How the Drama Triangle in Your Dreams Affects Your Health

(From Dillard, J. Escaping the Drama Triangle in the Three Realms: Waking, Thinking and Dreaming.)

You probably work hard during the day to eat right, exercise, maintain a positive attitude, treat others with respect, not react, and generally be a good person.  You can go to workshops and therapy, go to bed feeling good and still wake up feeling anxious and out of sorts. How come?

Could it be that despite all of your excellent efforts during the day that at night while you sleep you are unconsciously undoing, undercutting, and destroying all that you have fought to create during your waking hours? If you are so sure that this is not the case, how do you know?

Have you ever awakened anxious, irritable, or confused from a deep, dreamless sleep?  Something was going on out of your awareness while you slept that created stress.  Such events not only leave a physiological residue, making it harder for your body to cope with health risks; they leave a mental and emotional residue that colors your perception and affects your responsiveness, your mood, your mental focus, and your creativity.    You don’t have to wake up in a foul mood for this process to be taking place.  It can be very subtle.  Generally, the stress of unhealthy dream experiences undercut your physical, mental, and spiritual development completely out of your awareness. 

What are some of the barriers to awakening out of the Drama Triangle in Dreams? Most people give little pause  to the time that they spend asleep.  Our main concern is that we sleep soundly and awaken refreshed.  For most of us that means deep, dreamless unconsciousness, without restlessness, interruption or awareness.  As long as such a state remains our priority, any activity that prevents unconsciousness is to be eliminated.  As a result, we will sabotage any desire to remember our dreams or heighten our self-awareness while asleep because this will disrupt a basic habit in which we have a deep and long lasting investment.  We are under enough stress  already; don’t we deserve a good night’s sleep?  Unless you are thoroughly convinced that dream recall  and dream lucidity  contribute in a significant way to your overall health and personal development, no amount of fascination and curiosity about dreaming is likely to make a long-term dent in this basic human desire to sink into oblivion every night.

We know that sleep is regenerative and necessary for health.  Do we also know that we must be unconscious for sleep to be healthy?  It seems so. A system of toxin removal from the brain has been discovered, and it is much more effective when the brain is inactive in a state of deep sleep. This has in fact been proposed as the adaptational advantage of deep sleep.  How is this to be reconciled with the increased brain coherence demonstrated by regular meditators? How is it that some of these meditators can remain conscious in theta  (dream) and even delta  (deep) sleep? 

This might best be understood as a polarity between the evolutionary movement toward objectivity, self-awareness and heightened wakefulness, on the one hand, and the involutionary movement toward subjectivity and surrender to an underlying, revitalizing, wellspring of oneness. Within sleep we have the capacity to do both, to move toward lucidity and greater wakefulness in our dreams while surrendering to involutionary subjectivity during deep sleep.1

If health is about being conscious of what limits the ability of life to wake up to itself within and through us as well as how to avoid those limits, then sickness is sleepwalking our way through life, pursuing limited, self-centered agendas that do not reflect the priorities of life. While such self-centered agendas are not only necessary but vital for the advancement of life’s agenda in the physiosphere, that is, for plants and animals and young children, as well as into the early noosphere, into human adolescence,  past that point the self-centered agendas we learn as children impede our further development if their influence is not circumscribed by growth into broader contexts.

This truth applies to the evolutionary polarity of life; the opposite appears to be true for its involutionary phase: greater health comes from surrendering all sense of self before a pervasive regression into a primordial unity. Integral approaches, such as that of Aurobindo and Wilber, as well as IDL, contend that there is a higher order synthesis of these two poles, a space in which we can be self-aware during the involution of deep sleep without interrupting the healing process and, on the other hand, experience healing unity during evolution (for example mystical and near death experiences) without thereby regressing into a state of pre-conscious dissolution. These distinctions are important; otherwise nidra yoga, the yoga of deep sleep wakefulness, is not healthy, nor is mystical awareness, because it is retrogression rather than progression.

Evolution is the figure or focus of life as form while involution is the ground or substrate that form returns to in winter and deep sleep. For non-manifested life, that is, life before birth and after death, when there is no self, involution is the figure or focus of life as formless creativity and luminosity, while evolution is the ground or substrate that unmanifested life returns to in spring and birth. This is not, however, to posit reincarnation in the sense of a returning self-sense. This process occurs in spectacular natural abundance in snowflakes and seeds without the need of any self-sense whatsoever.

Waking up, whether becoming more vigilant while asleep or while awake, expands your awareness of yourself beyond yourself.  What was a proximal self, who you think you are, becomes a distal self, or a role or subset within a broader set or context that now defines who you are. In the evolutionary sense, waking up is about learning how to step outside of who you routinely think that you are and watching yourself go by.  While the dividends for doing so are enormous, drama blocks this process. 

Stepping outside of the Drama Triangle is the difference between being a more conscious participant in life, on the one hand, and, on the other, living a somnambulistic life, a victim  of your own unquestioned habitual ways of thinking, feeling, and acting.   

While there appear to be clear biological and psychological benefits to sleep, there is also a price to pay for going unconscious unnecessarily.  First, your biochemistry controls you.  Consider the basic fight or flight  physiological reaction to stress.  Let’s say you are preparing to give an important speech and you are feeling intense pressure to do a really good job.  You hate public speaking  and you would love to avoid giving the presentation, but you know that you can’t.  You know that you are going to have to put on a brave face and fight your way through it.  You go to sleep feeling anxious about how you are going to do.  How might this affect your ability to give your speech?

Hans Selye, the brilliant Canadian doctor and researcher, was a pioneer in research on the physical consequences of stress  on organisms.  He observed and described what he called the General Adaptation Syndrome, the process by which  organisms adapt to stress, whether it is an illness, a death, a job loss, or an accident.  When you first experience a stress you go into an alarm reaction. A cascade of powerful hormones  is pumped out of your endocrine glands to alert and activate your body to deal with danger.  Your heart speeds up, your breathing becomes faster and more shallow.  Blood flows away from your internal organs and to your skeletal muscles to prepare you to fight or run.  Your pupils constrict.  If the threat does not go away as a result of all these measures, you next go into an adaptive phase in which you conserve your resources for a drawn-out defense against the attack.  When you have a major life stress, such as a public speaking  phobia, you can recognize both the initial alarm reaction and the secondary adaptive phase when your anxiety does not go away. Finally, if the threat remains present, something that happens with physiological stressors like drowning or running from a bear, but not from social threats like public speaking, you enter the exhaustion phase.  At this point new energy is poured into your body in a last-ditch attempt to overcome the challenge; you look like you are rallying when in fact you are making a total expenditure of all your resources in one final effort to turn the tide.  If this does not work, you will die.

We know that adrenaline, norepinephrine, and other stress hormones  collect in the body when the fight or flight  response is activated.  In waking life, we can metabolize them by fighting or running.  However, when you are anticipating a stress like giving a speech, you can’t do either. A similar situation is created very night when you sleep. During your dreams your central nervous system  is paralyzed to keep you from acting out your dreams and thereby hurting yourself.

IDL believes that if you want to stay healthy you need to learn to perceive and respond to stressful dreams as wake-up calls.   Reenacting the Drama Triangle  in one form or another, in dream after dream, can’t be good for your health. You might ask, “How can I be stressed if I am unconscious?”

“How can something affect me that I don’t even remember?”  Here is an analogy.  Every time you eat something it affects you for better or for worse. If it’s toxic it will harm your body whether or not you are aware of its toxicity.  Samples of Beethoven’s hair showed that he went deaf and eventually died due to lead poisoning, probably from the pewter mugs he drank from during his life.

Similarly, dreams and nightmares  that arouse a fight or flight  response in you release powerfully corrosive stress  chemicals into your body –whether or not you  remember any dreams.  When you go to bed worried, your dreams are more likely to be filled with anxiety-causing themes of inadequacy and failure in an attempt to address your fear.  If you take as a genuine threat something that is only a dream experience, your body cannot tell the difference. For instance, if you dream of public speaking  and being embarrassed and humiliated because the audience is laughing at you and walking out, this is your reality. You will respond as if these events happened to you in real life and your body will go into its normal reactions to stress. This may be one reason why psychotherapy is ineffective with many people. They leave the session feeling good, but at night in their dreams they regress into the Drama Triangle  and habitual emotional reactivity and mental delusions, thereby undercutting their progress and increasing the likelihood they will wake up in the morning anxious, depressed, or both.

So how does the Drama Triangle in my dreams undermine my health and peace of mind? Dream threats are typically experienced as real when they are in fact self-created manifestations of the Drama Triangle. While you may dream you are fighting or fleeing, that does nothing to neutralize the powerful hormones that are building up in your tissues as a physiological response to perceived threat.  Because they are not dissipated by running or fighting, these hormones act like battery acid, attacking the weakest link in your body’s defense system. 

Given enough time and enough repeated exposure to these night time assaults on the body, caused by addiction to the Drama Triangle, one person may catch some bug because their immune system is depleted; another person may develop arthritis because their auto-immune system goes haywire.  Another person may develop high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease, while yet another may develop insomnia or ulcers.  Still others may show no effect whatsoever. While genetic predisposition partially determines which system is most likely to collapse beneath the onslaught of these biochemicals, the depth of your submersion in the Drama Triangle makes an enormous difference in how deep you immerse yourself in physiological toxins, for how long, and how quickly you recover from it.

Fortunately, normal physical activity helps to metabolize and eliminate toxic stress  chemicals, which is one reason why regular exercise is so important.  If you don’t do something physical to metabolize these powerful stress hormones, over time they can destroy your resistance to disease.  However, most of us assure ourselves that this is not happening to us.  We think about the walking that we do, the exercise that we get, the efforts we make to handle our feelings and responsibilities in ways that don’t allow stress hormones  to build up in us.  Yet we still get sick; our organs break down and we start feeling our age.  While some of this is inevitable, how much of it is due to genes and natural processes of aging and how much of it is the result of unnecessary stress due to immersion in the Drama Triangle not only during our waking relationships, but in our thinking and dreams?

How does IDL reduce the Drama Triangle in dreams? IDL short-circuits this process by re-framing your perception of both waking and dreaming sources of anxiety  and depression, so that they need not work themselves out in your dreams. For example, Lorna dreamed that she was in her apartment, up to her waist in water.  She was not feeling particularly in danger, although she was worried about all the water damage.  The water was, in her dream perception, in the role of Persecutor while she was in the role of victim. Dreams like this tend to reinforce life scripts that say, “The world is a dangerous place, full of overwhelming threats, and I am a powerless victim of those threats.”

While this dream was somewhat stressful, it is more like a typical dream than a full-blown nightmare. It just as easily could have never been remembered. However, even if it had not been recalled, both the physiological stress processes during the dream and the emotional conclusions that Lorna drew during the dream would have occurred, undercutting both her health and her peace of mind. Lorna’s recall of her dream provided her with an opportunity to not only understand the Drama Triangle in the three realms in her life but allowed her to take steps to defuse them to limit future needless physical and psychological damage.

When the Water  was interviewed, it said, “I am all the medications that Lorna is taking for her back pain.  I am tranquilizing her because she is afraid of feeling how bad the pain  may be.  She is being swamped by her fear.  If she doesn’t stop taking us she is not going to get well.  Also, by taking us she does not face up to how her fear keeps her trapped in her apartment.  She is afraid to go out because then something else bad might happen to her.”

This statement by water brings together elements no dream interpreter ever will. You will not read in any guide to dream symbology that water is a symbol for medicine and while it is possible that Lorna would make this association, it is unlikely. How likely is it that any interpreter would associate water not only to medicine but back pain medicine, as well as to fear of pain and how that is associated with her staying trapped in her apartment. Yet in one statement the water makes all of these important and significant connections.

Lorna had been injured in a rear-end collision.  Years previously she had sustained a head injury from a freak accident when a falling tree limb hit her.  Now, as before, she was afraid to go outside.  By listening to the water in her dream Lorna was able to see that her fear was paralyzing her and causing her to take too much pain  medication, which was swamping her with sedation.  The water was no longer perceived as her Persecutor; instead it took the role of Helper, providing her with important and useful information to understand not only how she was her own worst enemy but pointing her toward what she needed to do to stop creating needless fears.

Armed with this information, Lorna told her doctor that she wanted to cut back on the pain meds.  The doctor was upset with her, feeling that she was non-compliant and attempting to doctor herself.  The doctor was responding as he had been taught, to her pain symptoms, rather than recognizing how her pain medication  itself was a defense against a more fundamental problem – her long-term fear. Her doctor, who probably saw himself as a Helper, was in the Role of Rescuer but in fact in the Role of Persecutor in that he was contributing to Lorna’s physiological and psychological dysfunctions. Lorna had to change doctors.  When she finally decreased taking the pain meds she immediately became less groggy and less fearful.  She could now feel her pain, so she could more accurately tell her new doctor where she hurt so he could help her.  Clearly, if Lorna had not listened to a relatively insignificant and typical dream she might have made her recovery longer and much more complicated. 

Her dream and what she did with the recommendations that she derived from it is an example of how IDL works to move people out of the Drama Triangle in the three realms of relationships, thought and dreaming.

Arthur Seligman  has described something very similar to Selye’s General Adaptation Syndrome  in his explanation of depression  as learned helplessness.  He explains how cows, when stuck in a bog, will bellow and struggle ferociously to get free.  After a while, if their efforts are to no avail, they will struggle less; they have entered the adaptive phase of Selye’s General Adaptation Syndrome.  If they continue to be sucked down into the bog, they will put up one last heroic struggle before drowning.    Seligman  noted that cows that are trapped in bogs and yet do not die learn not to struggle; they stop trying to get out, even if they could.  This is adaptation to the ongoing stress  of Selye’s second stage of his General Adaptation Syndrome and resembles our habituation to chronic immersion in the Drama Triangle in our waking relationships, our thoughts and in our dreams.

(Picture from

Seligman  noted that some of these hopelessly trapped cows that were rescued from bogs by farmers would head right back into the bog again!  Do we not do the same when we return to the Drama Triangle and to our addictions? Could it be possible that we do something similar in our dreams?  Just as we can get addicted to worry, horror movies or creepy detective thrillers, could it be that we get addicted to creating drama-filled dream  vignettes that increase our stress and keep us sick? Repetitive, stressful dreams  and nightmares  appear to point to such a conclusion.

If we want to protect our health it is not enough to think good thoughts, take our vitamins and be politically correct. We need to eliminate the Drama Triangle in the three realms.  We need to learn how to make dreaming as positive an experience as we possibly can.    IDL not only teaches us how to recognize and neutralize drama stress; it amplifies forces in consciousness that actively support health, whether awake or asleep.

What is the most helpful way to view my dreams to move out of the Drama Triangle? View them as wake-up calls.

It is wise to treat both your dreams and your life events as wake-up calls.  When you interview dream characters, particularly Persecutors, such as monsters, attackers, accidents or natural disasters they will generally say that their purpose is to get your attention, to wake you up. You can test this theory for yourself by doing your own interviews, and you are encouraged to do so. Whether dream and waking events are, in reality, wake-up calls, approaching them as if they are moves us out of the Drama Triangle because we are not perceiving experience in terms of persecution, rescuing or victimization.  Instead, both dream and waking experiences are seen as helping when properly listened to in an deep and integral way. Doing so allows you to reframe unpleasant, uncomfortable, painful, confusing or irrelevant dream and life events as teaching experiences that support your further development. 

1 Diagram: Bartow, J. Getting to Know Our Personality, Soul and Spiritual Cycles in Life

Posted in Dream, Escaping Drama, Health and Exercise

Conscience and the Drama Triangle

 Conscience is your still small voice, the one that tells you right from wrong and good from bad. It is your connection to God. Your conscience keeps you from sin. Without conscience you are an animal, without guidance, ethics, morals, or social norms. If you would only listen to it and follow it, you would be happy. Humanity’s perversity is its failure to listen to and do the bidding of its conscience.

Or so they say. Conscience is perhaps the oldest, most hallowed bit of delusion in the consciousness of humanity. To question it is to go against God, society, the soul, the Good, religion, and love. What could be worse? What could be more blasphemous?

Whenever you try to make yourself do something you don’t want to do or not do something that you want to do, are you listening to your conscience? Conscience is mother’s milk laced with small, regular doses of heroin. The crack is not enough to kill you, but enough to addict you when you are still too young to remember it happening. The rewards of conformity to conscience as well as the punishments if you disobey it, are strong enough to keep you addicted for your entire life. Marx would have been been more accurate if he had said, “Conscience is the opium of the people.”

Isn’t the purpose of your conscience to keep you safe and healthy so that you will be a good child, citizen, and child of God? These are the types of good intentions that parents and leaders have. They themselves may not be aware that conscience also has the benefit of being a powerful tool for your socialization and pacification. If I, as your parent, teacher, President or guru can get you to do what I want automatically, because you think it is “God’s will” or “conscience,” then my life gets a lot easier. You are more likely to obey me and less likely to ask questions, refuse orders, or disobey laws. Whenever your parents, or some religious or spiritual leader want to get you to do something, to think a certain way, or wish to protect themselves behind a shield of unimpeachable credibility, what can they do? Can’t they present themselves as the voice of conscience?

Can’t conscience be a good thing? How about “Eat your vegetables,” or, “Don’t play in the street.” Such statements are not conscience but rather simple pieces of information, called “injunctions,” given for rational reasons, like health and safety. However, if they are given with threat of punishment (“….or else!”) or with a serving of “should,” “ought,” “must,” and guilt, they are conscience and abusive, because they are Persecutors that create and maintain the Drama Triangle in your thoughts and relationships.

Most people will tell you that what is really conscience is the same for everyone. However, isn’t it true that conscience differs according to culture, religions, social norms and mores? Won’t most Christians and Jews argue that their conscience is different from the Islamic conscience? Isn’t that what the branding of Islam as terroristic claims? Won’t Arabs and other people in countries bombed by the US and NATO argue that people in the West either have no conscience or a very different sense of what conscience means, if conscience allows them to do such things?

When you listen to and follow your conscience are you thinking for yourself? Are you instead following the internalized moral precepts of your family, culture and religion? Have you not so completely internalized them that you think their injunctions are your conscience? The inculcation of the vast majority of what is called “conscience” is a loving process of abuse and victimization within the Drama Triangle. Parents and cultures everywhere find the internalization of social values, called “socialization,” as conscience highly useful. Someday it will be widely recognized as such and parents will teach their children not only the difference between conscience and their life compass, but how to find, listen to, and follow their life compass. They will learn how to beware of anyone or anything that claims to speak as their conscience.

Life compass” is a term used by Integral Deep Listening (IDL) to refer to consensus perspectives and recommendations you access by interviewing the personifications of dream characters and life issues that are important to you. These perspectives, called “emerging potentials,” are not the children of your parents, culture, religion or society like you are. They have their own priorities and are not afraid to disagree with yours and the voice of your conscience. You can listen to both your conscience and interviewed emerging potentials, compare them and decide for yourself which has your greatest good as its primary interest.

