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From Helplessness to Hopelessness … to helpfulness and hopefulness:

“Positive statements you make to yourself have little if any effect, what is crucial is what you think when you fail, using the power of non-negative thinking. Learned helplessness, is the giving-up reaction that follows from the belief that whatever you do doesn’t matter, you will in any case fail”

Seligman, 1990: Learned Optimism

Aaron Beck, a psychoanalytic therapist, contends that people with emotional difficulties tend to commit characteristic “logical errors” that tilt objective reality in the direction of self-depreciation. Let us look at some of the systematic errors in reasoning that may lead to faulty assumptions and misconceptions;

Arbitrary inferences: refer to making conclusions without supporting and relevant evidence, this includes “catastrophizing” or thinking of the absolute worst scenario and outcomes for most situations.

Selective abstraction: is to form a conclusion based on an isolated detail of an event. In this process other information is ignored, and the significance of the total context is missed. The assumption is that the events that matter are those dealing with failure and deprivation.

Overgeneralization: is a process of holding extreme beliefs on the basis of a single incident and applying them inappropriately to dissimilar events or settings.

Magnification, minimization: consist of perceiving a case or situation in a greater or lesser light than it truly deserves. You might make this cognitive error by assuming that even minor mistakes at work could easily create a crisis and might result in psychological damage or dismissal.

Personalization: is a tendency for individuals to relate external events to themselves, even when there is no basis for making this connection

Labeling and mislabeling involve portraying one’s identity on the basis of imperfections and mistakes made in the past and allowing them to define one’s true identity,

Polarized thinking; involves thinking in all-or-nothing terms, or categorizing experiences in either-or-extreme. With such dichotomous thinking, things are labeled in black and white terms. You might view yourself as either being the perfectly competent worker or as a total flop if you are not fully competent.

(Corey, 2005: Theory and Practice of Counselling and Psychotherapy).

Activity: Can you provide examples from your own life? Do you perhaps know someone that tend to commit these systematic errors in reasoning?

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