Mervin Smucker. Where Do Negative Thoughts and Thinking Errors Come from?

People tend to have an abundance of negative thoughts that are based on distorted thinking. According to cognitive therapy, as developed by Professor A.T. Beck (Beck et. al., 1979), negative automatic thoughts and cognitive distortions originate from underlying assumptions and schemas about ourselves and our world. These underlying beliefs predispose us to becoming emotionally distraught (e.g., anxious, depressed) during stressful times and often activate our negative thinking about personal worth or what is important to us in life. For example, if I believe that, Unless I am liked by everyone, my life is meaningless, or If I do not succeed at everything I undertake, I am a failure, then I am vulnerable to being overwhelmed with negative automatic thoughts as soon as these beliefs are activated by stressful events (e.g., if I am disliked by someone, or if I fail at something I attempt). A critical goal of cognitive therapy is to recognize, challenge, and modify specific underlying assumptions that predispose people to depression and anxiety in times of stress.

Dr. Mervin Smucker is an international trauma consultant and author of numerous articles and books on trauma and cognitive-behavioural therapy interventions.