You are the product of a number of beliefs that you had to accept to survive, adapt, and grow in your family and school. Weren’t you much less likely to disobey if the preferences of your parents, teachers and society were called “conscience” and you were told that this was something innate within you, or the same as God’s will? To trespass against your conscience may be a threat to your society, religion, or family, and therefore a threat to you, when you are punished for disobeying authority figures.

Conscience presents itself as acting in your own good. It knows what is best for you and tells you its actions are only because it cares about and loves you. It is selfless, and you ignore it at your own peril. How is this different from a Rescuer in the Drama Triangle who tells you, “I know what you need. I am only trying to help you. If you don’t listen to me you are ungrateful and foolish.”

Conscience carries the marks not of a Helper, but of a Rescuer within the Drama Triangle. Rescuers are not Helpers, because they mask self-interest behind a facade of care for others. They do not ask if their help is needed, they do not check to see if the help they are giving is useful, and they do not stop “helping,” preferring self-martyrdom and burn-out to recognition of their selfishness.

Your conscience knows what is good for you and speaks up without you asking. It doesn’t check to see if its voice is helping, because it knows that it, by its nature, is helping. It doesn’t have to check.  It refuses to stop demanding you follow it, unless you shut it out with a drug or some other type of intense avoidant stimulation.

Conscience as Rescuer promotes its truth, way, thoughts, feelings, perspectives, and actions, not yours, and certainly not the priorities of your life compass.  Your life compass, revealed by interviewing your emerging potentials as they manifest as dream characters and the personifications of your life issues, balances and evolves confidence, empathy, wisdom, acceptance, and witnessing within yourself. Unlike conscience, it is selfless. If the priorities of your life compass and conscience happen to coincide it is coincidence, not due to any awareness or intention of your conscience.

On yet closer examination, you will find that your conscience not only is not your friend, it is never  was or has been your friend. This is because it never wants you to listen to yourself. It only wants you to listen to it.  Your conscience doesn’t trust you. It doesn’t respect your judgment. It doesn’t even like you unless you are doing what it wants. How is this different from the role of Persecutor in the Drama Triangle which tells you, “I am only punishing you for your own good”? Isn’t it amazing that you continue to give your conscience any attention or any respect at all?

Persecutors do not see themselves as persecutors. They only say what they say for your own good; they only do what they do because they love you. This means that if your parents or teachers yell at you or call you ugly, stupid, or a failure, it is only for your own good. Verbal abuse in the name of conscience is not verbal abuse at all; it is “character strengthening,” and if you knew what was good for you, you would agree with it and change.

If you examine your conscience closely, you will discover that it is the Persecutor role in the Drama Triangle masquerading as the Rescuer, which is itself masquerading as a Helper. Your conscience is deception wrapped in deception; is there any surprise that so many believe in it and that so few ever free themselves from it? How many people ever stop to ask themselves, “How much of what I call my conscience is different from what my parents, culture or this or that peer group believes?” How much of what I call my conscience is probably internalized social and cultural norms?”

When rulers, people, and nations declare war on you in the name of God and then bomb you, destroy your towns, scatter cancer-causing munitions-grade uranium all over your fields, rape your wife and daughters, and torture you to death, is it not for the greater good, for democracy, justice and God, because conscience dictates? People who believe in conscience and then do such things have a very high rate of suicide. As of this writing, the suicide rate of American military veterans is currently twenty-two a day, about one every hour. There is one suicide a day among active duty US military, all among people acting on the basis of “conscience.” This is because their conscience has contradicted their life compass on such a fundamental level that there is no way to rationalize away the discrepancy. Unable to escape the cognitive dissonance, but unable, unwilling, or ignorant of how to free themselves of the tyranny of conscience, they kill themselves in an attempt at self-rescue.

How to escape conscience? There is no alternative to sorting through your thoughts, feelings, and motives, one by one, and finding out which script injunctions you carry that are informational facts and which are guilt-creating, persecutorial, “shoulds,” “oughts,” and “musts.” This is why IDL has chapters in Waking Up both on recognizing and freeing yourself from your life script as well as on the major emotional cognitive distortions. If you want to learn to think for yourself you must exorcise the internalized toxic directives of the ghosts of your parents that are living rent-free in your attic. Keep the nurturing voices of your parents but evict the rest!

Your conscience is never, ever representative of your life compass. How do you tell the difference? If you will learn to interview your emerging potentials you will slowly learn to differentiate between your life compass and conscience. Your life compass doesn’t do drama. It’s not in the Drama Triangle. It works to balance confidence, empathy, wisdom, acceptance, inner peace, and witnessing. If you don’t follow it, it doesn’t threaten you or try to make you feel guilty any more than a compass that points north cares if you go east or south. However, when you do follow your life compass, life gets easier. You have a deep inner sense that you are on the right path for your life. You will have a confidence in who you are and where you are headed regardless of what others may think or say. You will be able to speak and act with authority because you will be in alignment with what is true, good and harmonious for you. As you move into this sacred space you outgrow any need for conscience, not because you no longer listen to it, but because you subject its voice to a higher, more authentic authority that is uniquely your own.

A debate between believers and non-believers in conscience


Conscience is the light by which we interpret the will of God in our own lives.”

 Thomas Merton

 The torture of a bad conscience is the hell of a living soul.” 

 John Calvin

[T]he infliction of cruelty with a good conscience is a delight to moralists. That is why they invented Hell.” 

 Bertrand Russell

(Russell is universally hated by all those who cannot or will not think.)


There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.” 

Martin Luther King, Jr.

(Conscience is a very poor, unreliable reason to do what is right, if only because your worst enemy appeals to the same justification. Doing what is right? For who? Under what circumstances?)

If all the world hated you and believed you wicked, while your own conscience approved of you and absolved you from guilt, you would not be without friends.” 

 Charlotte Brontë

(If you do what you think is right you don’t have to care whether it makes sense or is useful.)

Conscience is what makes a boy tell his mother before his sister does.” 

 Evan Esar

Guilt is also a way for us to express to others that we are a person of good conscience. 

 Tom Hodgkinson

(The conscience of the personality disordered and of the two year old are both free of guilt.)

Your conscience is the measure of the honesty of your selfishness. Listen to it carefully.”

 Richard Bach 

(This is very true, but probably not in the sense Bach means it. Because conscience wants what is best for itself, and not for your life compass, it is not only selfish, but completely honest about its selfishness.)


Character is doing what you don’t want to do but know you should do.”

Joyce Meyer

 (“Should,” is a dead giveaway that we are dealing with conscience in the form of the Persecutor role in the Drama Triangle.) 

Betrayal is common for men with no conscience.” 

Toba Beta 

(That is because betrayal is a motive often projected upon others, conscience or no conscience.)

Let us give ourselves indiscriminately to everything our passions suggest, and we will always be happy…Conscience is not the voice of Nature but only the voice of prejudice.”

 Marquis de Sade

(The Marquis is feared by purveyors of guilt and conscience everywhere.)

The only tyrant I accept in this world is the ‘still small voice’ within me. And even though I have to face the prospect of being a minority of one, I humbly believe I have the courage to be in such a hopeless minority.” 

 Mahatma Gandhi

(Gandhi, who beat his wife regularly, did so with a clear conscience. Tyrants do not want what is good for you; they do not want what is good for the majority; they only want what is good for them, but mask their selfishness with conscience. Tyrants of all sorts are by nature selfish persecutors, lost in the Drama Triangle.)

In matters of conscience, the law of the majority has no place.”

 Mahatma Gandhi

(“Forget democracy and consensus governance; I don’t care what you think.”)

There is no witness so dreadful, no accuser so terrible as the conscience that dwells in the heart of every man.” 


(For Polybius, conscience is a persecutor and tyrant, but that’s a good thing.)

Conscience is thus explained only as the voice of God in the soul.”

 Peter Kreeft

(When societal injunctions have the force of God’s will and are defined as both your central truth and intuition, then you are transformed into a zombie, the waking dead servant of current cultural preferences.)


Conscience and cowardice are really the same things, Basil. Conscience is the trade-name of the firm. That is all.”

 Oscar Wilde

(You don’t have to think for yourself or work out difficult moral dilemmas if you appeal to your conscience.)


Since then your sere Majesty and your Lordships seek a simple answer, I will give it in this manner, neither horned nor toothed. Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason (for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. May God help me. Amen.”

 (Reply to the Diet of Worms, April 18, 1521)”

 Martin Luther

(Martin Luther demonstrates that when you follow your conscience, you put yourself on a diet of worms. His conscience produced some of the most discriminatory bile ever to be uttered by a man of God and conscience. See

Between the radiant white of a clear conscience and the coal black of a conscience sullied by sin lie many shades of gray–where most of us live our lives. Not perfect but not beyond redemption.” 

 Sherry L. Hoppe

(There can never be either integration or union within the framework of the metaphysical dualism that conscience creates and maintains.)

True law, the code of justice, the essence of our sensations of right and wrong, is the conscience of society. It has taken thousands of years to develop, and it is the greatest, the most distinguishing quality which has developed with mankind … If we can touch God at all, where do we touch him save in the conscience? And what is the conscience of any man save his little fragment of the conscience of all men in all time?” 

 Walter Van Tilburg Clark

(A clear expression of conscience as simply the transmission of socio-cultural norms.)

Conscience is the inner voice that warns us somebody may be looking.” 

 H.L. Mencken

(If you can teach me to fear the consequences of my behavior, based on what you have taught me to call my conscience, I will monitor myself, freeing you and society to do as you will.)

I have a different idea of elegance. I don’t dress like a fop, it’s true, but my moral grooming is impeccable. I never appear in public with a soiled conscience, a tarnished honor, threadbare scruples, or an insult that I haven’t washed away. I’m always immaculately clean, adorned with independence and frankness. I may not cut a stylish figure, but I hold my soul erect. I wear my deeds as ribbons, my wit is sharper then the finest mustache, and when I walk among men I make truths ring like spurs.”

 Edmond Rostand

(Conscience as social propriety.)

Perhaps conscience did not always produce cowards. Sometimes it made a man feel better about himself.”

 Robert Ludlum

(Is the purpose of conscience not only to make you feel better about yourself, but to feel superior to all those others you judge as acting less out of conscience?)

 An educator should consider that he has failed in his job if he has not succeeded in instilling some trace of a divine dissatisfaction with our miserable social environment. ” 

 Anthony Standen

(Guilt and conscience are the foundations of a good education.)

It is neither right nor safe to go against my conscience.” 

 Martin Luther

(Since your conscience is a punishing Persecutor, it is unwise to go against it.)

No guilt is forgotten so long as the conscience still knows of it.” 

 Stefan Zweig

(Conscience as enforcer of guilt.)

Conscience is no more than the dead speaking to us.” 

 Jim Carroll

(Jim does not mean what he is saying. He means that conscience is the knowledge of the ancients. What he is saying is that conscience is a haunting by voices that seek you to follow their truth, not that of your life compass.)


The immature conscience is not its own master. It simply parrots the decisions of others. It does not make judgments of its own; it merely conforms to the judgments of others. That is not real freedom, and it makes true love impossible, for if we are to love truly and freely, we must be able to give something that is truly our own to another. If our heart does not belong to us, asks Merton, how can we give it to another?”

 Jon Katz


(Jon has drunk the Kool Aid. He still thinks there is such a thing as a good conscience.)


Anybody can be charming if they don’t mind faking it, saying all the stupid, obvious, nauseating things that a conscience keeps most people from saying. Happily, I don’t have a conscience. I say them.” 

 Jeff Lindsay

(The opposite of conscience is not immorality, as this quote implies; it is the freedom to find and follow your life compass.)

The study of law can be disappointing at times, a matter of applying narrow rules and arcane procedure to an uncooperative reality; a sort of glorified accounting that serves to regulate the affairs of those who have power–and that all too often seeks to explain, to those who do not, the ultimate wisdom and justness of their condition.

But that’s not all the law is. The law is also memory; the law also records a long-running conversation, a nation arguing with its conscience.” 

 Barack Obama

(…a professor of Constitutional law who justifies both the personally ordered murder of civilians with drones, some of whom have been US citizens, in clear violation of both US and international law – all in the name of conscience.)

The older you get, the more you understand how your conscience works. The biggest and only critic lives in your perception of people’s perception of you rather than people’s perception of you.” 

 Criss Jami

(Other people are not the cause of your unhappiness; what you tell yourself you should and should not do in the name of conscience is.)

Posted in Escaping Drama

“All You Need Is Love?” How important is Learning to Think?

Life probably did not spend the last two million years evolving frontal lobes for the fun of it. Executive functions like problem solving as well as parietal lobe functions like language have huge adaptive advantages. This is so obvious that it is something of a mystery why so many people who seek spiritual growth distrust reason and tend to view people who ask questions and look for evidence as cold, egg-headed intellectuals, as if it were impossible for love and reason to co-exist. The truth is, reason without love is, like Mr. Spock in Star Trek, dispassionate and seemingly lacking in compassion, while love without reason, like Alice in Alice in Wonderland, is naively trusting and less than honest about its true preferences, for fear of offending others and appearing unloving.

For these reasons, Integral Deep Listening (IDL) attempts to honor both love and reason. It honors love by showing respect, not only to other people, but to dream characters and the personification of our life issues. It attempts to treat all others, not just all other people, as we would want to be treated if we were them. Is there a higher form of love? More specifically, love is taught by IDL through its interviewing protocols and the application in our daily lives of the recommendations that issue from them. IDL honors thinking by teaching problem solving, objectivity and reasoning ability as essential tools to become unstuck from our current dramas so that we are free to move forward. It teaches reason by encouraging the examination of personal scripting so we can transcend its imprisoning injunctions, cognitive distortions, so that emotional, logical and perceptual delusions do not act as filters that stand between us and our life compass, our direction forward. All these areas and their rationales are addressed in Waking Up

What follows is the chapter in Waking Up on logical, or formal, cognitive distortions. These are common errors in reasoning which, if unrecognized, create misery, misunderstanding and self-inflicted barriers to development regardless of how much love you have in your heart, how pure your intent is, or how wise your particular guru might be. IDL believes that if you do not learn to recognize and call out these forms of irrationality they will keep you from thinking clearly and solving the interpersonal and life problems that matter to you. If you meditate to learn to witness, to gain objectivity regarding your life dramas, but do not recognize and catch these logical fallacies, your meditation will continue to operate in a prepersonal, prerational, belief-based context rather than in the transpersonal context that you desire and are sure you are in.  That’s how important it is to understand and catch logical fallacies.

Therefore, you are encouraged to start looking for these common flaws in thinking in what you read, your conversations with others, and, most importantly, in your own thoughts. Once you identify one, name it for what it is. This is the first, essential step in learning to choose a way forward that is both loving and rational. As always, IDL welcomes your questions, experiences and contributions as we help each other to wake up and move into more effective, compassionate deep listening and service to all sentient beings.

7: Getting Rid of Your Logical Cognitive Distortions

Why logical fallacies matter

We have seen that identifying when others are in the Drama Triangle provides you with the objectivity to choose not to respond with a complementary role, saving you untold amounts of interpersonal grief. We have seen how identifying when you are in the Drama Triangle in your thoughts and feelings — your cognitive domain — provides you with the objectivity to choose to stop persecuting or rescuing yourself or playing the victim in your own thoughts and feelings. We have also seen how identifying when you are in the Drama Triangle while you are dreaming provides you with the objectivity to stop generating the drama that is the seedbed for waking suffering.

We have also seen how identifying your emotional cognitive distortions interrupts drama. Irrational thoughts and images no longer generate dysfunctional emotional conclusions, including anxiety and depression. By identifying your cognitive distortions you are cultivating the witness by objectifying your feelings. Instead of your feelings describing you, as in “I’m sad; I’m angry,” they are characteristics or expressions that are available to you: “I am feeling sad;” “I am choosing to feel angry.” Such witnessing is one of the six core qualities. It allows you to observe yourself and the drama of your life going by. It is meant to be applied in your relationships, thinking and dreaming.

Logical fallacies are rational, or mid-personal delusions, which is very different from emotional cognitive distortions, which are pre-rational, mid-prepersonal delusions. Logical fallacies are a formal type of cognitive distortion and represent categories of delusional ways of thinking that are broader than emotional cognitive distortions. As such, logical fallacies are more abstract and therefore more difficult to grasp at first. They require causal or rational thinking, not simply the habitual, scripted impulsive language of emotional cognitive distortions. However, once you recognize these categories you will not only think more clearly but you will find yourself getting drawn less frequently into the delusional thought processes of friends on social media, newscasts, salesmen, politicians, bosses, employees, and family members.

Although anyone at any level of development can indulge in emotional, logical and perceptual cognitive distortions, logical fallacies are fundamentally errors in reasoning, and reasoning is a mid-personal level competency. Failure to catch logical fallacies is a sign that cognitive development, generally the leading line, is not yet mid-personal, so those behaviors and statements that appear to be above and beyond, such as altruism and mystical experiences either indicate outstanding developmental lines or authentic healthy expressions of lower stages of development.

Because cognition is a line of development, the ability to think logically is also a sign of your degree of cognitive development. Just because you have had mystical experiences, lucid dreams or are psychic is no indication that you think straight and therefore are anywhere past early personal, at best, in your overall level of development. If you want to have clarity about mystical experiences, states, and stages, you need to learn how to recognize and avoid logical cognitive distortions, which are different from emotional cognitive distortions. While both are delusions, fallacies are mistakes either in your assumptions or the conclusions that you draw from them. They do not so much make you depressed or anxious as they keep you stuck in thinking you’re right when you’re wrong, real when you’re illusory, clear when you’re muddy, and straight when you are as twisted as a barrel full of eels.

Just because you access a transpersonal state in no way indicates that you are at a transpersonal level of development. In order to stabilize at a higher level of development on a permanent basis you have to learn to think straight. Why? Because the transpersonal transcends and includes both prepersonal faith and belief and personal level rationality. If something isn’t rational, it may be a miracle, it may be oneness, it may be unifying, or divine love, but it doesn’t represent and individual at a transpersonal level of development. Instead, it indicates a transpersonal state, and children and criminals can and do have them.

Mystical experiences of all sorts do not translate into ongoing transpersonal states. To access and maintain a higher level of development you have to learn to witness both your prepersonal and personal levels of development. Staying out of the Drama Triangle is a way to teach you to witness your emotional identifications at whatever stage you are presently stuck. Staying out of logical cognitive distortions is a way to teach you to witness your rational blockages at whatever stage you are presently stuck. Recognizing logical fallacies is a further refinement of this ability to witness personal level delusions that can and will be carried into mystical states if you do not learn to witness those delusions.

You are unlikely to make many friends by pointing out logical fallacies, so be careful! People tend to take personally being shown that they are irrational or don’t know what they are talking about when they generally are sure that they do and are confident that they are making perfect sense. Practice a little empathy and realize that you are likely to be viewed as opinionated, arrogant, non-empathetic, a stickler for details and someone who just misses the point if you point out the logical fallacies of others. Of course such reactions are defenses to keep us from facing the fact that we just don’t know what we are talking about, but are already so self-critical that we take the noting of our logical fallacies as personal criticism. Consequently, unless your relationship is a good one, you are a teacher, or you have some other permission to point out formal cognitive distortions, it is generally best to note them to yourself and avoid the topic if you can. However, lie in wait for neutral moments when you might be able to bring up the fallacy that was used but in relation to someone else who used it with the person. If you point it out and see how it operates, they are learning about it and are less likely to use it themselves in the future.

