by dwelling on the negative while overlooking the positive. While the number of cognitive distortions varies widely, there are thirteen that are primary. Jumping to Conclusions might indicate we know what our perceived antagonist is thinking. We are mind-readers. Emotional Reasoning is arriving at our emotional conclusion without considering other factors. Perhaps our antagonist has a toothache or is distracted by unrelated events. The cognitive distortion, Personalization speaks for itself.
Understanding how we use cognitive distortions as subconscious strategies to avoid facing certain truths is crucial to recovery. SAD drives our illogical thought patterns. Countering them requires mindfulness of our motives and rational response. Because of their complexity and similarities, each cognitive distortion has its own chapter. Our compulsion to twist the truth to validate our negative self-beliefs and image is powerful; we need to understand how these distortions sustain our social anxiety disorder. Cognitive distortions are rarely cut and dried but tend to overlap and share traits and characteristics. That is what makes them confusing and difficult to clearly define.
Let us begin our study with Blaming, a cognitive distortion very relevant to SAD.
Space is Limited
Since we have determined that onset is a consequence of childhood disturbance and other factors for which we are not accountable, attributing blame for our social anxiety disorder should be a moot exercise.
Knowledge, however, is not resolution. We are still learning the tools and techniques of the enemy, but our counteroffensive remains on the drawing board. Until we design and implement our weaponry, we remain in emotional limbo, overwhelmed by feelings of incompetence and undesirability. Much of recovery is devising and implementing rational responses to our SAD-induced negative perceptions. This does not happen overnight, however, and the burden of responsibility for our self-destructive thoughts and behaviors can be overwhelming. Trapped within SAD’s vicious cycle of fears and social avoidance, we see ourselves as victims. Victimization needs an antagonist – someone or something to blame.
The mature and logical approach is to rationally respond to our emotional angst, but SAD subsists on irrationality. Until we master recovery, it is reasonable to search for avenues to unburden ourselves of responsibility.
One alternative is external blaming – holding others accountable for our condition or for things that are our responsibility. Example: We fail an exam and blame it on the disgruntled teacher rather than taking responsibility for not studying.
Internal blaming is taking responsibility for things not of our doing. Example: A dinner guest abruptly leaves the table and exits. We blame it on our cooking rather than consider our guest has unrelated personal issues. Those of us living with SAD tend to blame our behaviors for onset even though we bear no responsibility.
Until we devise rational responses to our fears and social avoidance, we continue to blame ourselves for our behaviors and perceived character defects. We hesitate to contribute to discussions for fear of criticism. We avoid conversations, worried our nerves will expose us. We blame ourselves when we shun others out of fear of rejection. Then, adding insult to injury, we beat ourselves up because our symptoms get the better of us causing us to self-characterize as helpless, hopeless, undesirable, and worthless.
The resolution is learning how to rationally respond to our emotional angst. We cannot function optimally without moderating our self-destructive thoughts and behaviors. The ability to look at our actions through the prism of intellectual awareness is a necessary component of the transformative act and indispensable to recovery. Rational response allows the flow of positive thought and behavior necessary for recovery, eliminating the need to blame.
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