194: How to Crush Negative Thoughts: Jumping to Conclusions

Today, the Cognitive Distortion Starter Kit Continues with

Jumping to Conclusions

Rhonda opens today’s podcast by reading beautiful email comments from Kevin Cornelius and Thai-An Truong. Both are dear friends and colleagues of Rhonda and David.

Then Rhonda and David discuss Jumping to Conclusions, which is the fifth cognitive distortion. It’s defined as jumping to conclusions that aren’t necessary supported by the evidence. There are two common forms: Fortune Telling and Mind-Reading.

Fortune-Telling: You tell yourself that bad things are about to happen. There are two common examples:

Hopelessness: You tell yourself that things will never change, that you’ll never recover, or that your problems will never be solved. David explains why this distortion is impossibly distorted and virtually never true. And yet, when people are depressed, they nearly always fall victim to the belief that things will never change. It’s much like being in a hypnotic trance, because you are telling yourself and believing things that can’t possibly be true.

Anxiety: You make catastrophic predictions that gradually exaggerate any real danger. All anxiety results from this distortion. For example, if you have a fear of flying, you may be telling yourself that the plane could run into turbulence and crash. Anxiety is also a self-induced hypnotic trance, because you are giving yourself and believing highly irrational messages. For example, one of David’s graduate students screamed loudly when she saw his meek little kitten, Happy, because she had a cat phobia and was telling herself that cats are extremely violent and dangerous.

Mind-Reading: You assume that you know what other people are thinking when you really don’t. There are three common examples:

Social Anxiety / Shyness: For example, other people are judging you and can see how anxious you are. You may also assume that other people rarely or never get anxious and that they wouldn’t be interested in you.

Relationship Conflicts: You may tell yourself that the other person only cares about himself/herself and that s/he is intentionally being “unreasonable.” You may also do the opposite type of mind-reading and assume that others are quite impressed with you when they’re actually turned off or feeling annoyed with you.

Depression: You tell yourself that nobody loves you or cares about you.

Many of the Truth-Based Techniques can be useful, such as Examine the Evidence, the Experimental Technique, or the Survey Technique. Motivational Techniques like Positive Reframing can be tremendously helpful. And Role-Playing Techniques like Externalization of Voices with the Acceptance Paradox can also be very useful.

David and Rhonda play a short audio clip from the treatment of a severely depressed man named Bradley with a history of extreme abuse growing up. He is struggling with feelings of hopelessness, which he rated at 80 (on a scale of 0 to 100) due to these two thoughts:

  1. I’m damaged beyond repair so nothing can help.
  2. Psychotherapy homework can’t possibly help so there’s no use trying it.

Prior to the audio clip, David and Bradley have done Positive Reframing asking:

  1. What do your negative thoughts and feelings show about you and your core values that is beautiful and awesome?
  2. What are some advantages, or benefits, of your negative thoughts and feelings?

David and Bradley then attack his negative thoughts using a variety of role-playing techniques, with many role reversals. By the end of this approximately 13-minute excerpt, Bradley no longer believes these two thoughts and his feelings of hopelessness have dropped to zero.

We are incredibly grateful to “Bradley” for giving us permission to publish this very personal and inspiring audio clip!

Thanks for listening!

Rhonda and David


You can reach Dr. Burns at Dr. Rhonda Barovsky practices in Walnut Creek, California, and can be reached at She is a Certified TEAM-CBT Level 4 therapist and trainer.  She specializes in the treatment of trauma, anxiety, depression, and relationship problems. She also does forensic work in family court, but finds TEAM-CBT to be way more rewarding!

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