There are over three hundred identified cognitive distortions! Here are some of the more common ones, why they are dangerous and you need to avoid them and some suggestions about how to do so. In the tables accompanying each category, the initials “ECD” and “DT” stand for “emotional cognitive distortion” and “Drama Triangle.” For a fuller list and treatment, see “Logically Fallacious: The Ultimate Collection of Over 300 Logical Fallacies.”

Ad Hominem

Latin for “to the man,” ad hominem is an attempt to discredit an opinion, perspective or point of view by attacking the person instead of their argument. Here are a couple examples:

“What do you know about intuition? You’re a man.”

“What do you know about business? You’re a woman.”

Do you see how insulting this sounds? Do you see how evasive ad hominem is? Do you see how gender has absolutely nothing to do with the point in question?

The best response to ad hominem as well as all logical cognitive distortions is to shift levels. If you protest an argument (“I know a lot about intuition!” “I have been in business for forty years!”) you have given a diversionary argument credibility. Instead, you have to refuse to play. You do so by simply saying, “That is an ad hominem argument. You are attempting to discredit what I am saying by attacking me. That’s a logical fallacy.” What you are doing is responding to a personal attack with information. This keeps you in a neutral, responsible adult role and relatively out of drama.

Example That’s not an ad hominem …. you idiot.
Summary Translates as “to the man” and refers to attacks on some opponent rather than on the validity of their evidence or logic.
Related ECD/DT Blaming oneself, a form of self-persecution, is a form of ad hominem attack; because you fail you attack yourself as a failure.
Avoiding it. Assume attack on personality or character is this logical fallacy until proven otherwise.

Faulty Cause

Also called Post Hoc, these arguments assume that because one thing happened after another that it must have been caused by it. Instead of showing a causal link between ideas you are substituting association or relationship:

“Many women claim to be pacifists, but before women got the vote, there were no nuclear weapons.”

“I ate spinach and came down with hives. Eating spinach causes hives.”

You can see that there is no causal relationship between the conclusion and premise of these statements.

To deal with ad hoc, ask questions. “How is it that you think that turning on the seatbelt sign causes it to get bumpy?” “What makes you think that eating spinach causes hives?” Simply questioning may cause a person to realize the absurdity of their claim.

Example Because Russia is our enemy, Russia must have done it.
Summary Instead of showing a causal link between ideas you are substituting association or relationship:
Avoiding it Question the underlying assumptions.


Dogmatism is one of the most basic and primitive of logical fallacies because it doesn’t even pretend to be rational. The speaker is so sure of his or her certainty and truth that it is offensive and beneath them to even appeal to rationality. There is an obvious and evident disdain for logic, reason and causation because they are beneath the level of trans-rational truth that the speaker discloses.

This form of irrationality remains remarkably prevalent and current in an increasingly skeptical world that expects proof, reasons and knows how to fact-check. The reason why it is still so widely used is because dogmatism cannot be refuted because it never claims to be rational or logical in the first place.

Anything that validates or justifies itself on the basis of some metaphysical reality or entity, like God, or some faculty that cannot be measured, such as intuition, a hunch, luck, fate, the heart, psychism or spirituality, takes upon itself the burden of proof to show how and why it is not dogmatic.

A simple way to determine if a statement is dogmatic is by observing the response to any request for proof or validation. It will typically be an appeal to the authority of one’s own “inner voice,” to God, a psychic, or to scripture, all sources which are themselves dogmatic, in that they do not base their truth on reason or logic. If the validity of these sources is questioned, the response is generally a form of anger, indicating a sense of violation and personalization, a fundamental emotional cognitive distortion.

Example “I believe because it is absurd.” (Tertullian)
Summary A direct appeal to the authority of belief, ignoring or defying reason.
Related DT Self-righteous persecutor seeing self as rescuer
Avoiding it Name it: “That is dogmatism.” Explain why it is toxic and shuts down communication.

False Dilemma

You present only two possible alternatives to a complex situation when in fact there are many more possibilities.

“You don’t support our troops, and that makes you a traitor.”

“You are either with God or you are against him.”

“I thought you were a good person but you weren’t in church today.”

One response is to point out that it is a logical fallacy, as a question, and then to explain why:

“Isn’t this a logical fallacy called a false dilemma? Isn’t it possible for someone to not support our troops and be patriotic when they are fighting and unjust war?”

“…Isn’t it possible that one might not believe in God or support some things attributed to God, like blessings, and not others, like earthquakes and disease?”

“…Isn’t it possible that good people might not go to church or perhaps the church is filled with bad people who only think they’re good?”

Example “You either love me or him.”
Summary You attempt to force agreement or rejection by presenting a black and white, yes or no choice when other possibilities are present.
Avoiding it Name it: “That is a logical fallacy called “false dilemma” because there are other choices available.

Guilt by Association

I will attempt to undercut your credibility by associating you with someone terrible, like Hitler.

“How can you defend Christianity? Torquemada was a Christian.”

“You hang out with rednecks; therefore you must be a redneck.”

The best response is to say, “The strength of my argument stands or falls on its own merit, regardless of who makes it.”

Example “You’re Jewish so you must be a Zionist.”
Summary A form of hasty generalization, a logical fallacy.
Avoiding it Question your assumptions and seek additional information to verify them.

Loaded Question

Your question puts controversial or unjustified conditions on my answer:

“In your opinion, what makes the iPhone the best smartphone?”

“Do you still beat your wife?”

You can see pretty clearly that there is no way you can answer a loaded question without being manipulated. In the case of, “Does this dress make me look fat?” this is a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation. Therefore, the best response is to say, “That’s a loaded question which is a type of logical fallacy. No answer I give can be truthful or accurate.”

Example “Have you stopped beating your wife?”
Summary Any answer to a loaded question is a trap.
Avoiding it Name it: “That is a loaded question. If I say ‘yes,’ it implies I was beating her before; if I say ‘no,’ it implies I am still beating her.”

Straw Man Fallacy

You make stuff up and attribute it to your opponent, hoping either your opponent will waste time defending what she didn’t say or that listeners won’t know your opponent’s position well enough to know that you are not attacking it. The other person’s position is presented as so extreme that no one will agree with it.

“Since you don’t believe in God or souls you are a nihilist and nihilists find no meaning or purpose in life. Therefore you are saying life has no meaning or purpose.”

Respond by saying, “That is the ‘straw man’ logical fallacy because you are arguing that I am a nihilist when I am not.”

Example You Support Hitler, who gassed Jews.
Summary Raises a false argument and destroys it
Related ECD Jumping to Conclusions
Avoiding it Say, “You are changing the subject. I said I support peace.”

Hasty Generalization

One blind scholar grabs an elephants’ trunk and declares an elephant is like a snake. Another, its ear and concludes it resembles a palm leaf, and so forth. This is a failure to ask questions and gather a broad body of evidence on which to reach some statement of truth. This is a formal variety of the emotional cognitive distortion of “Jumping to Conclusions.” The difference is in the level of abstraction. Jumping to conclusions will be primarily motivated by feelings or evoke strong ones, like blaming a child for farting at the table when it was the dog underneath it. Hasty Generalizations cloak emotional bias in statements that sound objective and factual: “All politicians/men/women are the same.”

Deal with Hasty Generalizations by asking questions. “Have you considered grabbing the tail as well?” “Isn’t Bowzer lying under the table?”

Example If I won once (at the casino) I will win again.
Summary Mistakes a small incidence for a larger trend.
Related ECD/DT A common rationalization to support addiction
Avoiding it Ask, “Is there information on probability I should take into account?”

Begging the Question

“Begging the Question” is a circular argument in which the conclusion is included in the premise. You make an assumption and don’t ask if the assumption is correct. You avoid asking the important question.

“I believe in God because God IS.”

“The Bible is the Word of God because God tells us it is…in the Bible.”

“Psychic experience is real because I have had psychic experiences.”

Say, “Aren’t you presupposing that the claim that psychic experience is real is true? How is this not circular reasoning?” See if you can identify the important underlying question and ask it: “How is that a proof of the existence of God?” “How do we know God and not people wrote the Bible?”

Example Climate change deniers are dangerous because they deny climate change.
Summary Repeats the same argument over and over again, instead of providing substantiation for it.  A = A, with nothing else!
Avoiding it Ask,”How are you not saying this is true because it is true?”

Ad ignorantiam

“My belief is true because we don’t know it isn’t true.”

This fallacy is pervasive among believers in placebo cures like homeopathy, kinesiology, energy medicine, shamanism, laying on of hands or prayer and those advocating systems of belief that cannot be disproved, like intuition, “gut feelings,” psychic perception, God, souls and life after death.

The philosopher Karl Popper pointed out that if an idea, belief or assertion isn’t falsifiable there is no way to prove it to be true. That is, if you don’t have any way to disprove a claim then you have no grounds for believing in it either.

The way to deal with arguments from ad ignorantiam is to innocently ask, “Is there any evidence that this operates above chance?” What this statement does is attempt to avoid the endless anecdotes and examples of miracle cures and proofs of God’s existence from near death experiences. However, True Believers will simply be offended and dismiss you as an overly-critical skeptic anal asshole. Therefore, unless you don’t mind being the skunk at the picnic, it is perhaps better to change the subject in an informational way: “Are you familiar with the fascinating research into placebo effects?” or, “Are you familiar with the ad ignorantiam logical fallacy?” The object is to attempt to have an informational conversation without getting into a preachy or condescending place.

Example “There is an ancient civilization under the ice of antarctica.”
Summary If you manage to drill through miles of antarctic ice and find nothing it is because you have searched in the wrong place.
Avoiding it These arguments are irrational and pre-rational; therefore there is really nothing you can say that is going to be heard. At most you can point out that it is a logical fallacy called ad ignorantiam, because it cannot be disproven. Treat these claims like the tar babies they are – avoid them.

Burden of Proof Reversal

I make a claim and make it your job to prove or disprove it.

“We know Jesus walked on water. You can’t disprove it.”

“Reptilian aliens call Dracos exist and control the governments of the world.”

“A pre-Adamic civilization billions of years old has been discovered under the ice of Antarctica and its existence hidden from humanity by the government.”

This is a relatively easy fallacy to recognize and counter. Just say, “May I see your evidence?”

Example “There is a world-wide conspiracy.”
Summary Generally the statement of an assertion as fact, with the implication that you have to disprove it.
Avoiding it Asking, “May I see your evidence?” may work in some cases, but beware – this can enmesh you in endless debate about irrelevant or difficult to prove topics

Non Sequitur

The conclusion doesn’t follow from the premise.

“”People died of cancer before smoking was invented, so smoking doesn’t cause cancer.”

“People like to have mystical experiences. Therefore they should drop acid.”

Say, “Excuse me…I’m confused. Could you please explain to me how that conclusion follows from your first statement?” Since this cannot be done, the other party generally figures out that they have been caught and then changes the subject.

Example If you loved me, you’d love this car.
Summary Translates as “it does not follow,” confuses correlation for cause, because one thing followed another — but there might be another cause.
Avoiding it Ask: “Could there be another cause?” “Are these two ideas related?”

Develop a healthy sense of skepticism.

Bandwagon Fallacy

If it’s popular, it must be correct!

Because “everybody” believes something it must be true.

“Everybody says Saddam has weapons of mass destruction, so it must be true.”

“Everybody says Russia is a threat that hacked our elections, so it must be true.”

“Everybody I know believes in no-gluten diets so they must work.”

“Everybody is smoking, getting tattoos and piercings, drinking, doing drugs and having sex, so I should too, especially if I want to be popular.”

Ask, “How does the popularity of no-gluten diets have any relevance at all to whether it is effective or not?”

Example Everyone’s doing it, so it must be OK.
Summary Uses social acceptability as a cudgel to demand conformity. Ignores the reality of non-majority information, facts, and arguments.
Avoiding it Ask, “Is this groupthink, another collective delusion?”

Argument from Authority

You appeal to the authority of a popular or authoritative person rather than to a knowledgeable one.

“Because I said so, that’s why.”

“To assert that the earth revolves around the sun is as erroneous as to claim that Jesus was not born of a virgin.” Cardinal Bellarmine, Trial of Galileo, 1633.

Ask yourself, “Does this information come from someone competent in this field?”

Say, “That is an argument from authority, a logical fallacy. What does the endorsement by this person have to do with deciding whether this product/point is useful/valid or not?”

Example He’s popular and he smokes… smoke and you’ll be popular too.
Summary You change the subject from the evidence to some respected endorser of it.

Victims require rescuing, creating susceptibility to this fallacy,

Ingnorance requires expert opinon, creating susceptibility to this fallacy.

Avoiding it Ask, “Does this authority have expertise in this area?”


Interrupting is your way of demonstrating that what you have to say is more important than what the other person has to say. Interrupting is manipulative, controlling, thoughtless and selfish, providing that the other person isn’t being controlling by talking in paragraphs or telling long stories that require patient listening, without first getting the permission of the audience.

Interrupting is a very common and effective way of establishing control in a conversation and dominance in a relationship. Therefore it has large emotional and social benefits and is a difficult habit to break.

If you don’t want to be interrupted, do three things:

  1. Don’t interrupt. If you do you are giving others permission to interrupt you.
  2. Don’t talk in paragraphs. If you do you are giving others no choice but to interrupt you.
  3. When people interrupt stop what you are saying and point out that they are interrupting. Have a conversation about the reasons and consequences of interrupting. Get an agreement that you will not interrupt each other.
    Example “…it’s sufficient reason to…”Which reminds me of the time when..”
    Summary Perhaps the most common and overlooked form of abuse and persectution in the Drama Triangle.
    Avoiding it Ask, “Do you realize you just interrupted me?”

Changing the Subject

You have probably noticed by now that formal cognitive distortions use confusion or distraction to change the subject. When this is the case, your job is to politely say, “That may be true, and I will be happy to talk about that as soon as we are done addressing this issue.” What you will be surprised to discover is that rarely, if ever, does the other person ever return to their subject, proving that it was a manipulative ploy designed to derail you and take the heat off them in one way or another.

Notice that some logical fallacies, like ad hominem, involve changing the subject to you, hoping you will get defensive and protect yourself, while others, like Straw Man, change the subject by reconfiguring the argument.

It is unrealistic to expect other people to be rational and logical; these are higher order skills that have to be learned and that generally are not necessary or rewarded at home, school or work. Recognize that in everyday life what is rewarded is agreeableness, compliance and efficiency, not logic or reason. Therefore, respect and honor the level of development of others while remaining vigilant. Just as with scripting, the Drama Triangle and emotional cognitive distortions, your responsibility is to get clear of your own logical filters and delusions so that you can deeply and respectfully listen to others.

Example Well, it wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t…
Summary The simplest and easiest way to avoid responsibility, it is found in many logical fallacies.
Avoiding it Say, “That may be true, and I’ll be glad to address it as soon as we have dealt with…”

Ignoring Occam’s Razor

“There is a face on Mars, proving extraterrestrials exist.”

Later, more detailed satellite photography disclosed that what appeared to be a face was a completely natural formation that only appeared to be a face because of the particular shadow and lighting at the time the picture was taken. The problem with this statement, besides the fact that it had no evidence to support it, was that it was not the simplest explanation available that covered the known information. This is the principle of Occam’s Razor: When faced with more than one explanation for a situation, experience or phenomenon, favor the one that is simplest and still covers the available information. For example, deja vu experiences can be very convincing and synchronicities quite amazing. However, while these may indeed be psychic experiences, Occam’s Razor says that the most likely explanation is mental association of similar memories and coincidence. We tend to routinely underestimate some events, like the likelihood we will run into someone with the same birthdate or that whom we know when we are traveling, and routinely overestimate others, like “proving” that there is only a one in a million chance that something like Fukushima could happen.

The cure for ignoring Occam’s Razor is simply to ask, “Is this the simplest explanation available that covers all we know?”

Example Sunspots are caused by human wars and emotional disturbances.
Summary Occam’s Razor is the scientific principle that the simplest of any given hypothesis that covers available data is likely to be the correct one.
Avoiding it Ask, “Is this the simplest explanation to cover all the known facts?”

Weasel Words

Like weasels, weasel words are hard to catch. The problem is that you think you know what they mean, but your meaning is entirely different from that of the speaker. Examples of weasel words include spiritual, quantum, energy, scientific, statistically valid, love, patriotism, God, soul, freedom, democracy, and justice. For example, when George W. Bush said that he was going to invade Iraq to bring freedom and democracy, freedom meant submission to the US and democracy meant the installation of a government suitable to the US. Ken Wilber has shown that “spiritual” can refer to either a feeling, a state, a stage of development or a goal, like enlightenment. If one doesn’t carefully define what they mean the results will either be misleading, confusing or outright manipulative. You will think you the speaker means one definition when they mean another. Another example is “love.” How many people have been abused, divorced or killed in the name of love?
If you must use a word with multiple meanings that is also emotionally charged and often used to manipulate people, specify what you mean and don’t mean. When someone else uses a weasel word assume that you don’t know what they mean and enquire.

Other words that keep you stuck in emotional cognitive distortion

There are several words that will put you in the role of persecutor in the Drama Triangle, two of which we have discussed above, one or two that will put you into the role of victim, and one that will put you into the role of rescuer. These are to be learned and avoided, both in communication and your self-talk. For a full explanation of why each is to be avoided, see Words that Keep You Stuck in Drama.1

Persecutor role words and substitutions:

should > want/need to

ought > would be better if…

must/must not > want/ don’t want

fault > responsibility

blame > responsible

always > usually/mostly

never > infrequently/hardly ever

Victim role words and substitutions:

can’t > can/will/hope/believe/not sure

I don’t know > How can I find out?

But > and

Rescuer role words and substitutions:

need > want

Why don’t you.. > What are your options?

Two Advanced Logical Cognitive Distortions

The following two logical cognitive distortions, the pre-trans fallacy and the ranking fallacy, are “graduate level”, because they are more about failures in thinking about thinking. They are logical fallacies that support, but do not create, perceptual cognitive distortions.

The “Pre-Trans Fallacy”

Procrustes was a robber in Greek mythology. He would waylay travelers and tie them to his bed, which was a rack. If they were too short to fit it, he would stretch them on the rack until they did. If they were too long for his bed, he would “shorten” them until they fit. This is a metaphor that describes exactly what you do to your world when you use this cognitive distortion. First described by Ken Wilber in 1978 in The Atman Project, the pre-trans fallacy creates and validates grandiosity.

It does so by confusing early and late developmental stages in one of two ways. Either experiences associated which higher and expanded states of consciousness are confused with early ones in a fallacy called “reductionism,” or early developmental stages are confused with later ones in a fallacy called “elevationism.” In either case, the result is grandiosity. Reductionism occurs when you “reduce” experiences that transcend and include your experience to your level or to a previous, less developed levels, usually as immature delusions. For example, this occurs when near death or other mystical experiences are reduced to brain chemistry and psychotic hallucinations. Most 20th century scientists, from Freud to Skinner to Watson and Crick, commit this fallacy.

