Current Circumstances

Looking at the way things actually are can help us understand that our thoughts may not be totally realistic or helpful.

Past Experiences

Consider past situations/experiences that do not fit with your automatic thought.

Future Possibilities

Is there a chance of things being different in the future?

Behavioral Tests

Try something outside of your comfort zone and see if the outcome is better than you had expected.

Common Thought Patterns

Mind Reading/Fortune Telling

The tendency to assume people are reacting negatively to you, or that an activity will turn out negative, without evidence. 

“He didn’t say hi to me; he must not like me.” vs. “It is possible he was thinking about something else. In fact, we chatted at lunch last week.”

“I’d better not ask for a raise because my boss will say ‘no.’” vs. “True, my boss may so no, but she may say ‘yes.’ I won’t know unless I try.” 

All-or-Nothing Thinking

Looking at events in absolute, black or white categories with no middle ground. Using words such as “always,” “never,” “no one,” and “everyone.”
“I never do anything right as a parent.” vs. “There have been plenty of times in the past that I have helped my kids and there are areas I’d like to do better.” 


Viewing a negative event or setback as a never-ending pattern of defeat.

“I have only lost 5 pounds when I wanted to lose 10. Eating healthy and exercising will never work for me.” vs. “I have been successful at losing 5 pounds. I will keep doing my best.”

Discounting Positives

Believing the positive things you do or your accomplishments don’t count. You tell yourself it wasn’t good enough or anyone could have done just as well.

Someone gives you a compliment on a drawing you made and you think, “It’s not that good; anyone could have drawn it.” vs. “I did my best and others have given me nice compliments on my drawing.”


Applying negative terms to describe yourself instead of the behavior.
“I am stupid.” vs. “I made a mistake at work today.”

Mental Filter

You pick out a single negative detail and dwell on it exclusively, ignoring the positives. For example, you receive 10 positive comments and a mildly critical one at your work review, yet you obsess over the one critical remark and ignore the positive feedback.

“My boss critiqued my time management, she must think I’m bad at my job.” vs. “My review was mostly positive and now I know where I can improve and impress my boss for my next review.”

Should Statements

You criticize yourself or others with “should,” “shouldn’t,” “must,” “ought,” or “have to.” When you do this against yourself, it leads to guilt and frustration. When you do this against other people, it leads to anger and frustration.
“I should have worked out every day this week.”  vs. “I worked out this week, which is better than not working out at all.”


Blowing negative events out of proportion.
Asking someone out on a date. “If she says no it will be awful/the worst thing ever!” vs. “Sure it would hurt, but not forever. I have gotten over rejections in the past.” 


Blaming yourself for an event that isn’t entirely under your control.
“If I had been a better parent, my daughter would have a better marriage.” vs. “While there are some things I may have done differently, I am not directly responsible for my daughter’s decisions.”

Emotional Reasoning

You assume your negative emotions reflect the way things really are.
“I feel terrified about going on airplanes; it must be very dangerous to fly.” vs. “Flying is proven to be the safest way to travel and people do it everyday. I will be okay.”