Learning how to defeat cognitive distortions and magical thinking in adults is a skill set needed in our modern world. These harmful thought distortions are more common than you realize. Do you know how to spot the symptoms and fit them? Come and see how to do it.
This article discusses the psychological effects of a clinical disorder. You are likely to encounter it, so hang in there, and you may learn something helpful.
Mental Filter Distortion
A mental distortion is a thinking pattern that presents a skewed interpretation of reality. Everyone has a mental filter that helps us decipher and categorize our experiences very quickly. It is a mechanism of the mind which saves bandwidth for thinking. When this filter is operating correctly, it helps us make life-saving decisions.
When this filter is corrupted with harmful thinking, it causes cognitive distortions. A distorted mental filter is what psychologists call magical thinking. It results in a worldview with a skewed set of values and thinking — it creates a storybook land. Storybook land is the name of an amusement park in New Jersey, but it’s also a term for a mental disorder based on thinking which is not based on reality. One these fun and harmless entertainment and the other is destructive and dangerous.
Learning how to defeat cognitive distortions starts with recognizing the symptoms of these harmful scripts. Then we must remove the source of the programming which installs this programming in our worldview. Our worldview is a filter we use to make routine decision-making easier. However, this filter can become distorted when make-believe is used instead of rational thought.
Mental or thought distortions are not considered a mental illness in and of themselves; they are a symptom of underlying mental disorders or diseases. For example, almost one-half of the population submits to regular sessions of cognitive distortions and magical thinking in adults every week.
These distortions are patterns of thinking or believing which have the potential to cause harm to yourself and others. These scripts are based on false, distorted, or inaccurate information.
We are susceptible to this kind of thinking when we are exposed to propaganda that uses groupthink manipulation tactics. These tactics are the foundation of the advertising industry. They didn’t invent them. They copied them from mind control methods of the ancient mystery religions of the Medittrainian region Circa 5000 BCE.
Today, people are exposed to these tactics in all kinds of media and accepted social organizations, from Western Organized Religion to politics.
Dangers of Storybook Land Make-Believe and Pretending
Pretending by itself isn’t a bad thing. Children spend a lot of time in their imaginary worlds of play. Adults need to play too, but there are differences between children and adults. Children do not create rules or values that run a society; adults do.
We allow children to have imaginary friends and enemies during playtime. We don’t want them to use their imagination to put them in jeopardy. You don’t want your child to run into a busy street because their imaginary enemy is chasing them.
Children also use imitating and pretending to learn skills and behaviors in a safe environment. This is a beneficial use of mental filter distortion. Children mimic adult behaviors. It is a mirror of what they observe. Children know they are acting out and using their imagination to play and learn. So, when a child is pretending, and they say that a monster is chasing them, we know it is just a game. They know it is just pretending.
Adults pretend they are being pushed down to the floor by the power of the holy ghost at Church. Even though they are pretending, they claim it is real, which is how a mental filter distortion becomes accepted in a culture. How did this craziness happen?
Cognitive Distortions and Magical Thinking in Adults
The problem begins when adults accept religious beliefs, which confuse myths with facts. It sets a dangerous precedent. These distortions tend to get worse. Studies link this thinking to other mental illnesses, such as depression, dysphoria, and anxiety disorders. When the mind is unhealthy, it is easier for others to manipulate our thinking.
Imaginary beliefs are the platform for mental filter distortion. So religious beliefs are not harmless; they promote “cognitive distortion magical thinking in adults.” This kind of thinking can become a dangerous slope leading to violence.
People submit to programming, which distorts their thinking. It all starts with pretending. The greater the exposure, the more susceptible you become to greater distortions.
“In every state of the Union, Fundamentalists still fight to ban all the science they dislike and prosecute all who teach it. To them, ‘traditional family values’ denote their right to keep their children as ignorant as their grandparents (and to hate the same folks grand-dad hated.)” ― Robert Anton Wilson, Sex, and Rockets: The Occult World of Jack Parson
Imagination is Not the Problem
“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift, and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.” — Albert Einstein
The Dangers of Storybook Land
“Magical thinking cognitive distortion in adults” is a term that describes an obsession with an imaginary construct of reality. It is a clinical term for what happens when imitating and pretending takes the place of reality and distorts our cognitive ability. It can manifest in different ways. It often shows up as a superiority complex or in paranoid delusions of imaginary enemies.
Organized religion is the source of the programming that creates this condition. Religions use powerful psychological tools, which include self-hypnosis and group hypnosis methods. These tools of propaganda are effective at changing thinking. Religions protect their customer base. They train members to attack anything which threatens the boundaries of their system.
The more of this harmful propaganda they consume, the more likely they are to accept extremist ideologies. Who would do that? You would be surprised to find out how many people do just that.