Reductionism is also a form of discounting. It cuts you off from your emerging potentials by assuming they are of no value or importance. An excellent example is the common assumption that dream characters are mere aspects of self or “day residue,” largely bizarre or insignificant reflections of mundane or trivial events. Reductionism aborts your development by blocking all the stairs that lead upward by claiming they actually lead downward, to the basement. When you use reductionism, you describe your experience in ways that makes growth past a certain point impossible. Use of drugs cannot open you up to emerging potentials; they can only confuse you and lead you toward decompensation and psychosis. The conflict between potentials that want to emerge and the truncated reality you insist on validates grandiosity because it confirms that your present level is the peak of human development.

Famous reductionists include Freud, who believed science and reason was the crowning achievement of humanity and therefore viewed mystical states as regressions to infantile forms of oneness and religion as a delusion; Descartes, who believed animals were machines; Richard Dawkins, who viewed life as an expression of genetic mechanisms; and Marx, who famously viewed religion as “the opium of the people.”

Elevationism, on the other hand, aborts development by substituting delusion for growth. Voodoo trances, childhood clairvoyance or lucid dreaming by children or criminals are taken to be indications of advanced development. “Intuition,” “spirit guides,” channeled messages, one’s “still small voice,” mystical and near death experiences or “feelings” are considered unquestionable sources of truth. To question them is often taken as a personal insult.

Why does this occur? Those who have had near death, psychic or mystical experiences know what they know. Such experiences are normally not only expansive but transformative. They may broaden one’s world view and move us to a much less self-centered, compassionate, accepting and peaceful approach to life. Who can argue with that?

Such experiences are openings into broader, more inclusive perspectives. These are normally temporary, transitory, and notoriously difficult to duplicate. As such they are states of greater potential or vision. These states are typically mistaken for the actual attainment of advanced developmental stages.

This occurs because of a variety of the fallacy of authority: because they had such a special experience, they must be special too. They must have some knowledge, some experience or some secret that I don’t. People go away from such experiences often convinced that they are special, that they have gotten the Holy Spirit, seen the Secrets of the Universe, spoken directly to God, or are now an enlightened master. If such a person is highly charismatic his conviction will inspire and sway others. This is the story of Saul of Tarsus and it is the story of Andrew Cohen, creator of “What is Enlightenment?” magazine and famous discredited cult leader.

If someone has had super-special experiences, you can easily be inspired, in awe, and conclude that they must be super special. Because they have accessed higher states, you assume that your teacher is enlightened. The same holds true for you. If you access one of these higher mystical or yogic states, like lucid dreaming, it is easy to conclude that you are, therefore, enlightened. This is called ego inflation or grandiosity. It is higher-order narcissism. If others become convinced by your certainty, passion and charisma and naively reach this same conclusion. This is the psychology behind the long history of belief in the apocalypse; followers suspend thinking and reason and simply believe. In fact, this has been a mainstream teaching within world religions for millennia. For example, St. Augustine famously said, “You are not required to understand in order to believe, but to believe in order to understand.” Because of this mutual delusion, those convinced of their enlightenment present themselves as someone who needs to be listened to as the enlightened conveyors of truth, rather than encouraging others to listen to their own life compasses. Consequently, they inflict their partial and unbalanced development on those who listen to them.

It is common for believers in integral, new age energy and quantum everything, positive thinking and miracles, to view science and those who insist on things making sense and who require “proof,” as reductionists. They tend to dismiss scientists and philosophers as “humanistic materialists” who do not believe in anything. They view themselves as much more enlightened and open-minded by comparison. In addition, they tend to see scientists and philosophers as selfish, unloving, rigid and close-minded in comparison to themselves. Paradoxically, they tend to claim that their own methods, generally “intuitive” and “heart-centered,” are scientific. They become easily seduced by people, methods and groups that use scientific jargon or claim to be founded on science, like neuro-linguistic programming, quantum anything and radionics. Beneath a superficial smugness, dismissal and superiority, a secret desire to possess the social status of scientists is implied.

Despite its reputation for being inspirational and progressive, elevationism is regressive. People who take the Bible as literal Truth and put creationism on the same level as evolution are elevationists. They are comfortable in their churches but find themselves out of their depth with scientists. However, this conundrum is deeper than religion and science. Scientists can be elevationists for various reasons. Telihard de Chardin was an anthropologist, Jesuit scholar and elevationist. Carl Jung was a medical doctor who saw psychic phenomena as openings into higher dimensions. There is much good in the thinking of both men, but elevationism holds out false hope. Religions, particularly their ecstatic and mystical branches, are elevationistic, as are mediums, channelers, gurus and most spiritual teachers. Integral philosophy, which takes the existence of transpersonal states accessible to children and criminals as proof of transpersonal stages, is elevationistic.

Elevationism boils down to irrational optimism. It is irrational because it lacks good reasons to support it and necessary proof. Anyone who bases their reality on their beliefs will find themselves out of their depth in a culture that is free to question and challenge all beliefs. Similarly, anyone who bases their reality on reason will find themselves out of their depth in a culture that is trans-rational, meaning that it thinks clearly but yet does not base its meaning and worth on logic or logical conclusions.

Reductionism and elevationism develop because pre-rational stages of development and post-rational stages of development are both non-rational, meaning that they are easily confused. Because people who are pre-rational or rational have read about mystical states or experienced them themselves, they think things that are psychic or miraculous are post-rational, when they can and do occur at any level of development.

While we normally think of elevation in the realm of religion and spirituality, far greater damage is done in the field of economics. While economists generally know nothing about the transpersonal and care even less, they are very concerned with making principled arguments that are posed as being for the betterment of all mankind. In such a way, they consider their motives to be reflective of the greatest good for the greatest number, which means that from their perspective, their economic theory is better than anything trans-rational, if such does exist, which they doubt. Marx’s vision of egalitarian society, idealistic in the extreme, was twisted and corrupted to validate massive oppression and brutalization. This is an example of the first variety of pre-trans fallacy, of reductionism, in which greedy and selfish people take a noble, uplifting ideal and use it to enslave masses. On the other hand, neo-liberalism, a conservative-libertarian form of capitalism, is an example of elevationism. It so elevates the ideal of prosperity, in the form of policies based on trickle-down and austerity, that it destroys entire economies, from Chile, to England, to the United States. In neo-liberalism, greedy and selfish people concoct seemingly rational, analytically sophisticated and principled reasons to rip off individuals and entire cultures. These people are neo-Darwinian plutocrats who care primarily for their own class and empathize only superficially, for purposes of publicity, with the needs or concerns of those who lack wealth and power. Their goal is to maximize profits by externalizing costs, which means having someone else, anyone else or nature, pay the price for their exploitation. As the noted economist John Kenneth Galbraith said, “The modern conservative is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.” From these two economic examples, we can see that the pre-trans fallacy has immense practical consequences, not only for human development, but also for the quality of everyday life. It determines whether people even have the luxury of the time to consider such issues.

An example closer to home commonly occurs when you know what your partner, children or co-workers are wanting as soon as they approach you. You don’t have to listen, because you have heard it all before. You believe you can tell them what they are going to say, so why listen? This is elevationism of your knowledge to the level of intuition, clairvoyance and principled wisdom. It might as well be transpersonal, because in your mind you know what they are saying and why they are saying it, and you already know what the answer is. Can you see how audaciously self-centered and disrespectful such a presumption is? It is also reductionist and discounting behavior, because you know that the other person will not present information that transcends and includes your understanding. Your certainty of your knowledge justifies your ignoring them, thinking about something else, cutting them off or smiling, nodding and summarily forgetting what they said. You think you are listening, but if you were asked to repeat what they said, could you? Most people will answer affirmatively, but when put to the test and actually required to paraphrase the gist of what someone said to them, most people hear about 30% accurately. IDL interviewing is designed to first interrupt and then eliminate this extremely common and arrogant habit. It does so by teaching a phenomenological method that involves suspending all such judgments in favor of practicing deep listening.

You can probably recognize ways that you are commonly a victim of reductionism and elevationism, but how about the pre-trans fallacy itself? You may be a victim of the elevationistic branch of this logical fallacy if you believe any of the following are signs of spiritual attainment or enlightenment:


psychic phenomena, including telepathy, precognition, psychokinesis or past life memories

lucid dreaming


visitations by deceased relatives or ascended masters


the ability to do psychic healing

near death experiences

out of the body experiences

nature, saintly or sage mysticism

claims of enlightenment

Any of these experiences can happen at any level of development. If you claim to have them or seek to develop them, first consider that such desires may be signs of personal inadequacy. You may be trying to compensate for some sort of emptiness by claiming exceptional abilities or attempting to develop them. Such elevationism can also be a sign of narcissism and grandiosity. While it may be due to none of these, it is wise to first rule out the above. How to do so? An IDL interview or two should bring a lot of clarity to exactly what’s going on.

On the other hand, if you automatically jump to the conclusion that any of these unusual and amazing experiences are always delusions concocted by ignorant or foolish people, you are ignorant and foolish yourself, a victim of the reductionist version of the pre-trans logical fallacy. Try reading something both scholarly and persuasive, like Michael Murphey’s The Future of the Body.

  • Reductionism: Near death or other mystical experiences reduced to brain chemistry and psychotic hallucinations.
  • Elevationism: Voodoo trances, childhood clairvoyance, or lucid dreaming, even it it is by children or criminals, is taken to be indications of advanced development.
  • Reductionism fallacy – confusing late development stages for early ones. Cuts us off from emerging potentials because it assumes they have no value. Creates depression & anxiety because of the conflict between the future you that wants to emerge, and the truncated reality you insist on holding on to. Validates grandiosity because it assumes current level of development is the peak of human experience.
  • Elevationism — aborts development by substituting delusion for growth; causes depression & anxiety because it is regressive.  Grandiose, in that it imagines that we are more evolved than we are, generally by confusing temporary state openings into the transpersonal with stable enlightenment.
Avoiding it Look for ways that you habitually do both.

The Ranking Fallacy

This logical fallacy carries the rather formidable name of “performative contradiction.” All that means is that you view ranking things as bad, because rankings discriminate. Performative contradictions are a type of ranking fallacy, the tendency of people at late personal level of development to hold everyone and everything equal in a communal, pluralistic, egalitarian embrace and to deplore any and all attempts to point out the reality of hierarchy, separateness, and distinction. The result is a mushy, fuzzy, glowing unity that has no clarity because there is no ability to recognize the facets of the diamond. Wilber points out that performative contradictions are logical fallacies, in that they declare all views are equal, except those that disagree with the proclamation that all are equal. In that instance, it imposes a hierarchy between egalitarians and non-egalitarians, thereby contradicting itself. This hierarchy is what makes a performative contradiction a ranking fallacy.

Ranking fallacies say one level or rank is better than another in some way, with the result being that some people lose out because of their race, income, language, intelligence, health, education, interests, habits or preferences. Social injustice is the result. Therefore, all hierarchies, which are forms of rankings, are viewed with suspicion and condescension. Examples of such ranking include believing whites are superior to blacks, those who major in the sciences or go into law or business are superior to those who study the arts, Eastern religions are superior to Western religions, private business is better than government services, Western capitalism is superior to traditional, non-property-based forms of social organization, primitive, matriarchal societies are superior to subsequent patriarchal ones, the wealthy are superior to the poor, the powerful are superior to the weak, animal lovers are better than scientists that experiment on bunnies and rats, vegetarians are better than meat eaters, Christianity or Judaism is superior to Islam, humans are superior to dolphins or monkeys or Eastern saints are superior to voodoo witch doctors. You may disagree with some of these rankings and agree with others, yet not commit this logical fallacy. You may even say, “Those who rank are judgmental and discounting” and not commit this logical fallacy. People who rank things may or may not be judgmental and discounting; that’s different from making discriminations. Unfortunately, “discriminate” means two things, to see and make distinctions, which is simply a function of language and reason, and to be judgmental and discounting. You can discriminate without being judgmental and discounting. You can rank and you can respect hierarchies without being judgmental and discounting.

However, this is a different issue from making a ranking fallacy. That occurs when you say, based on a desire for egalitarianism and pluralism, something like, “You are discriminating when you claim that humans are smarter than dolphins.” This is a ranking fallacy because you yourself are discriminating. You are saying, “It is better to not rank than to rank,” which means that you are discriminating against those who rank! There are legitimate reasons to object to people claiming that humans are smarter than dolphins, such as the fact that their intelligence is not comparable due to the fact that it is designed to deal with radically different environments. The problem arises when you object to hierarchies of any kind on grounds of egalitarianism and pluralism. Why? Because equality says, “ranking threatens equality; because pluralism says, “ranking disenfranchises some voices.” While this may be true, these statements are themselves rankings. You can say, “I think my rankings are better than yours” without committing this logical fallacy. The problem occurs when you condemn ranking when you are doing so yourself. To commit a ranking fallacy you must say, “This person who ranks in such and such a way is discriminating,” while at the same time not recognizing that you are yourself discriminating between those who rank and those who do not. You yourself are ranking but not realizing it. You have just created a hierarchy or a distinction, between those who do not rank and those who do, between good and bad or between the “washed and the unwashed,” without realizing it. You have just contradicted yourself by saying, “Your ranking is bad, because it discriminates, but my ranking is good and doesn’t discriminate,” when you are ranking and, therefore discriminating, yourself.

This logical fallacy is important because it ranks heterogeneity or communalism, among societies, species, abilities or capabilities above hierarchy or meritocracy. It wants to validate everybody and everything, without exception, except for those who find such distinctions to be valuable. Those who value hierarchies are to be discounted and discriminated against. So, we need to picket animal experimentation, patriarchal bastions, meat eaters, the rich and the powerful. It is not politically correct to point out that astrology is pre-scientific, that monkeys lack human intelligence, that conservatives are relatively self-centered when compared to liberals or that shamanism does not rise to the level of say, Buddhism. The problem is that hierarchy exists, and that value distinctions are not only real, but important. Nature evolves in hierarchies of sophistication and capabilities. The more complicated levels evolve out of the less complicated ones and sustain themselves by incorporating the less complicated into themselves. Those with evolutionary advantages have more offspring and survive longer.

When this understanding is turned into the religion of neo-Darwinism, it is used to justify inequality and selfishness, which is generally the sin that gives rise to the current use of this logical fallacy. In reaction, people put egalitarianism and pluralism before common sense, rational discrimination and meaningful distinctions of value, leading to self-created absurdities. The spirit of justice breaks down somewhere for almost everyone. We won’t kill shrimp, but how about mosquitos and fleas? Taken to a logical extreme, you need to become a Parsee, spending your life sweeping the ground in front of you to avoid the injustice of accidentally stepping on a living creature. However, since we know that doing so is unavoidable, to be consistent, we need to stop breathing. We need to die if we want to respect all life, because our mere existence is sustained by incorporating lesser developed life forms into our own. There is no escaping that reality, nor should one try. You can learn to respect and protect all life and still respect and protect the knowledge that ranking is real and that hierarchies exist for the furtherance of the evolution of consciousness.

Humans and life itself evolve in both heterogenous, communal and hierarchical, discriminatory ways. The unwillingness to accept this is a reflection of a deficit in an important developmental skill: the ability to hold and balance two or more conflicting and contradictory perspectives, opinions, preferences or beliefs at the same time, yet remaining willing and able to choose among them. Instead of being confused or blocked by ambiguity, you can learn to welcome it and use your mind to sort through information to focus on what is most important for the task at hand. Children do not know how to do this. Adults do not automatically learn this higher order competency, unless they have been exposed to someone who insists on it, teaches them why it is important, as well as how to use it. You will notice that your interviewed emerging potentials are generally more evolved than you are, when they score higher than you in the six core qualities. They make discriminations. They are discriminating. At the same time, they embrace egalitarianism and pluralism. They can and will teach you to honor both ranking and justice.

Example “All those that don’t discriminate are good; but the fact that I discriminate between those who discriminate and those who don’t does not make me bad.”
Summary In the example you are saying” it is better not to rank, than to rank,” which means that you are discriminating against those who rank.

The problem occurs when you condemn ranking, at the same time as you are doing it yourself.

The problem is that hierarchy exists, and that value distinctions are not only real, but important. 

Avoiding it Recognize the need for both; realize hierarchy and community co-exist harmoniously in nature.


Posted in Essays, Logical Cognitive Distortions



From Chapter 7, Getting Rid of Your Logical Cognitive Distortions, Waking Up

Dogmatism is one of the most basic and primitive of logical fallacies because it doesn’t even pretend to be rational. The speaker is so sure of his or her certainty and truth that it is offensive and beneath them to even appeal to rationality. There is an obvious and evident disdain for logic, reason and causation because they are beneath the level of trans-rational truth that the speaker discloses.

This form of irrationality remains remarkably prevalent and current in an increasingly skeptical world that expects proof, reasons and knows how to fact-check. The reason why is still so widely used is because dogmatism cannot be refuted since it never claims to be rational or logical in the first place.

Anything that validates or justifies itself on the basis of some metaphysical reality or entity, like God, or some faculty that cannot be measured, such as intuition, a hunch, luck, fate, the heart, psychism or spirituality, takes upon itself the burden of proof to show how and why it is not dogmatic.

A simple way to determine if a statement is dogmatic is by observing the response to any request for proof or validation. It will typically be an appeal to the authority of one’s own “inner voice,” to God, a psychic, or to scripture, all sources which are themselves dogmatic, in that they do not base their truth on reason or logic. If the validity of these sources is questioned, the response is generally a form of anger, indicating a sense of violation and personalization, a fundamental emotional cognitive distortion.

The reason why Integral Deep Listening (IDL) teaches logical fallacies is because thinking rationally is a pre-requisite to development beyond the rational. Trans-rational development transcends and includes the rational, which means that learning how to think straight and recognize when others aren’t, is a “gateway drug” to stable higher levels of development.

Posted in Logical Cognitive Distortions

Recognizing and Eliminating Your Emotional Cognitive Distortions


This is Chapter Six from Waking Up, by Joseph Dillard

There are three types of cognitive distortions, all of which generate and maintain the Drama Triangle.

Emotional cognitive distortions are words or statements that you tell yourself or others that feel true, but when examined factually are found to be irrational. That is, they aren’t true; they only feel true. For example, when you say or think, “No one ever listens to me,” you are making a statement that may indeed feel true. However, all one has to do is think of one time you have said something and someone has responded to disprove this statement, revealing it to be an irrational statement and an emotional cognitive distortion.

Logical cognitive distortions are failed attempts at reasoning, whether to problem solve, persuade or manipulate. These include attacking the person making a point rather than the point itself, guilt by association, asking loaded questions, presenting false dilemmas and many more. Like emotional cognitive distortions, logical cognitive distortions also keep you stuck in the Drama Triangle because they are both irrational and manipulative and therefore delusional.

