Warped Thinking: Red Flag Words

In the previous two posts we discussed the idea of cognitive distortions or warped thinking. Anytime we approach a new situation, we are prone to view it through one of many warped thinking styles. This sometimes leads to us getting less favorable outcomes. By learning to recognize this warped thinking and implement ways to combat it, we are more likely to get the outcomes we desire.

Recognizing that we are participating in warped thinking is the first step in being able to change these thoughts to something more accurate. That is why today we are going to look at Red Flag Words, or words which can indicate we are participating in warped thinking. We will list the words below along with the warped thinking that goes along with them and how to combat it.

Should, Shouldn't, Must, Must Not, Ought to, Need to, Could Have 

Why It's an Issue: When we use words like this, we are making a judgment instead of looking at facts. Each of us has ideas about the way things should work. Often these come from values we developed growing up. Often these values help us, but they can sometimes hurt us as well.

How to Combat It: Ask yourself where this idea is coming from and if it is helpful. For example, if you believe you should be doing something you're not, ask yourself why? Is this a belief you developed that no longer works in the life you currently live? If so, change the belief.

Never, Always, All the Time 

Why It's an Issue: These words are absolutes, which are rarely accurate. There are likely few situations in which these words apply. When we use these words, we are not describing a situation accurately, and this can lead to frustration and other negative consequences.

How to Combat It: Recognize that absolutes rarely exist and replace the word with a more accurate word. Instead of thinking that you never do anything right, think that sometimes you do things in a way you are satisfied with and other times you don't.

By combating these red flag words, we begin to look at things more clearly and more accurately which leads to better outcomes for us.