Most of us have distortions in the way we think or feel, not that our thoughts and feelings are wrong; they’re important but they may not give us an accurate view of the present.
A cognitive distortion is an idea that isn’t true. Most of us have certain distorted ways of thinking that we repeat frequently. Being a black and white, or an all or nothing thinker are common distortions, blaming oneself or someone else for everything that doesn’t go right, is another. By learning to catch these seemingly automatic thoughts, people can learn to give themselves a clearer, more accurate view of situations and themselves. Often thoughts are hard to change because they are anchored in feelings, sometimes unacknowledged feelings.
Like thoughts, feelings may be inaccurate in terms of the present moment. One may be angry with someone, or hurt — but it doesn’t mean that the other person has done something wrong. One may feel inadequate — but it doesn’t mean that he/she is. Feelings are like magnets; they tend to call up similar feelings from the past and getting to know what has to do with the past and the present, can help people.
There’s a tendency in our culture for people to think that there’s something wrong with them if they don’t feel good all of the time, or if they have what we call “negative” feelings, such as loneliness, anger, sadness. No one wants to feel these things but they are simply a natural way that people experience the world and themselves. There’s nothing wrong with the feelings — they can give you important information — but learning to use that information and handle the feelings more constructively can help.
The root of the word emotion, e movere, means to move outward, and feelings that are acknowledged and tolerated can help you move out toward what you want and need. The root of the word cognition means knowledge. In holistic psychotherapy people can gain knowledge that helps them act more constructively in their lives.