Perceptual cognitive distortions provide the context, world-view, zeitgeist, and paradigms that determine and control not only what you think is real, but what is even possible. Normally, you do not recognize anything outside your perceptual filtering.  For example, supporters for Barak Obama and Hillary Clinton believed both these politicians as well as they themselves were liberals and progressives even though both personally ordered drone bombings that murdered women and children. The world view of these supporters did not allow them to recognize the obvious and absurd contradiction.

All three of these forms of cognitive distortion place you in one of the three roles, persecutor, victim, and rescuer, of the Drama Triangle. Sooner or later you therefore find yourself in all three of them. This chapter is devoted to dealing with emotional cognitive distortions, how each keeps you asleep, dreaming and sleepwalking your way through your life, and how you can wake up out of the limitations of emotional definitions of your identity. The following two chapters will address logical and perceptual cognitive distortions.

Why are Emotional Cognitive Distortions So Important?

Emotional cognitive distortions evoke anxiety, depression or both. They are the most invasive and therefore most destructive of the three types of cognitive distortions. They are fundamental to cognitive behavioral therapy, which has been shown to be effective for the treatment of both anxiety and depression. Principles of cognitive behavioral therapy include:

  • How you feel is determined by what you think.
  • Change how you think if you want to change how you feel.

A corollary that follows is that it is wise not to believe everything you think. As we shall see in our chapter on perceptual cognitive distortions, IDL finds it wise to not believe much of anything that you think.

You may discover you have a natural resistance to stopping the use of cognitive distortions. This is because they feel true, right, and even fair, even though they are not truthful, right or fair to either yourself or others. Even more problematic, emotional cognitive distortions often feel authentic, which means that you have who you are, your identity, your sense of self, tied up in them. Therefore, to question the legitimacy of a cognitive distortion can feel like an attack on you. Such resistances indicate the extent to which your development is stuck at a mid-prepersonal level, the stage at which who you are is your emotions. By recognizing and neutralizing your emotional cognitive distortions you release who you are from a major fixation and filter that keeps you from advancing up the ladder of the spectrum of consciousness.

“Learned helplessness” is one explanation for certain types of depression. Imagine a cow that gets stuck in a swamp and can’t pull itself out of the mud. It bellows and struggles until it is too tired to continue. It will sleep, then bellow and struggle some more. If no help comes, at some point, it will adapt to its powerlessness and cease futile efforts to escape, efforts that only weaken it. It has learned to be helpless. This is a smart adaptive strategy as long as this cow stays stuck in the mud of the swamp. But what happens if the rancher spots it, comes with a rope and his truck and pulls the cow out of the mud? What has been observed is that some cows will go back into the swamp and become stuck in the mud again. How come? What looks foolish is an adaptational strategy for survival. People can learn that they live longer and even live better if they keep their head down, don’t rock the boat, and adapt to miserable conditions. We can see it in battered spouses who won’t leave an abusive relationship and in combatants that sign up for a second or third tour of combat duty. Such people have adapted to, and perhaps even thrive on, an abusive reality that is deeply lost within the Drama Triangle. We know that people with a pessimistic explanatory style are likely to be both depressed and exhibit learned helplessness. They see negative events as permanent and think, “It will never change.” This is an example of a cognitive distortion called “Jumping to Conclusions” that we will explore below. They also see negative events as personal and think, “It’s my fault.” This is an example of Personalization, another cognitive distortion. People with a pessimistic explanatory style also view their problems as pervasive, thinking “I can’t do anything correctly.” This is an example of another cognitive distortion called Overgeneralization.

Cognitive distortions are false, irrational, delusions that you tell yourself. Whenever you use a one, you are in the Drama Triangle. You use some cognitive distortions to abuse others or yourself, putting you in the role of the Persecutor. You use others to validate your feelings of victimization. Still others are used to rescue you from those feelings. You use cognitive distortions to rescue yourself from some discomfort by telling yourself something that is delusional, such as, “If I eat this chocolate, I’ll feel better.” By doing so, you persecute yourself by keeping yourself stuck in delusions (that eating chocolate will really make you feel better instead of giving you a temporary lift) that turn you into a victim (when you gain those extra pounds you don’t want). If you want to get out of the Drama Triangle, you need to learn to recognize and stop your cognitive distortions.

Cognitive distortions harm your relations with others by misperceiving their intentions and the nature of the relationship. They harm your self-image by distorting your perception of yourself. They turn your waking life into a dream of irrational self-delusion. Cognitive distortions also cause you to misperceive what you experience when you are dreaming when you are asleep at night. This is important because dream experiences can cause you to feel anxious, sad, confused or guilty unnecessarily. Those night-time feelings, consciously forgotten, nevertheless can bleed over into your waking awareness, undercutting your waking efforts to improve yourself. They can bring you down and move you further away from health and inner peace. You are experiencing a cognitive distortion, for example, when you assume a monster in a dream is a threat. Such misperceptions cause you to draw inaccurate conclusions about dreams and dreaming, just as your waking cognitive distortions cause you to draw incorrect conclusions about yourself, people and life. When you identify and eliminate cognitive distortions in your dreams, the twenty percent of your life that you spend dreaming is less likely to be a hindrance to your happiness and growth. When you remember dreams, you are less likely to interpret them through the lenses of cognitive distortions. The result is that you are less likely to draw false conclusions about their value and meaning. This can be very important to your well-being and development, as we shall see.

Much of what is true for cognitive distortions and dreams also applies to near death and mystical experiences. If you have a mind-blowing or mystical experience, and you see it through the irrationality of cognitive distortions, you will misunderstand it, thereby reducing its value for you in your life. This may be a major reason why near death experiences, which are experienced by some seven percent of the population, have not had a greater effect on individuals and society throughout history.

Cognitive distortions are logical fallacies

Every cognitive distortion is a failure in logic. This means that the feeling conclusions you reach about your life do not follow rationally from the assumptions you have made about your experience. Your thoughts are explanatory premises; they generate feeling conclusions. While cognitive distortions are self-destructive ways of thinking, logical fallacies are generally due to either ignorance or a willful desire to misrepresent the facts in order to get the upper hand in some situation. While both cognitive distortions and logical fallacies are delusions, fallacies are mistakes either in your assumptions or the conclusions that you draw from them. They do not so much make you depressed or anxious as keep you stuck in thinking you’re right when you’re wrong, sane when you’re delusional, clear when you’re muddy, and straight when you are as twisted as a barrel full of eels.

Logical fallacies are evidence that you are either not thinking clearly or thinking clearly in an abusive, manipulative, selfish way. To the extent that others represent parts of yourself, to abuse or manipulate someone else is to do damage to the part of yourself that they represent. What does this mean”? Do others represent parts of yourself? Yes, based on at least three lines of reasoning. The first is an inference you can make from your own dreams and the other two you can find from thinking about your everyday experience.

In a dream, if you are chased by a monster and you are scared, who is chasing you?  Who is scaring you? Either dream monsters are devil demons beyond your control or they are self-creations or they are both. If they are evil demons, then you are chronically a helpless victim, with no control over your dream world and, by implication, your life. The further implication is that you are a dependent, helpless child in some deep and real sense. If your dream monsters are instead in some way self-creations, then you are chasing yourself and scaring yourself in ways you do not recognize or understand. The implication here is that you are more powerful and more responsible than you literally dream and that you have the ability, by owning your creation of dream threats, to grow into a degree of power, control, and responsibility that you do not yet grasp.

If your dream monsters are self-creations, how much more likely are the trees, houses, roads, clouds, and other people in your dreams to be self-creations? It may be the case that they are objectively real objects from another dimension that you visit in your dreams, but to presume so is to give your power and responsibility away. In that case, you have no part in the creation of the experience, good or bad; it just happened to you. This way of thinking about life tends to keep you in the role of victim in the Drama Triangle.  How to get out? By understanding that if you meet someone or something in a dream and you hate it, love it, or ignore it, you are hating, loving, or ignoring those parts of yourself that it represents. This is an example of lucid dreaming, waking up in your dreams; it is part of why IDL is a dream yoga.

However, it may be that your dream events and characters are both; they may be self-creations and external realities. IDL recommends that you always begin by assuming that everything and everyone in a dream is a self-creation, even if it is a revelation, precognition, or a visitation from a deceased relative. This forces you to consider that what you are sure is real is in actuality an externalization of some part of yourself that you are not familiar with. IDL interviews address this question and generally resolve it to your satisfaction by asking during the interviewing sequence, “(Character), you are in ______’s life experience, correct?  She/he created you, right? What aspect of _____ do you represent or most closely personify?” The interviewed character may choose to respond by saying, “No! I’m real!” In such a case, it will still in all cases represent or personify some aspect of you. The same is true for your waking experience, which brings us to the second line of reasoning.

When someone makes you angry, or some event, like the prospect of failure, scares you, do you have a choice about how you feel? In normal language and thought, it seems you do not. You may say things like, “You make me feel _____.” “I can’t like you when you treat me like that!” The nature of common language views the actions of others as the source not only of harm and benefits to your physical security, but to your emotions as well. It does so by the use of such structures as, “You make me feel,” or “I have to feel this way when you say ____,” or “I can’t not react when you do ____.” However, notice that if you were to insult someone, you can’t be sure how they will respond. One person will insult you back; another will ignore you; a third may ask you to explain yourself; a fourth may laugh. If there is a choice of responses, the implication is that you get to choose how you feel when things happen to you or when people say or do things to you. Although others can certainly make you feel physical pain by kicking you, no one “makes” you feel love, anger, sadness, or fear. You get to choose what you are going to feel, and how much of it you will feel, in any and every instance.

If this is the case, then others do not make you feel certain things in certain ways. Therefore, their intentions are projections by you; they are not descriptions of the person themselves, unless they agree. For example, I might think, “You are thinking I’m a failure.” “You don’t like me.” Such statements, unless confirmed by you, are projections onto you of my own self-doubt and self-persecution. How do you avoid endless drama in this mirror world? Understand that if you meet someone or some life situation and you hate it, love it, or ignore it, you are hating, loving, or ignoring those parts of yourself that they or it represents. This is an example of lucid living; it is part of why IDL is a dream yoga.

There is a third piece of evidence that is very important. What you know of others, let’s say of me, are the assumptions that you project onto me based on your reading of my words, what others have told you about me, your experiences with other male writers, and your assumptions about who you are and how the world works. You don’t hear me; you hear either validations of who you think you are or challenges to who you think you are. Your culture, history of human contact, ways of thinking and feeling cause you to reach the conclusions you do about who I am and what I mean. But because other people will reach very different conclusions, the implication is that with me, and with life in general, you are mostly shadow-boxing with your own hopes, fears, and expectations. So if you meet me in a dream or your waking life, your response says a great deal about you and very little about me. If you hate me, you are hating those parts of yourself that you represent.

The conclusion is, therefore, that it is both wise and reasonable to assume that both “real” and dream people and objects are first and foremost your self-creations.  This is what is meant by saying, “To the extent that others represent parts of yourself, to abuse or manipulate someone else is to do damage to the part of yourself that they represent.” To the extent that others represent parts of yourself, it only makes sense that you treat them as you want to be treated – with respect, clarity, honesty, and fairness. You don’t do good because you should; IDL interviews will demonstrate to your satisfaction that you need to do good to others because you are doing good to yourself, and you deserve nothing less.

As we go through a list of common cognitive distortions, we will indicate how and why each is a logical fallacy. The object of doing so is not only to help you avoid depression and anxiety by breaking your addiction to cognitive distortions, but also to turn you into a clear thinker by learning to recognize and avoid logical fallacies. Logical fallacies damage you by causing you to do two three things, 1) act on wrong or irrational conclusions, 2) think incorrect, untrue, or unhelpful thoughts, and 3) feel self-destructive feelings. For example, if you think, “I failed; therefore, I am a failure,” you are unlikely to try again, which is an example of (not) acting as a result of a wrong and irrational conclusion.  It is thinking an incorrect, untrue, and unhelpful thought, because just because you fail at something it does not logically follow that you are a failure. It causes you to feel self-destructive feelings of worthlessness. If you allow your thinking to be determined by your beliefs and emotions, your biases and assumptions will keep you from thinking clearly. As a result, your life happiness and success will be determined by the nature of your delusions.

A number of types of cognitive distortions have been identified and are summarized below. How does each one show up in your life? Your next step will be to learn to substitute true and functional thoughts for each cognitive distortion.

Black or White or Polarized Thinking

Something or someone is all good or all bad:

I am good and the causes I fight for are noble and right; otherwise, I’m a horrible person and deserve to burn in Hell eternally.”

You are either trustworthy and my friend or untrustworthy and my enemy.”

How is thinking like this a cognitive distortion? Nothing is all good or all bad. Thinking in terms of extremes is not only a lie you tell yourself; when you see the world in such terms, it becomes a threatening, scary place. No one can be expected to always agree with you and support you, nor should they. Polarized thinking is primitive and regressive. It is associated with early childhood preferences as well as personality disorders, types of mental health disorders in which ambiguity is neither seen nor tolerated.

Polarized thinking keeps you in the Drama Triangle by making everyone, including yourself, into either a persecutor or a rescuer. You, thereby, turn yourself into a victim, condemning yourself to a life of helplessness, hopelessness and powerlessness

Black and white or “all or nothing” thinking is an example of what is often called the “false dilemma” or “excluded middle” logical fallacy. It paints an issue as one between two extremes with no possible room for middle ground or nuance or compromise.  It is closely related to the “straw man” fallacy, which essentially presents one side of an argument as being so extreme, that no can agree with it.

Most people habitually experience their dreams through this cognitive distortion. When you see a monster, a fire raging out of control, or you experience falling in your dreams, don’t you normally feel afraid? When you do so, you are engaging in black and white thinking: “This monster is persecuting me and I’m a victim.” “This fire is threatening me and I am a victim.” “I am out of control now that I’m falling and when I hit the ground, I will die.” Isn’t this black or white thinking? How do you know that your perceptions of the monster, fire and falling are true? You don’t. How can you know? IDL teaches you to interview the monster or the fire, and to suspend your assumptions about falling, in order to gain information before drawing wrong or partial conclusions in your dream. Since you are dreaming, you can learn to not react to perceived danger without threatening yourself, whether or not you realize that you are dreaming. Begin by learning to catch and neutralize your cognitive distortions in your waking life; in time, you will start to do the same while you are dreaming!

One lady had a dream in which she loaned her car to two young men. She realized that this was a mistake; they would have fun with the car to see what it would do, and would abuse it. She asked them to return the car keys. They said their boss had them and walked off. She knew they had the keys and made up the “boss” story as an excuse to keep the car. She caught up with them, demanded the keys back, and when they refused, she threw some of her soda in the face of the one she was talking to. She then told them she was calling the cops.

She realized that her natural response was to be confrontational and reactive—to throw soda on someone in her life with whom she was having a conflict. She realized that what the situation needed was cops: the part of herself that could be authoritative and strong, but detached and professional. She was able to handle a current conflict like a “cop” and resolve it: This lady learned a good analogy for handling situations. She could be reactive and metaphorically throw soda in people’s faces when they misbehaved, in an attempt to wake them up, or she could become like a cop: set limits and enforce them.

This is an example of how dreams are working to problem solve while you sleep. However, you generally do not become a co-creator with that process, because you do not take the time or have the tools to bring help to your awareness. When you do, you not only can get immediate support for the specific problem at hand, but also learn more general principles that can move you out of the Drama Triangle and into a life with more inner peace.

Can you spot the black and white cognitive distortion in this dream and in the waking situation it personifies? The dream of the lady and her car are in the role of the Victim while the two young men who borrow it are in the role of the Persecutor. This is black and white thinking in which the dreamer sees parts of herself as persecuting. Notice that when she does so she is tempted to react and turn herself into a persecutor (throwing soda on one of them.) The waking analogy is that she engages in black and white thinking when she views people with whom she has conflict as persecutors. Cognitive therapy teaches you how to substitute a neutral or supportive realistic, rational sentence in the place of your irrational thoughts and your black and white impulsive reactions. Dreams do much the same thing, but in a pictorial, metaphorical way. Instead of providing a rational sentence as a substitute, such as “When I feel attacked I can be assertive instead of aggressive,” as cognitive behavioral therapy teaches, dreams give visual metaphors. In this case, this dreamer was to remember to be a “cop” rather than a “soda thrower.”

Something similar often happens with near-death and mystical experiences. In the small percentage of negative ones, black and white thinking may be causing one to feel threatened by devils, demons and other perceived persecutors. However, the great majority of near-death and mystical experiences are so positive that they are experienced as transformative. How could such mind-expanding experiences be cognitive distortions? First, they may not be. However, if you use black and white thinking in your waking life, it is likely that you will continue to use it to understand a near-death or mystical experience. If you do so, the likely result would be to experience bliss, rapture, unity, heavenly light, tunnels, beings or life reviews, as all “white.” Just as a dream or near-death experience monster would be to some extent a projection or out-picturing of your feelings of being threatened, so a near-death experience angel or mystical experience would be to some extent a projection or out-picturing of your own innate goodness, worth, love and wisdom. While this is undoubtedly a very, very good thing, it is also a distortion in at least two ways. It assumes there is a “you,” you in an experience of complete unity, the distinction between self and other vanishes. So, the experience of there being a permanent, real self may be a cognitive distortion that is commonly projected onto an experience of oneness. Secondly, to believe that such a self, which may itself be a delusion, is all good, is probably unrealistic, not accurate and not helpful, although it can help people who lack acceptance and self-esteem feel loved and cared for. Very positive cognitive distortions can be helpful and make one feel good in the way that falling in love is a positive experience. There is a real but temporary benefit that often ignores a broader reality.

The consequence of an experience of total ‘whiteness” is an unrealistic image of perfection. Because it is unrealistic, it is not integrated. If such an experience cannot be integrated, it doesn’t last. If a mystical experience doesn’t last, it represents a transformational state instead of functioning as a developmental building block. Such total “whiteness” is experienced as savior, messiah and rescuer. It comes to you without you expecting or asking for it, transforming you in ways that you did not expect or ask for. It does not check to see if its “help” is appropriate or not. You are left to figure out how to make sense of it and how to integrate it into your life. Such experiences may not be rescuers any more than they are persecutors. However, if you are using black and white thinking, you are likely to experience them as all black or all white, and that is a cognitive distortion. Understanding or appropriately using mystical experiences is extremely difficult if you have a fundamental misperception of your experience of transcendent unity. If you haven’t already, someday you may have a mystical experience. If you want to experience it most fully and make the most of it, you need to eliminate polarized thinking from your life.

When have you used this cognitive distortion? Write an example…

Now write an antidote for it. For example, here are antidotes for the two examples above:

I am good and the causes I fight for are nobel and right; otherwise I’m a horrible person and deserve to burn in Hell eternally.”

I don’t know that the things I believe in are good and right for everyone; if they are sometimes right and I’m wrong, it doesn’t mean either of us are bad people.”

You are either trustworthy and my friend or untrustworthy and my enemy.”

Because you’re human I don’t expect you to always be trustworthy. You will be untrustworthy sometimes, just like me.”


You exaggerate things.

I must be a complete loser and failure.”

I’m always late.”

You never listen to me.”