What is the difference between living with imagination and living in an imaginary world? It is simple. When you use your imagination to create things, the results materialize and are measurable. Your efforts leave empirical evidence. You imagine a spoon carved out of wood. You get a knife and carve out the spoon you imagined.
The problem occurs when adults substitute legitimate science for mythology. It becomes a bigger problem when people use myths to create laws that govern others. These are the negative consequences of living in storybook land. It puts us on a slippery slope leading toward a religious monarchy in charge of a government.
Religion is where we find cognitive distortions and magical thinking in adults honed to an art. When you can substitute myth for reality, you can believe anything. You can justify the denial of basic human rights.
You can see the adverse effects in the US with the overturning of Row vs. Wade. All rights begin with personal autonomy. When this discretion is taken away from one gender, it sets the stage for other rights to be taken away as well. It substantiates the right to commit acts of violence in the name of religion. It’s like a return to the dark ages. This kind of thinking promotes ethnic, racial, gender, and religious discrimination. You can trace most of the wars and conflicts of the war to those who hold fundamentalist or extremist religious views.
How to Defeat Cognitive Distortions
1) Fix Your Programming
Many people inherit their religious beliefs from their families. Children are easy to brainwash; they are trusting. So they accept the belief in mythology. They have no choice but to obey.
It is not surprising if this situation sounds familiar. Most religious converts occur before the age of six. Some people think this amounts to child abuse, and they may be right. If this fits your situation, it is not your fault. But now that you are an adult, it is your personal and social responsibility to fix your programming. You must take responsibility and learn how to defeat cognitive distortions in your beliefs and values.
Perhaps you joined one of the main regions because you were in need, in crisis. People in a crisis of any kind are also vulnerable to groupthink manipulation tactics. They promise to make you healthy or rich, but in the end, these promises are empty. Imitating and pretending only waste your time and cause you harm.
Now, more than ever, you must learn to become a freethinker and not a follower. We recommend:
We all like to think we are too smart to get manipulated, but intelligence is not a safeguard against the power of religious indoctrination. The membership of organized religion is full of intelligent college-educated professionals. Most of them are lifelong members because they were indoctrinated as children.
2) Speak Up and Speak Out
Organized religions want us to be tolerant of their beliefs. They want to be free to teach their doctrines and prey in public schools. But religious freedom begins with being free from religion. So, it is time to confront those who want to use religion as an excuse to promote inherently destructive ideologies. It is time to speak up and speak out. Being tolerant is what allows their extremist ideas to become accepted.
Speak out but learn to be pro-facts and not anti-religion. Learn how religion uses the cultural narrative to protect its customer base. It all depends on where you live. The three faiths that dominate half of the world’s population come from the Abrahamic religions (1), the Semitic religions, Christianity, Islam, and Judaism.
“Hypocrisy and distortion are passing currents under the name of religion.” — Mahatma Gandhi
“Religious traditions can be reinterpreted in a manner that assists healing, corrects distortions, and expands vision.” — Larry Graham
Be careful when speaking up and confronting those who hold their belief more sacred than human life. Pointing out the errors of their worldview threatens their identity. In many places, the laws of the land protect religious mythology. Human rights are secondary to superstition. So, pointing out errors and making fun of their imaginary friends and enemies is an “infringement of their rights.” These belief distortions give them the right to protect their version of storybook land.
Realize it is acceptable for them to discriminate against you for promoting unacceptable points of view. For instance, if you try to practice Wicca openly across the street from a church, you will subject yourself to violence. So, be safe and measured when confronting the dominant religious mythology.
It is dangerous enough for people to have their religion. It becomes a social problem when people use it as a smokescreen to deny other people their rights. Nor should you allow them to use it to create laws that govern society. Don’t ignore the use of religion to promote discrimination and prejudice.
If people want to live their lives in storybook land, they need to know that their beliefs have negative consequences. If they are open-minded enough to engage in independent research, we point them to the comparative analysis process. It’s a scientific method of comparative religious study. Again, be careful. Those with “deeply held” religious beliefs will protect them using violence if necessary.
3) Don’t Confuse Religion with Spirituality
We are all part of a great spiritual experiment. We are consciousness in a biodegradable container; it is what ancient cultures call the soul or spirit. Religion has nothing to do with consciousness or spirit. It is a mind game designed to make you a lifelong paying customer. Religion tries to assimilate all things spiritual to legitimize their con job. Don’t confuse religion with spiritual things.
Joseph Campbell was a teacher of comparative religious studies. He talked a lot about the authentic spiritual quest. It is the Hero’s Journey (2) found in many ancient cultures. Be a freethinker and walk your spiritual journey. Don’t settle for counterfeit imaginary friends.
We all need to learn how to defeat cognitive distortions. Otherwise, it will continue to be a stumbling block to progress as long as make-believe is an accepted worldview. Imitating and pretending are good tools for children. In the hands of religion, these tools are dangerous.