By Toni Bernhard J.D. in Psychology Today.
In September of 2014, I wrote an article titled “How Distorted Thinking Increases Stress and Anxiety.” It covered the ten most common cognitive distortions. Cognitive distortions are errors in thinking. Although they’re easy to define and often easy to recognize in ourselves, they can be hard to overcome. They’re worth learning about and working on, though, because they can make us miserable (or, as I think of it, intensify our mental suffering).
One of the ten distortions is called personalization, and that’s the focus of this piece.
When you engage in this type of thinking, you erroneously see yourself as the cause of things you’re not responsible for. For this reason, personalization is a major source of anxiety and unhappiness. It also leads to self-blame…and that’s never good for you.
Personalization appears in two forms. #1: You take your own disappointments and struggles personally. #2: You feel responsible for other people’s happiness, even believing that it’s your job to make sure that the people you care about are successful at whatever they do.
I’ll address these two forms of personalization separately.
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