Why and how is overgeneralization a cognitive distortion? Exaggerations are never accurate; to believe them or to use them is irrational. When you overgeneralize, you weaken your case, because it’s clear that you are exaggerating. The other person only needs to think of one exception to undercut your entire argument and ignore you: “She can be helpful, so she’s not a complete loser and failure.” “I remember when you were on time, so that’s not true.” “I heard you when you said you wanted me to bring home milk, didn’t I?”

You overgeneralize in your dreams, because you think you are awake, when you are actually asleep and dreaming. You think falling in a dream will kill you, just as it would in real life. The result is that you respond to the experience of falling as if it were a waking threat, which is a cognitive distortion. You’ve overgeneralized. This is the case regardless of the “threat” that you have in a dream. How do you know it’s a threat? Most likely, because you have drawn that conclusion from your waking experience, and you think you’re awake. In post-traumatic stress disorder, people draw this conclusion with their waking mind as a result of an experience of real threat and terror. When they are dreaming, they think they are awake and being threatened again. Every time that this old tape replays in their heads, awake or asleep, they apply the same cognitive distortions to it.

Overgeneralizing keeps you in the Drama Triangle by justifying whatever role you are stuck in at the time: “Because you always interrupt me I don’t have to listen to you.” (i.e., I can stay in the Persecutor role) “Because you don’t love me I’m a victim.” “Because you’re so weak and stupid, I have to rescue you.” When you overgeneralize in your dreams by thinking you are awake when you are asleep, you automatically place all of your dream experiences within the Drama Triangle. All of your dream experiences become a series of cognitive distortions. In the above cited dream about the car keys and throwing soda, the dreamer saw the two young men who wouldn’t give her back her car keys as disrespectful. She overgeneralized when she saw their disrespect as deserving abuse on her part—throwing soda at them. This was an exaggerated response to a perceived threat. It was also an overgeneralization in that she assumed the threat was real when it wasn’t. She was disrespecting herself, since the two men and their actions were self-creations.

A similar thing happens when you have a near-death or mystical experience. Because you are using your waking world view to experience and remember what is happening, you project your generalized, waking assumptions onto them. While much of this is necessary because of the way your perceptual mechanism is physiologically wired, it still doesn’t mean your conclusions are true or accurate. By analogy, just because your senses tell you the sun rises and sets it does not follow that this “real” experience is also true. What it may well mean is that you are necessarily deluding yourself just to function in an illusory, sensory-based reality. The good news is that your delusions and cognitive distortions, as necessary as they may seem to be, can be minimized. They can be reduced, even if they can’t be completely eliminated.

Overgeneralization is a characteristic of many different logical fallacies, such as the “argument from authority.” It says, “because Einstein knows a lot about physics, he must also know a lot about God, religion, philosophy, psychology, relationships and ballet.” Because you respect someone as an authority in area “A,” you assume they are also an authority in areas “C,” “L,” and “Z.” Because Mitt Romney organized the Salt Lake City Olympics and made huge amounts of money while sometimes bankrupting companies, it does not follow that he cares about forty-seven percent of the citizens of the United States, a fact he himself admitted.

Authority can mean either power or knowledge. View the authorities you rely on as resources for decision-making, rather than as providing the final say concerning the issue. When you rely too much on authority, you give your power away to those who may not have earned your trust. Those behind the American invasion of Iraq provide an example of misplaced trust in authority: ““It happens not to be the area where weapons of mass destruction were dispersed. We know where they are. They’re in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat.”—Donald Rumsfeld, May 30, 2003.

Your waking sense of who you are makes decisions for the entirety of yourself, often without consulting other involved and knowledgeable perspectives. This is another common example of overgeneralization of authority. IDL attempts to correct it by bringing the authority of high scoring emerging potentials into your decision making process. This reduces the inherent overgeneralization of power and knowledge to your waking point of view, at the expense of your emerging potentials.

When do you overgeneralize? Write an example…

Now write an antidote for it. For example, here are antidotes for the examples above:

I must be a complete loser and failure.”

Because I sometimes fail, it doesn’t mean that I’m a loser and failure.”

I’m always late.”

I’m late a lot, but I’m not always late.”

You never listen to me.”

You don’t listen to me a lot of the time.”


You ignore information and events that disprove your warped beliefs and assumptions.

Nobody is ever nice to me.”

I can’t ever do anything right.”

Filtering ignores evidence that does not validate your biases and prejudices. The result is that your perception is distorted and unbalanced. Consequently, you do not see yourself accurately or hear the meanings of others’ words, all the while being sure you do both. Filtering eliminates evidence that you need to change and grow. The result is that you not only stay stuck; you get more stuck over time.

Filtering keeps you in the Drama Triangle by “rescuing” you from objectivity, clarity, evidence, facts and the truth. As a result, you can maintain the righteous judgmentalism of self-persecution and validate staying stuck in the role of the Victim. An excellent example of filtering is the social scripting you went through as a child. You were taught that in order to survive and grow within your family, you had to accept and internalize their cognitive distortions. For example, if you grew up with an alcoholic parent, you had to deal with that reality somehow. Chances are, you distorted reality in one way or another to do so. Your drinking mom or dad really wasn’t sick, or it was all your fault, or you isolated yourself in one way or another. You filtered out options that would be available to children who didn’t have an alcoholic parent. As you grew, your sense of who you were and how you saw your family and the world were all products of the cognitive distortions inherent in your family culture.

You can see from the previous two cognitive distortions, black and white thinking and overgeneralization, that filtering is at work in your dreams. You filter such experiences because of your emotions, your world-view, your life scripting and your biology. The very nature of this filtering is to distort the truth. Consequently, filtering in dreams and mystical experiences is broader than the traditional concept of filtering for waking, cognitive distortions. In the dream of the soda-throwing lady, she filtered out the possibility that these two young men might be aspects of herself or that she was dreaming. It is not merely a matter of filtering out the good so you only see the bad; it is about filtering out reality by imposing your own intervening filters of time, space and identity. People who have had compelling dreams or mystical experiences tend to argue, “The experience was so real, so different from my normal experience that I couldn’t have been filtering anything. It was as if my soul was seeing things without that filtering.” This may indeed be what is happening, or it may be partially what is happening, or it may not be at all what is happening. The most likely and reasonable explanation is that this is partially what is happening: normal filters are dropped during such experiences and you are filtering so much less than you normally do, that you are sure that you are not filtering at all. However, if you read or watch accounts of near-death and mystical experiences and look for evidence of filtering, along with the other cognitive distortions, it is not difficult to find considerable evidence of them.

How can you tell when you are filtering? Unless you first assume that you are filtering, you will never look for it. Therefore, get in the habit of asking yourself, “If I were filtering out something that I would rather not think about, feel or experience right now, what would it be?” The object is not to flood yourself with physical pain, memories of old losses or fears about the future. The object is to continue to filter out what is unhealthy or unnecessary while reducing your filtering for everything else. For example, consider the possibility that some ninety-five percent of the time that you are afraid, worried or anxious that those feelings are either unnecessary or not helpful. What are you filtering out? You are filtering out your peace of mind! Once you see this is the case, you can ask yourself, “Do I need to filter out my peace of mind?” “Is that a helpful decision?” “How much peace of mind do I deserve to experience right now?”

Filtering is an example of a logical fallacy called the “fallacy of exclusion.” You think that some behavior is unique when it’s not or you convince yourself that something is true but only by ignoring evidence that it is not.

When have you used this cognitive distortion? Write an example…

Now write an antidote for it. For example, here are antidotes for the examples above:

Nobody is ever nice to me.”

That’s not accurate. Martha smiled at me in the hall and John asked me how I was doing.”

I can’t ever do anything right.”

I got to work on time today; that’s something. I returned Max’s phone call. That’s something. So it’s not true that I can’t do anything right.”

Jumping to Conclusions

You assume.

They didn’t say hi or look at me. They must not like me.”

I’m going to lose my job because I said I was sick when I wasn’t.”

How is thinking like this a cognitive distortion? Instead of asking questions and getting more information, you make up your mind. If you don’t like ambiguity or uncertainty, you might do this. However, life is ambiguous. Things are uncertain. Getting more information is empowering.

“Mind reading” is a particular type of jumping to conclusions. You know what other people are thinking about you without asking, because you just “know.” You can tell when people don’t like you or are gossiping about you or are ignoring you because you just “know.” What healthy, wise people do is ask themselves, “How do I know this? Can I read minds? Perhaps, I am jumping to conclusions. Perhaps, I need to get more information.”

“Fortune telling” is another subtype of this cognitive distortion that occurs when you “know” what’s going to happen. The second example above is fortune telling: “I’m going to lose my job because I said I was sick when I wasn’t.” How do you know this? Are you psychic? This is an outcome that you fear; you are presenting it to yourself as if your fear is a reality when it is not. It is a possible future outcome. It may or may not happen, and that’s what you tell yourself when you catch yourself fortune telling: “This feeling is about a possible future outcome. It may or may not happen. Other things may happen. I can choose to feel different ways about the future.”

Clearly, your dream experience is mostly about jumping from one conclusion to the next without ever bothering to check to see if you are correct. When you make assumptions, both while dreaming and later, while awake, about the nature of your dream, without first asking questions and gathering information, you are jumping to conclusions. Even if the conclusion is positive, helpful and even transformational, if you didn’t first ask questions and gather information, your conclusions are colored by this cognitive distortion. IDL attempts to counteract this perceptual habit by teaching you to interview dream characters, so that you can gain information that will allow you to draw realistic conclusions about them. Curiously, most people don’t care if they are jumping to conclusions if the conclusion is healing, positive and transformational, such as falling in love or having a mystical experience. Are positive delusions as harmful as negative ones? No. Are they as important as negative ones? Probably not. However, you probably know from bitter experience what the consequences can be about jumping to the conclusion that someone loves you and will make a good partner or that something is a good investment. Even with information, such circumstances are difficult; how much more so are they when you just follow your feelings, intuition and hunches and jump to conclusions?

You keep yourself in the Drama Triangle when you jump to conclusions, because you lack objectivity, since you don’t gather the evidence you need to see the big picture. Consequently, you choose to remain the Victim of your lack of information, feeling unnecessarily or inaccurately attacked, misunderstood or ignored. This is the problem with positive delusions reached by jumping to conclusions. It feels wonderful for a while, but there is often a crash landing that wakes you up and makes you wonder how you let that happen to yourself again. You remain a victim of your misperception; you remain in the Drama Triangle, to the extent that you are victimized by your delusions.

When you jump to conclusions, you are using a logical fallacy called “Begging the Question” or “Circular Argument.” You do this when you repeat a claim, belief or feeling without ever providing support for your assumptions. You repeat the same flawed reasoning over and over again: “I know he loves me because he says he’ll never leave me, that I’m the only one for him, that he’d go crazy if I left him.”  People often don’t recognize that they are jumping to conclusions by repeating their beliefs without supplying any evidence: “Gay marriage is just plain wrong.” “Drugs are just bad.” “I can’t believe people eat dog. That’s just plain gross. Why? Because it’s a dog, of course. How could someone eat a dog?” “Obviously, logging causes severe environmental damage. You don’t have to be a scientist to see that; just go out and look at a clear cut field and there it is: no trees.” “I know God exists because I feel him in my heart.”

When have you used this cognitive distortion? Write an example…

Now write an antidote for it. For example, here are antidotes for the examples above:

They didn’t say hi or look at me. They must not like me.”

Maybe they are thinking about something else. It may or may not be true that they don’t like me.”

I’m going to lose my job because I said I was sick when I wasn’t.”

I don’t know that; I’m just afraid that might happen.”


You don’t just assume; you assume the worst.

My chest hurts! It’s a heart attack! I’m going to die!!”

I always fail at love. I’m never going to find someone.”

Catastrophizing is not simply an exaggeration or filtering; it takes the worst possible outcome imaginable and treats it like it is a reality, as if that is what will inevitably happen. You do this in an attempt to be prepared for anything, but rather than preparing yourself, you simply scare yourself silly. We commonly do this during nightmares, but we also do it with national emergencies, like 9/11. Most of the time this creates “solutions” that are worse than the nightmare: wars in Iraq and Afghanistan killed more Americans than the terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers did. They did by far more damage to the self-worth of America, both as viewed by others and by Americans, than the original nightmare did.

Catastrophizing can take on the form of powerful, socially-sanctioned myths that serve to “circle the wagons” and create group solidarity, generally around a purpose that serves the narrow interests of one sector of society. For example, viewing Muslims as terrorists and then viewing a few terrorists here and there as a major threat to national security served multiple interests. It served the interests of Israel by making the world less responsive to the legitimate rights and interests of the Palestinians and helping to justify aggression against Arabs. It served the interests of those in the United States, like Dick Cheney, who hoped to exploit Iraq for its oil and for those who stood to make money from U.S. military contracts. The perennial belief in the end of the world, the “mother of all catastrophes,” and its Christian version, “The Second Coming of Christ,” play upon the delusion that “I am special (the anointed, the elect) and live in special times (the end of history).” Believers provide each other with a sense of special life purpose and meaning through the sharing of a common delusion. Problems occur when enough people believe such delusions and act on them. Fears can then become self-fulfilling prophesies.

Catastrophizing keeps you in the Drama Triangle by validating your victim status, leaving you constantly on the lookout not just for persecutors, but for Nazis, the plague and the Antichrist. Extreme, negative delusions are generally accompanied by extremely positive delusions of heaven, mystical rapture, salvation and eternal peace. If there were a cognitive distortion that was the polar opposite of catastrophization, these experiences would be candidates. Catastrophizing gives meaning to empty lives. People who cannot or will not access their life compass may be attracted to larger-than-life social dramas to supply validation, meaning and life purpose. There is a direct correlation between the need for a person to hold catastrophic beliefs and the hollowness they find within themselves.

In the dream dream of the soda-throwing lady, she catastrophized that two guys would wreck her car. However, these were dream guys, wrecking a dream car. Is this something to catastrophize about?

Catastrophizing is an example of a type of logical fallacy called “Non Sequitur,” which is Latin for “it does not follow.” This means that the conclusion does not follow the premises.  There is a logical gap between the premises or evidence and the conclusion you draw from it. “He didn’t ask me out; no one is ever going to find me attractive.” ‘Nobody liked my lecture; I’m a failure as a public speaker and teacher.” Chicken Little said, “Something fell on my head, so the sky is falling.”

When have you used this cognitive distortion? Write an example…

Now write an antidote for it. For example, here are antidotes for the examples above:

My chest hurts! It’s a heart attack! I’m going to die!!”

My chest hurting could mean a lot of things. I’ll get it checked out before I think the worst.”

I always fail at love. I’m never going to find someone.”

You’ve gotta kiss lot of frogs before you find a prince.”


Whatever happens, it’s all about you.

She looks angry. It must be something I did.”

This patient is getting sicker. I must be doing something wrong.

Personalization is an indicator of a person who thinks emotionally rather than rationally. One of the most destructive cognitive distortions, personalization prevents the development of empathy toward others and compassion toward yourself. Sometimes referred to as “adolescent girl syndrome,” personalization is painfully exaggerated self-consciousness. It is common in adolescence, when we are uncertain about who we are and are trying to find ourselves, but even then, it is neither normal nor healthy. When you personalize, you assume that everything that others say must be about you. That is grandiose, narcissistic and egotistical. It’s also not true. Most of what people do or say to you or about you is a reflection of their own beliefs, thoughts and values, not yours. If you didn’t exist, people would pretty much be saying and doing the same things. The truth is that you just aren’t that important to most people, most of the time, because they don’t hear you through the buzz of their self-talk. They don’t see you through the mental images they project onto you; they don’t feel you through the tide of feelings that run through them. Even when they are directly speaking to you, most of what they say is habitual and routine, even if they think they are being spontaneous. If others are critical toward you or about you, it is because they are normally critical of others and themselves; if they are friendly, its is because they are normally friendly; if they seem distant and uncaring, it is because they are normally distant and uncaring. A good rule of thumb is that ninety percent of what people say, even when they are speaking directly to you, is about themselves and not about you. They are reading off a script they learned when they were twenty, twelve or five. Your role is that of a cameo performance in the staging of their life script; whatever you say, whatever you do, will be woven into the predestined plot that they have going on inside their head. You don’t make people think or feel much of anything. They get to choose how they are going to think and what they are going to feel. You are just not the center of anyone’s universe. Even in romantic love, when you are the object of someone’s adoration, that love is primarily directed at who your partner thinks you are and needs you to be rather than at you. If you hadn’t been born, it’s a good bet that your parents would have treated other children pretty much the same way they treated you. They didn’t act the way they did toward you because you were good or bad, happy or sad, smart or dumb. They acted the way they routinely act toward children in such circumstances; you just happened to be the one around at that moment. When you personalize, you create two problems where there was only one. The first problem is that the other person is on automatic pilot and not listening to you. The second problem is that you make their sleep-walking and sleep-talking to be about you. You can’t help others to wake up as long as you are focused on imaginary problem number two.

Dream perception is all about personalization. Notice that in the dream of the soda-throwing lady, she made one assumption after another about the actions and motivations of others without stopping to examine the situation further. She assumed the dream actions of others were about her and her property. She didn’t stop and think, “Maybe this is about them and doesn’t have anything to do with me!” Very rarely, if ever, do people think about dreams in this way. Do you ever stop in a dream and look at it from the point of view of another character? If another character gives you a piece of advice in a dream or tells you what to do or not do, who is giving you that advice? Isn’t it probably a part of yourself that has its own perspective, different from your own? Dream personalization creates the same problems that waking personalization does. You assume that things are about you that aren’t about you at all. You might ask, “If I created the dream, how could anything in the dream not be about me?” The difference is this: if you don’t realize you’re creating the dream, you are very likely to feel threatened or get defensive and get stuck in personalization. When you recognize you created the dream, you no longer take it personally because there is no ‘other’ that is threatening you.

Personalization keeps you in the Drama Triangle by turning life into a tragedy in which you are the lead actor. You have to rescue yourself from the imagined persecution of others. But what if others aren’t persecuting you but only the part of themselves that you represent? While that awareness may not wash away the real damage that their actions can cause, it can keep you from compounding the hurt by taking it personally.

Near-death and other mystical experiences provide excellent examples of this cognitive distortion. People come away from them with a transformed sense of who they are. The experience was about them—about the truth of who they are. However, was the experience about them? How do they know? Maybe it wasn’t about them at all. Perhaps, that was the entire point of the experience—to teach them that life is not about them—and they missed the point. How would they know if they personalized the experience?

Personalization is a curious type of ad hominem logical fallacy. Meaning “to the man,” ad hominem usually refers to attempts to undercut an argument by destroying the reputation of the speaker. I can’t win on evidence or logic, so I will attempt to convince people that you are untrustworthy. The validity of an argument has nothing to do with the character of the person who presents it. In personalization, you assume other people are attacking you instead of evidence or logic. Or, if they attack your evidence or logic, you take it as an ad hominem attack on yourself.

When have you used this cognitive distortion? Write an example…

Now write an antidote for it. Here are possible antidotes for the examples above:

She looks angry. It must be something I did.”

