One of my favorite books of late was written by David D. Burns, MD. Burns is a professor emeritus in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Stanford University School of Medicine. He popularized Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy.
The book has been helpful to me in life, as well as with students to identify what Burns has termed “Cognitive Distortions“. I thought I would share them here. Alerting yourself to them in yourself and in your students is one of the great things a teacher can to do help students become aware of distorted thinking.
- All-or-Nothing Thinking: You look at things in absolutes, black and white. “This is the only way to sing this music.” “I can’t study singing and keep a day job at the same time.””I can either be a mom or a singer.””I can get married or have a singing career.”
- Overgeneralization: You view a negative event as a never-ending pattern of defeat. “If I had only been able to win that competition I would have been successful by now.””If I just knew how to sing properly, I wouldn’t have to be still taking lessons.”
- Mental Filter: You dwell on the negatives and ignore the positives. “I can’t believe that I didn’t get the high note in that phrase. Now the whole song is ruined.” “I don’t even know why I try: that piece sucked!”
- Discounting the positives: You insist that your accomplishments or positive qualities “don’t count.” “The first part went great, but who cares, all anyone noticed was when I went up on my words.”
- Jumping to conclusions: (A) Mind reading – you assume that people are reacting negatively to you when there’s no definite evidence for this; “My teacher hates my voice and thinks I suck at singing, I just know it.” (B) Fortune Telling – you arbitrarily predict things will turn out badly. “I know that my audition is going to suck.””I know that this coach is going to ream me out for how I sing this.”
- Magnification or Minimalization: You blow things way out of proportion or you shrink their importance inappropriately. “I am never going to be a singer ever.””I am never going to get a technique of singing that makes me feel free and easy in singing, I’m just not good enough.””
- Emotional Reasoning: You reason from how you feel: “I feel like an idiot, so I really must be one.” Or “I don’t feel like doing this, so I’ll put it off.”“I feel terrible about how I sang today, so I must be a terrible singer.”
- “Should Statements”: You criticize yourself or other people with “Shoulds” or “Shouldn’ts,””Musts,””Oughts,””Have tos” are similar offenders. “I should really be farther along in my singing, technique, musicianship, career, life, etc etc.”
- Labeling: You identify with your shortcomings. Instead of saying, “I made a mistake,” you tell yourself, “I’m a jerk,” or “a fool” or “a loser.” “I am just a second-rate singer””I’m just an avocational singer, I’m not good enough to compete with other singers.” “I am a mezzo, soprano, tenor, baritone, bass-baritone, etc.”
- Personalization and Blame: You blame yourself for something you weren’t entirely responsible for, or you blame other people and overlook ways that your own attitudes and behavior might contribute to a problem. “It’s all my fault for not being able to sing that well.” “My teacher wants to rework something on my voice, it’s all my fault for not being where I should be.” “It’s my old coaches fault that I failed to learn Italian diction very well.”