This is a continuation of last weeks list of Albert Ellis’ common modes of distorted thinking. Distorted thinking can and does impact effective communication and thus should be identified and corrected to improve group process. Learn to identify and intervene on the following modes of distorted thinking in your groups.
Fallacy of Fairness
Two people seldom agree on what’s fair, and generally there is no court or final arbitrator to decide. Fairness is subjective and based on subjective assessment. Usually it involves a sense of not achieving what is hoped for or desired and tends to be self serving. Usually there are conditional assumptions, “if he really knew how much I contribute he’d give me that promotion.” Unfortunately we all see this differently and as a result, fair is person specific not general.
What you feel must be true. “If you feel like a loser you must be a loser, if you feel cheated you must have been cheated.” Emotions are treated as if they are fact when in fact they are simply one data point and reflect subjective responses to experience. Always believing your emotions is like believing everything you read or everything you think…bad idea.
Fallacy of Change
This assumes that if you pressure people enough they will change to suit you. You tend to focus on other’s change as a means of making yourself feel better. We see this in marriage regularly. “If he’d just act this way, I’d be happy.” In truth the only person we can change is ourselves. Sometimes this does induce change in others, but don’t count on it.
Grains of truth become generalized to a global judgment. “All democrats are liberal imbeciles.” Or, “All Republicans are corporate profit taking greedy aristocrats.” Stereotypes and one-dimensional thinking polarizes and reduces the ability to work cooperatively.
If someone else is responsible then we can all feel a sense of relief. This ofcourse precludes any responsibility for self. Often we combine this with mind-reading and expect others to know what we want or need. I could have said “no” to the additional work rather than blame my boss for putting me into this time crunch.
This distortion operates from a list of inflexible rules about how you and others should act. The rules are right and indisputable. Any deviation is bad. As a result you are in a position to judge and find fault. Cue words include “should, ought, and must.” Shoulds affect others (whom we judge) as well as ourselves as we feel compelled to act in a certain way as a result. Karen Homey calls this “the tyranny of shoulds.”
In this distortion you are usually defensive. You must continually prove that you are right or correct. Your assumptions about the world and your actions are always right. This makes it very difficult to hear new or alternative points of view, because you tend to ignore and are busy building your argument to prove your rightness. Besides making you hard of hearing, this distortion tends to make you lonely because being right becomes more important that honest and caring relationships.
Heaven’s Reward Fallacy
In this distortion we always do the right thing in hope of reward at a later date. You sacrifice and slave while collecting brownie points that you can cash in some day. Saints are tough to live with.
Your assignment this week is to survey this list and select your own most favorite distorted thinking mode. Then brainstorm a new action you can practice to correct it. We’d love to hear your perspective on this important subject. Please share your perspective in the comments section below.