Maybe she’s having a bad hair day.”

This patient is getting sicker. I must be doing something wrong.”

Maybe I better get more information before I assume this is about me.”

Control Fallacy

There are two types of control fallacies. The fallacy of external control says you are a victim of circumstances beyond your control. Here is an example:

I can’t help it if the quality of the work is poor: my boss demanded I work overtime on it.”

The fallacy of internal control says you are responsible for other people’s feelings and happiness. Here is an example:

Why aren’t you happy? Is it because of something I did?”

The first type of control fallacy ignores the part that you play in how you think or feel, or in what happens to you. The second type ascribes too much responsibility and power to you over the lives of others. You are not without responsibility, but you’re not responsible for everyone and everything, either. If you take too much responsibility in life, then you think you somehow are magically responsible for children dying in Africa or for global warming. If you take too little responsibility in life, you think that you have no responsibility for children dying in Africa or for global warming. This poses a constant dilemma of imbalance: you are either erring by taking too much responsibility or too little. It will help if you steer clear of broad generalizations and philosophies that tend to tilt the problem of control too far in one direction or another. For example, the doctrine of karma tends to cause people to take so much responsibility that they do not fight for justice and accept blatant discrimination. Capitalism takes too little responsibility by justifying selfishness, thus encouraging and validating exploitation. The belief that something is “God’s will”, or that “everything is in divine order, is a way of avoiding responsibility and errs on the external control side of this cognitive distortion. Socialism and communism, by making the state responsible for the health, prosperity and happiness of citizens, takes too much responsibility, erring on the internal control side.

Whenever you feel out of control in a dream, you are probably using the external control aspect of this cognitive distortion. Whenever you blame yourself for dream events, you are probably trapped in the internal control aspect of this cognitive distortion. If you feel there is something you did or can do, like meditating, joining a monastery, loving or choosing a life of selfless service, that will make near-death and other mystical experiences more likely, you are probably experiencing the internal control aspect of this cognitive distortion. If you beat yourself up because the experience went away, because you don’t remember more of it or because you didn’t stay, instead of returning to your crummy life, then you also are probably experiencing the internal control aspect of this cognitive distortion. However, many people return from such experiences convinced that they have seen God and heaven and that they know that they not only will survive death, but that they have an immortal soul. These people are probably victims of projecting too much external control onto their experience. It is so overwhelmingly transformational, so totally “other,” that they probably give the experience itself too much responsibility for its reality, meaning, significance and value. They disown the part that their consciousness plays in creating it. When applied to near-death and other mystical experiences, the control fallacy produces results that are not only unhelpful but positively toxic. People sometimes so try to hold on to and control the experience, that they seek validation for the experience by convincing others that they not only experienced their truth, but a universal truth. This is another cognitive distortion we have already looked at: overgeneralization. What is true for me is true for you. Out of a desire to control and maintain the experience, one spreads the Good Word, and a cult or religion gets founded. This is toxic, because it teaches people to believe your truth rather than teaching them how to find their own. Consequently, this perspective places you fundamentally in the rescuing position of the Drama Triangle, and that is disempowering.

The control fallacy keeps you in the Drama Triangle by defining you either as a perpetual victim or as a savior. If there is too much external control, you are a victim. If there is too much internal control, you are a savior. Neither is true or helpful. When have you used this cognitive distortion? Write an example…

Now write an antidote for it. For example, here are antidotes for the examples above:

I can’t help it if the quality of the work is poor: my boss demanded I work overtime on it.”

“It’s partially my responsibility that my work is not up to my usual standards.”

Why aren’t you happy? Is it because of something I did?”

“Why aren’t you happy?”

Fallacy of Fairness

Life should be fair.

That’s not fair!”

When you insist that life must be fair, you are assuming that your rules for life are the universe’s rules. How likely is that? It is more likely that you have a set of expectations that are more important to you than listening to life and growing. However, you want to feel that you are on the right track, so you look for some sort of validation, either by believing you are doing “God’s will” or by seeking social validation by making money, collecting status symbols, such as houses and cars, or having people laugh at your jokes. The problem with this cognitive distortion is similar to that with control fallacy. Just as you can insist on too much control or give too much control away, you have to find your own balance with fairness. You have to learn to thread the needle between life needing to be fair, on the one hand, and life being unfair, on the other. The reality is that life is neither fair nor unfair. That’s your projection onto life. You can see this if you think about the sun. Does it care whether you get sunburned or not? Does it send out flares because human actions make it mad? If you get too much sun, bad things happen. If you get too little sun, bad things happen. It’s not about the sun being fair; the sun is remarkably consistent at doing what it does; its actions are not about you. It is neither fair nor unfair. Thus, so is most of life. Humans, for the most part, are more interested in getting their needs met than in being fair. If being fair helps them get their needs met, they will be fair. If proclaiming the importance of fairness will get you to play by the rules in a way that gives them an advantage, then advocating fairness, rather than being fair, is what is done. Think about times when people have told you to “play fair” or “be fair,” or told you, “That’s not fair!” What were they doing? They were trying to get their needs met and felt that you were getting yours met at their expense. You would be wise to stop thinking in terms of fairness and unfairness. Such definitions are arbitrary and change based on convenience and self-interest. It is much wiser to think in terms of avoidance of cognitive distortions and the Drama Triangle while cultivating your ability to deeply listen to your emerging potentials.

One of the major reasons you don’t pay more attention to your dreams is that there isn’t much about them that’s fair. They don’t and won’t consistently play by your rules. They will often seem to agree to your rules and then veer off in a way that causes you to feel misled, betrayed or cheated. No wonder you don’t trust them. Think about the dream of the soda-throwing lady. Was anyone playing by her rules? However, the problem is not that your dreams don’t play by your rules; the problem is that you haven’t learned how to play by their rules. If you did, there would no longer be an issue of fairness, because this is not a value or standard that is commonly expressed by interviewed dream characters. Consequently, you wouldn’t let this cognitive distortion get in your way regarding dreaming. Interview your dream characters regularly and you will soon recognize that your dreams transcend issues of fairness. They transcend and include both your sense of fairness and your warped sense of unfairness.

Many near-death and mystical experiences undercut this cognitive distortion. People come away with a conviction that their definition of fairness is totally inappropriate and ridiculously narrow. Consequently, these experiences, like IDL interviewing, tend to be an excellent antidote for this cognitive distortion.

The fallacy of fairness keeps you in the Drama Triangle, by your wanting the world to rescue you by treating you the way you think you deserve to be treated. If it doesn’t do so, it’s persecuting you, and you have earned the right to pout, sulk and blame. In near-death and mystical experiences of unity, you are treated way better than you could possibly deserve, in that you are likely to experience oneness, wisdom and compassion, regardless of your level of development, your treatment of others or your own self-image. Therefore, issues of fairness tend to be transcended, and with it, you gain some freedom from aspects of the Drama Triangle.

The fallacy of fairness is an example of a logical fallacy called “hasty generalization.” It involves mistaking a small incidence (something that happens to you) for reality. Your partner cheats on you and you conclude that’s not fair, which leads to you justifying feelings of hurt, anger and fear. But if you no longer draw the conclusion of fairness, or the lack of it, then other emotional reactions open up. You could laugh at the situation. You could be thankful she’s getting her needs met. You could remain an adult and ask them what’s going on instead of jumping to conclusions.

When have you used this cognitive distortion? Write an example…

Now write an antidote for it. For example, here are antidotes for the example above:

That’s not fair!”

There are a lot of things in life that don’t live up to my expectations. I can learn to deal with that.”


Somebody’s always to blame! It couldn’t be me, could it?

Stop making me feel bad about myself!”

I would be happy if it weren’t for…”

Blaming is a cognitive distortion, because it is irrational. Taking responsibility is one thing, but blaming is another. Is it rational to blame yourself? If others represent those aspects of yourself that you project onto them, then to blame someone else is to persecute the parts of yourself that they represent. Is that what you want to do? If someone hurts you, is it wise for you to then turn around and hurt yourself by blaming? In addition, blaming is regressive. It’s behavior you mastered when you were five. When you blame, you are demonstrating your proficiency at five-year-old behavior. That’s fine, but what about your ability to act like an adult? Can you do that? It’s easy to be mature, competent, friendly and responsible when people are nice to you and when things are going well, but what about those times when people treat you badly or you are under pressure? Character is defined by how you act at such times, not by who you are when everything is either wonderful or cruising along on automatic. When you blame, you give somebody or something power over how you feel and what you can or cannot do. It’s their fault; therefore, you are claiming you are powerless in the face of God’s will, the government’s power or your boss’s policies. Is that smart? Is it rational?

If you blame others or yourself during your waking life, this routinely boomerangs into characters or events persecuting you in your dreams. This is because your dreams mirror your waking problem solving strategies. The soda-throwing lady sometimes blames herself and others in her waking life; is it any wonder that she manufactures persecutors in her dreams? While reducing blaming will reduce dream persecution, it won’t eliminate it, because there are other reasons for apparent dream persecution besides waking blaming. However, if you blame in your waking life, you are thereby incubating dreams that reflect that theme. They will haunt you and unravel the progress you’ve made in your waking life, whether or not you remember them. While blaming others and yourself may feel justified and useful to you, you will pay the price tonight when you go to sleep.

This is another cognitive distortion that tends to be neutralized by near-death and mystical experiences. Because of the experience of unconditional compassion, love and acceptance that is common with these experiences, blame is often replaced by a deep sense of forgiveness. This is itself problematic, because from the perspective of life itself, it may well be that there is no one to forgive and nothing to forgive. However, anything that moves you out of self-persecution is a huge improvement, even if it is later seen to be a delusion.

Blaming keeps you in the Drama Triangle by making you the victim in your own mind. You make yourself powerless, validating feelings of helplessness, hopelessness and depression. Is this what you want? Is this smart? Do you have the ability to think like an adult and resist regression to a five-year-old’s level? Blaming is another example of the ad hominem logical fallacy, whether directed toward others or toward yourself. In this fallacy, instead of examining the thinking that caused you or someone else to make a mistake, you attack yourself or that other person. Blaming always feels justified but looked at objectively, it’s always a self-defeating and stupid reaction to life’s challenges.

When do you blame yourself? Others? Write an example of each…

Now write an antidote for each. For example, here are antidotes for the examples above:

Stop making me feel bad about myself!”

You don’t have the power to make me feel bad about myself unless I give it to you. Why would I want to do that?”

I would be happy if it weren’t for…”

I can choose to be happy independently of what happens or what other people say or do. It’s not always easy, but I can do it.”

Should-ing” on Yourself:

Self-persecution as a lifestyle:

They shouldn’t be doing/saying that…”

I ought to be better/more professional, happier, wealthier, better-looking…”

I must exercise more. I shouldn’t be so lazy.”

I should be loving toward everyone.”

Thinking or talking in terms of “shoulds,” “musts,” or “oughts” is a cognitive distortion, because it is based on the belief that shame, guilt and abuse are effective and worthwhile motivational tools. In the short term, they are effective, in that they get others to discipline themselves so that you don’t have to. If you can brainwash a child, spouse or employee into doing what you want them to do because they should, your life is much simpler. However, you are generating compliance based on fear. That reflects poorly on you and produces resistance in healthy children, spouses, workers and citizens. Shoulding is also a cognitive distortion, because it is dishonest and manipulative. If you love someone, you don’t attempt to scare them or make them feel guilty. For example, some parents who love their children use fear and guilt because they lack patience, tools or self-discipline. Other parents are selfish and use guilt to socialize their child into behaving.

People who have near-death or other mystical experiences often fall into this cognitive distortion. They think they “should” feel more like they did during the experience. They think they “should” do more to keep it alive. This distortion may explain some of the driving force toward proselytization that many people who have near-death experiences feel.

When you use should, must or ought, you keep yourself in the role of the Persecutor in the Drama Triangle. You are persecuting yourself. Some people don’t look at their dreams, because they bring up “shoulds:” “I should be more in control;” “If I were really healthy, I wouldn’t have such irrational and scary dreams.” Before you can look at your dreams in an objective, productive way, you need to outgrow this cognitive distortion.

In addition to being another example of the ad hominem logical fallacy, “should-ing” demonstrates another, called “moral equivalency.” It equates two moral issues that are, in fact, different. The first is your unrealistic expectation for yourself or for others, based on what you have been taught to expect or want to have happen. The second is reality. For example, if you set for yourself the moral expectation not to be lazy, then you will “should” on yourself whenever you don’t exercise “enough.” But since “enough” is always more than what you are doing, you feel justified in constantly beating yourself up. The only way out of this moral fallacy is to identify and give up your unrealistic expectations for yourself and others.

The good news about this cognitive distortion is that it is relatively easy to stop. All you have to do is stop using should, must and ought when you speak. Enlist your children or co-workers to point it out to you when you do it. If you eliminate it from your speech, you will find that you stop talking to yourself, that is, thinking, in those warped, dysfunctional terms. Good alternatives to “should,” “must,” and “ought” are not difficult to find. Look at the examples below.

When have you used “should-ing” on yourself? Write an example…

Now write an antidote for it. For example, here are antidotes for the examples above:

They shouldn’t be doing/saying that…”

I think it would be better if they didn’t do/say that…”

I ought to be better/more professional, happier, wealthier, better looking…”

I think it would be better if I were…”

I must exercise more. I shouldn’t be so lazy.”

I need to exercise more. It would be better if I wasn’t so lazy.”

I should be loving toward everyone.”

I would like to be more loving toward everyone.”

Emotional Reasoning

“I feel it, therefore it must be true.”

Because this feels stupid and boring, it must be stupid and boring.”

This cognitive distortion is the exact opposite of what cognitive behavioral therapy teaches. It says that how you feel determines what you think. Cognitive behavioral therapy says that if you want to change how you feel, you need to change how you think. This distortion says that you can’t change how you think, because your feelings are real. The point is not that your feeling are unreal, but that they make poor masters of the house of your consciousness.

Emotional reasoning is another example of a “living fossil,” like an ancient fish discovered still living in the ocean. It is a way of being that was perfectly normal and common during an earlier era of your development. You have created conditions that have allowed it not only to survive, but to flourish in a time when your needs and challenges have evolved far past it. As a child, your feelings made something real or unreal, good or bad. You didn’t have any choice, because you hadn’t yet developed the ability to think about your feelings. You probably know adults who are quite smart and capable, yet still don’t think about their feelings. Therefore, their preferences define their reality. What they like is good, true and real, while what they don’t like is bad, false and illusory. Consequently, their life is an emotional roller coaster in which they constantly move toward what they like and away from that which they dislike, even when what they like is killing them, and what they dislike is what they need.

The Hindus have a famous metaphor about this. Your body is a chariot, you are the driver and your emotions are the horses. If you let the horses guide the chariot, you may go over a cliff or go nowhere at all. In any case, you are in for a bumpy ride. You need your horses, but not for them to be in charge. This analogy roughly correlates with cognitive behavioral therapy, which puts reason in charge of the chariot. Hinduism improves on this by having Krishna as a guide in the chariot—a metaphor for your life compass. Just using your reason to stop your cognitive distortions is very good, but it is not enough. You need the direction of your life compass.

When you dream, your reality is largely determined by how you feel. If you are threatened or scared, certain things happen in the dream. The lady throws soda. If you stay calm and non-reactive, other things happen in the dream. This is a vast improvement, but it is not enough, because “thinking happy thoughts” and being an optimist, can still be a cognitive distortion. Your emotions are your horses. Let them take you where your life compass tells you to direct them, whether you are awake, dreaming or having a mystical experience. Don’t allow them to choose where you are going to go, unless you like being taken over a cliff every now and then.

In near-death and mystical experiences, extraordinarily positive feelings do determine not only what you think but who you are. It’s as if the horses pulling your chariot grew wings and turned into Pegasus or, more bizarrely, Krishna grew wings and started pulling your chariot. Are such feelings cognitive distortions? Are they to be trusted? If they are cognitive distortions, they are extremely healthy, beneficial ones. Yes, it is important to listen to them and trust them. The challenge is to integrate those feelings in a way that they do not swamp your ability to think. No matter how lofty a feeling is, it takes reason to channel it into a way that is useful and makes a difference.

Whenever you attempt to win an argument inside your head or with someone else by getting angry, “hurt,” excited, defensive or funny, rather than focusing the quality of the reasoning or the evidence, you are using the logical fallacy of “emotional appeal.” It is either an implicit threat: “Bad things will happen if you don’t agree with me.” (I’ll blame you, throw a fit, ignore you, you’ll hurt my feelings and then you’ll be sorry, I’ll withdraw my financial support, cut you off sexually, etc.) It can also be an implicit promise: “Good things will happen if you play along with me. I’ll make you feel good and forget about your problems. I’ll make your life seem easier.” These are promises that you know the other person can’t fulfill because happiness is an inside job, but you will forget that for now because you want to feel good, and they make you feel good.

You use emotional appeals because they often work. There have been times in your life when you have been able make people scared and act out of their fear; you have been able to make people relax, suspend their disbelief and trust you. You know you can manipulate people into not thinking and instead trusting the feelings that you evoke in them. However, you also know that this is dishonest. It is about their weakness and inability to see through your phoniness rather than due to any real strength, other than a cultivated, narcissistic manipulativeness on your part. At some point in life, you and everyone else has to learn how to recognize emotional appeals them and counteract them; no one is born with this ability. Identifying and counteracting emotional appeals is not a skill most people learn because your parents, teachers, as well as product manufacturers and politicians know that keeping you ignorant and unskilled in this area increases their power and control. They get more of what they want out of you, at your expense. Consequently, you fall victim again and again to this logical fallacy throughout your life, not just expressed by others, but also expressed by you toward yourself.

How does emotional reasoning keep you in the Drama Triangle?

When have you used this cognitive distortion? Write an example…

Now write an antidote for it. For example, here are antidotes for the examples above:

Because this feels stupid and boring it must be stupid and boring.”

Just because I have strong feelings toward something or someone, that doesn’t make them true, right or good.”

Fallacy of Change, or

Waiting for Santa Claus

Your happiness depends on change, in others, yourself or both.

I can’t be happy unless you change.”

I can’t be happy until you change.”

I can’t be happy until I change.”

This a cognitive distortion because it puts happiness in a future that does not yet exist and perhaps never will. That makes it impossible to be happy now, which is untrue, since you can choose to be happy now, regardless of how things turn out in the future. “Waiting for Santa Claus” gives your power away to someone else or to the future. Santa Claus can make you happy, but since he’s not here yet, you can’t be happy. Without the power to make yourself happy, you are helpless and hopeless, stuck in the role of the Victim in the Drama Triangle. Sometimes people use this cognitive distortion when they are afraid of their power; perhaps, if they had it, they would misuse it; perhaps, they would be expected to perform, and they are certain they would fail. “Santa Claus” may be a job, Prince Charming, a move, a winning lottery ticket or a promotion. It could be the acknowledgement of one’s children for the sacrifices you made raising them. It could be a return to health. In any case, when you use this cognitive distortion, you are making excuses for staying stuck. If you don’t want to change or don’t see how you can, that is one thing; lying to yourself about it is entirely another.

A lot of people approach dreaming as if they were waiting for Santa Claus. They don’t like their normal, irrational, “unfair” dreams, and so they divide them into two categories, “mundane” or “day residue” dreams and “big,” “spiritual,” or “divinely inspired” dreams. Then, they spend their time ignoring the first and hoping for the second, rather like the skeleton lady in the picture above, ignoring opportunities for love and forever hoping “true,” “pure,” or “real” love will come her way. This classical distinction of dreams and dreaming made in many cultures is a cognitive distortion.

People who have had near-death or mystical experiences can spend their entire lives waiting for lightening to strike again. They may yearn for death, so they can return to the heaven they experienced. What this tends to do is turn life into something stale and dry. Transcendent experiences can separate people from life because by comparison it is not “true,” “pure,” or “real.”

Waiting for Santa Claus is another example of the non sequitur logical fallacy, because it does not follow that happiness depends on change. As Abraham Lincoln said, “Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” You get to choose how you feel independently of conditions and circumstances. You may fight accepting this truth, because it undercuts your victim status and, therefore, the Drama Triangle. Once you fully understand and accept that your happiness is not dependent on outside forces, then you have to decide today, right now, how happy you think you deserve to feel, and why. What are you telling yourself to justify feeling how you do right now instead of feeling happier? If you look closely at your assumptions, you will see that they are logical fallacies. The truth is that there is no reason why you can’t choose to be as happy as you want to be right now. Consider, for example Helen Keller, deaf and blind from early childhood, who graduated summa sum laude and went on to become a successful writer and speaker. If such a person can choose to be happy, you can too.

When have you used this cognitive distortion? Write an example…

Now write an antidote for it. For example, here are antidotes for the examples above:

I can’t be happy unless you change.”

I can be happy whether or not you change.”

I can’t be happy until you change.”

I can be happy now.”

I can’t be happy until I change.”

I can be happy whether or not I change.”

Global Labeling

A global label is a universal generalization about yourself, others or life itself.

You’re a real jerk.”

Because people don’t treat me fairly, the world is a bad, evil place.”

Hobbes was right. Because some people act like animals, the human race is a Darwinian survival of the fittest.”

She abandons her children to strangers.” (If you put your child in childcare.)

Why and how are these statements cognitive distortions? They are exaggerations, and exaggerations are untrue. When you say them, you make yourself wrong. You make it easy for other people to dismiss what you say, because you’ve already undercut your argument. They also put you in the role of the Persecutor in the Drama Triangle, necessitating an eventual descent into the role of the Victim.

We do not use these global statements in dreams, so much as we have conceptual frameworks that assume such statements. For example, if you see a fire in a dream, you may have a conceptual framework that out-of-control fires can destroy houses and kill you. You may see an attractive person in your dream and conclude they are your soul mate. Global labeling also involves jumping to conclusions and overgeneralization. We do this when ambiguity makes us uncomfortable. When we want certainty and need Truth, we tend to reach for the cognitive distortion of global labeling. For example, if you have a near-death or mystical experience and crave security, certainty and direction in your life, you may use global labeling to comfortably and conveniently categorize your experience. It was God. God is Love and Light. God was communing with my soul. My soul survives death. While these may or may not be true statements, they are also global labels, designed to generate certainty and comfort, and to overcome ambiguity.

Global labeling is another example of the ad hominem logical fallacy. Because we can’t or won’t think things through, we stop thinking and start attacking the person rather than the argument. Doing so is a sign of defeat. You’ve already lost the argument when you indulge in this fallacy; you just don’t realize that you have. However, anyone who understands logical fallacies will recognize that you are merely demonstrating your ignorance and intellectual immaturity.

Fortunately, you can easily reduce the impact of this fallacy in your life, merely by eliminating the use of “never” and “always” from your vocabulary. All someone has to do is think of one exception to justify tuning you out. Substitute “usually,” or “often,” or “infrequently” or “rarely.”

When have you used global labeling? Write an example…

Now write an antidote for it. For example, here are antidotes for the examples above:

You’re a real jerk.”

S/he thinks I’m a real jerk.”

Because people don’t treat me fairly, the world is a bad, evil place.”

Because people don’t treat me fairly I don’t have to believe the world is a bad, evil place”

Hobbes was right. Because some people act like animals, the human race is a Darwinian survival of the fittest.”

Hobbes may have been right. However, there’s a lot of evidence that he was wrong.”

She abandons her children to strangers.” (If you put your child in childcare.)

I am trying to make sure my children are cared for by getting help from childcare.

Always Being Right

“I’m right.”

If I’m wrong, that means I’m inferior.”

If I am wrong, that means that I’m stupid or weak, or that I’m a failure.”

It’s more important to be right than it is to be loving.”

This a cognitive distortion, because it’s irrational to expect yourself to be right all the time. In addition to it being impossible, it’s not healthy. You learn from your mistakes and failures. As noted above, your character is determined more by how you handle yourself in times of challenge, than by how much of the time you are right. It takes a lot of energy to be right all the time, energy that could be better spent enjoying life. With this cognitive distortion, you’re always fighting against parts of yourself that you think are a mistake or a failure. Is that wise? There is a continuum between being right and being loving. Those who need to be right all the time are easily seen as rigid, uncaring, self-righteous, opinionated, prejudiced and insensitive. They themselves tend to view those who need to be loving all the time as insipid, spineless, two-faced chameleons, who change with the circumstances in an endless quest to get other people’s approval, because they lack their own. Needing to be right is compensation for a pervasive fear that you are in the wrong and out of control, that you are a failure. If you pretend that you know what you are doing or insist on your correctness long and loud enough, perhaps someone else will believe you, providing you with the validation that you can’t give yourself. True believers are excellent examples of this psychopathology. They know what is right and tell others in the hope that by doing so, it will somehow expiate their pervasive feelings of inadequacy.

When you’re dreaming, you’re usually using this cognitive distortion. That’s because you believe what you think and feel about what you are seeing and doing while you are dreaming. This is a mistake, because what you believe about what you see and do in your dreams is generally more incorrect than correct, as you can demonstrate to your own satisfaction by interviewing a few dream characters. Your conclusions about what you experience in your dreams generally validate your cognitive distortions. For example, you end up concluding that you were right to be scared of that monster that was chasing you, because you end the dream in such a way that any alternative reality is shut out and is not presented. Needing to be right is related to the “black and white” cognitive distortion. The inability to accept being wrong or contradicted is a sign of immaturity while an ability to accept and use ambiguity is a sign of intellectual maturity. Healthy adults can hold two or more contradictory perspectives, feelings or ideas in mind at the same time without having a melt-down. The more you learn to ask questions in your dreams, the more you are moving away from the cognitive distortions in them.

Many people who have had near-death or mystical experiences are stuck in this cognitive distortion. They’ve seen God, learned the secrets of the universe, experienced the Truth and know the nature of reality. The overwhelming clarity, love and wisdom in these experiences can wipe out any and all ambiguity. However, if you have seen the Truth, what’s wrong with that? The problem is that everyone’s account is a little bit different. If they are all True, with a capital T, then truth is so individualized as to be trivial. If they aren’t all True, then cognitive distortion is occurring, and probably a lot of it. Most people resolve this dilemma by pointing out that there is broad agreement on the nature of near-death and mystical experiences, and that’s the Truth. While this may be the case, beware of those who come back from these experiences thinking that they know the Truth. Most probably, they are lost in the delusion of a cognitive distortion, and they want your company in it.

Needing to be right keeps you in the self-righteous, judgmental persecutor role in the Drama Triangle. You see this in true believers of all kinds, who love you unconditionally—as long as you’ll drink their particular brand of Kool Aid. If you do not, there may be attempts to ostracize you or otherwise punish your non-adherence to the current mainstream reality. Galileo and Spinoza are two famous examples of ostracized geniuses that come to mind.

Always needing to be right is also an example of a logical fallacy called “dogmatism.” It occurs when you are unwilling to consider alternatives to what you are sure is right or true. Jesus is Lord because you feel it in your heart. You are sad because you just are. You are a failure because you know you are. You are right because you know the truth. Out of all the many possible or alternative possible ways of seeing, feeling or behaving, only yours is correct, and that is because you know it is. If pressed on this, you may appeal to some untestable reality, “intuition,” or to some unavailable authority, such as “God’s will,” “divine order,” or “karma.” These are not explanations; they are justifications. There is a difference. At best, an explanation appeals to testable, verifiable evidence; a justification is a dogmatic assertion that cannot be verified.

When have you used this cognitive distortion? Write an example…

Now write an antidote for it. For example, here are antidotes for the examples above:

If I’m wrong, that means I’m inferior.”

Being wrong means I’m human. It means I’m alive.”

If I am wrong, that means I’m stupid, weak or that I’m a failure.”

Being wrong means I have an opportunity to pay attention and learn something.”

It’s more important to be right than to be loving.”

Needing to be either pretty much guarantees that I’m neither.”

Heaven’s Reward Fallacy

In the end, you’ll win.

If I sacrifice enough today, I’ll be rewarded someday.”

In the long run, people will realize what a great person I am.”

Heaven’s Reward Fallacy can effectively motivate you into a lifetime of irrational action. It has been used to justify cruelty, abuse, slavery and the withholding of basic human needs and rights from women and children for millennia. In India, it has been used, in the form of the concept of karma, to keep people in their social strata in order to maintain social order. In the West, the belief in salvation by a messiah or other rescuer, or by a place in heaven, has been used to keep human work horses under the yolk. Once this cognitive distortion has been internalized, it becomes “God’s will” or “dharma,” (divine law) that you are where you are in life. It doesn’t have anything to do with oppression by the ruling castes or classes, and even if it does, it’s okay, because someday all will be made right when you get your reward in heaven.

The other basic problem with Heaven’s Reward fallacy is that when you use it, you are not living for today. You are living and waiting for the day when you “come home,” and all accounts are made right. What is delusional about this is that there is no future. The only time that you are ever alive is now. If you are postponing living now until tomorrow, when tomorrow comes, you’ll postpone living until some other tomorrow. You will be like Sisyphus, Godot or the squirrel in the wheel, always going someplace but never getting there.

Some people are afraid that if you challenge this delusion, that people will become hedonists. They won’t save money, they won’t care if they act ethically, they won’t go to work and earn money to care for their families. In other words, without Heaven’s Reward Fallacy, won’t people just become irresponsible? Think this through for a moment. Have you stopped being responsible or goal-oriented at times in your life when you’ve allowed yourself to live for today? The answer is “no.” People don’t have to be lied to or fed delusions in order to be responsible. It’s an unethical and dishonest thing to do that to someone. In addition, it’s based on fear, not love. The fear is that people won’t have any self-control if they find their life compass and answer to it.

Believing in Heaven’s Reward Fallacy keeps you in the Drama Triangle by making your victim and martyr status divine will. It is good and right for you to be persecuted, because God tests those He loves, and besides, you’ll be rescued some day.

Dreaming appears to be a blessed refuge from this pernicious cognitive distortion. Near-death and other mystical experiences can encourage Heaven’s Reward Fallacy by giving you proof that there really is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Heaven’s Reward fallacy is another example of the non sequitur logical fallacy. There is no evidence that you will get the reward that you believe you or others deserve; there is only your belief that this will happen. You want to claim your belief is sufficient evidence, because that belief is so foundational to your world view. If you stopped basing your life on your beliefs and instead started basing it on clear thinking, your life would be disrupted. You would find that others who base their lives on their beliefs are threatened by you, because you no longer mindlessly support the assumptions upon which they base their actions. The consequence is that you may experience extreme social pressure to stop thinking clearly and to go back to a life based on the logical fallacy of appeals to authority: to do what you do because it’s what you were taught to do, because it is “God’s will” (as defined by your culture), or because it will bring you rewards and allow you to avoid social punishment. If you learn to think clearly, you will be respected, but you may not be liked; you may be admired, but you may be despised as a threat. It has always been so. Whenever anyone grows beyond the typical level of acceptable clarity within a particular culture, they become an outcast. Why should you expect it to be different for you?

Do not use the knowledge of probable social rejection because you do not succumb to popular social delusions in order to play the martyr. If you do, you will put yourself back into the Drama Triangle. Just work as being as clear as you can, and let the world adjust to that clarity.

When have you used this cognitive distortion? Write an example..

Now write an antidote for it. For example, here are antidotes for the examples above:

If I sacrifice enough today, I’ll be rewarded someday.”

Now is the only time I can be happy and alive. I’m going to live for today, not sacrifice for some mythical tomorrow.”

In the long run, people will realize what a great person I am.”

In the long run, no one will remember me. If I want to feel alive, I’d better find time for it today, because tomorrow never comes.”


People who project negativity typically have low self-esteem. They feel badly about themselves, and their negativity is simply a reflection of those feelings.

—H Weisinger,

Strictly speaking, negativity is not a cognitive distortion, but it is so fundamental, in that it supports all cognitive distortions, and it is so pervasive, in that it is found in all cognitive distortions, that it deserves special attention. Negativity is not necessarily a sign of irrationality, pessimism, cynicism or any particular cognitive distortion. For example, if you evaluate the pros and cons of a move, investment, relationship, food choice, invitation or activity and decide against it, you’re not being negative in a cognitively distorted way. You might, in fact, say that you are positively against some choice. Making fun of yourself in a self-deprecating way is a relatively harmless type of negativity that is used by confident, successful people. An example is Woody Allen’s famous quote, “How can I believe in God when just last week I got my tongue caught in the roller of an electric typewriter?” Or, when asked, “Do you know a good plastic surgeon,” you respond, “Would I look like this if I did?”

The problem with negativity is not in saying “no” or finding reasons not to do something; it’s when these reasons are based on irrational fears—as most negative reasoning is—or when negativity is expressed more than necessary or in ways that are not necessary. Have you noticed that when you make a negative pronouncement or use negative language, that others around you are more likely to use it as well? For instance, if you say, “This project isn’t going to work out,” you make it more likely that colleagues on the project are going to think or say something similar, thereby making failure a self-fulfilling prophesy. If you use abusive language, like calling someone “stupid” or a government “corrupt,” you make it more likely that those around you will use that same language. This may be exactly what you want to do. However, be very careful about this, because what you are creating is an echo chamber. You are generating a culture of negative values that will reinforce not only your perceptions and world view, but a negative world view. So what? Negative thinking, perceptions and world views put sawdust in the machinery of creative problem-solving. Negativity puts breaks on growth by sowing doubt, skepticism, pessimism, cynicism, resistance, avoidance, confusion and general constipation. If you don’t want to be surrounded by negative thinking, be very careful about what you say and how you think.

It is likely that you are much more negative than you think you are, but you just have not recognized that a lot of what you think and say is negative. For example, thoughts and expressions of doubt and equivocation are negative, in that they undermine your confidence in yourself and that of others in you. Such expressions are quite common in language: “I don’t know;” “Do you think I should…?” “Maybe…” “Perhaps…” “Sort of…” “Kind of…” These common negative speech qualifiers are like raindrops; alone they don’t do much harm, but together and over time, they erode mountains. If you want to erode your determination, goals, plans and purposes, use them.

Negativity is another example of the logical fallacy of emotional reasoning. Once you understand that you are being negative in order to prepare yourself for the worst or to validate false beliefs in your life script, you will see that negativity is a self-destructive adaptation that you habitually make.

You have good reasons why you’re negative. It feels right, true and honest. When you think, “I’m stupid,” “She’s a fool” or “It won’t work,” you don’t feel or think that you are being negative. If someone points out to you that you are, you will defend your words as “cautious,” “realistic” or “necessary.” You think being negative is smart, because it keeps you safe or because it tells the truth about people who are dangerous because they can’t be trusted. Are such beliefs cognitive distortions or not? They probably are, and you are not seeing them as such. If being negative doesn’t keep you safe but only gives you a soothing, comfortable feeling of safety, it’s not helpful; it’s putting you into a state of deeper self-delusion. Your negativity is deluding you into self-destructive thinking, feeling and behavior. If being negative tells a truth about someone that is not necessary to tell, then what you are doing is trashing the part of yourself that the other person represents. This becomes self-evident if you consider your dreams. Who is that monster you run from in your nightmares? Isn’t it a part of yourself? Who are those other people in your dreams? Are they not most likely projections of aspects of yourself? Similarly, all you know of others in your waking world are those associations that you project onto them, based on your previous encounters with them or with people that look and act like them. Like in a dream, how you treat others is how you are treating those aspects of yourself that they personify to you. If that is the case, is it helpful to discount your own worth or tear down your own self-image?

The alternative to negativity is not to be unrealistically positive. It is not to “think happy thoughts.” It is not to be unfailingly cheerful or insufferably optimistic. That feels phony and unrealistic. People will think you are putting on a show and will stay on guard for the inevitable day when your “inner demon” finally surfaces. Don’t be afraid to be honest about your dark side, but emphasize discussing it rather than demonstrating it, explaining it rather than acting out with it in a useless show of drama.

Negativity is meant to be used as an occasional garnish, spice or accent. If you yell all the time, you have to yell even louder if you want people to hear you. If you curse all the time, you have to curse even more if you want people not to tune you out. If you are frequently negative, you have to be even more negative to get people to notice. However, if you rarely yell, you don’t have to speak very loudly very often to get attention; if you don’t curse, when you do, it will have the force of a thunder-clap; if you are seldom negative, when you are, it has both force and significance. Think of negativity like surgery: You don’t want to go under a surgeon’s knife if you don’t have to, but when you do, you want it to be quick and effective, with maximum impact combined with minimal pain.

Do not be afraid of being negative. Be very afraid of habitually voicing negativity or thinking in negative terms. Start watching what you say and how you think. If your thought or behavior is fear-based, there is about a ninety-five percent chance that it is negative. Then, you must ask yourself, “Is this fear realistic?” “Is thinking or expressing this negativity necessary, helpful or genuinely funny?” When you reduce negativity in your life, you will find you have more energy, more focus and more satisfaction, even when you are surrounded by problems, challenges and difficult people.

Steps for Getting Rid of your Cognitive Distortions

  • Assume everything you think is a cognitive distortionuntil proven otherwise.
  • Identify your cognitive distortions.
  • Examine the evidence: “Is it true?”
  • Eliminate your double standard of thinking well of others and thinking badly of yourself. Stop talking down to yourself in your head. Talk to yourself only as you would talk to someone you want to support and nurture, such as a child, patient or client.
  • Measure with a 0 – 10 scale, not a black or white one.
  • Is your anxietyrealistic? Ask others you trust.
  • See how your global self-definitions are rooted in specific behaviors.
  • Whose problem is it? It’s grandiose to blame yourself for someone else’s issue!
  • Do a cost-benefit analysis of your self-talk. Is it working for you? Does it make you more confident and trusting, or more fearful and hopeless?

Substitute rational statements.

Beyond that, look for statements that amplify not only rational truth, but goodness, harmony and inner peace. Ask yourself not only, “Is it true?” but also, “Is it helpful?”

Posted in Assertiveness, Eliminating Guilt, Escaping Drama, Freedom from Delusion, Guilt, Life Scripts, Waking Fear and Anxiety