Certain results then follow in the development of the ordinary child. One result is a denial in awareness of the satisfactions that were experienced. The other is to distort the symbolization of the experience of the parents. The accurate symbolization would be: I perceive my parents as experiencing this behavior as unsatisfying to them. When you feel approval from others, even strangers, your brain releases opioids. These activate our brain's reward system by triggering release of dopamine, the neurotransmitter that regulates emotion and feelings of pleasure. When you help someone else, your body switches into tend-and-befriend mode, releasing another chemical, oxytocin. This motivates you to bond with others and to act in others' best interests. Oxytocin flows when a mother breastfeeds a child, when parents otherwise interact with their children, or when people physically touch in a caring way. We're hardwired to connect. It's built into our biology. Social insults, viewed in brain scans, hit us the same way as a punch in the nose, lighting up the same structures and circuitry in our brain. When we are feeling unworthy and we protect ourselves from being seen, we are stuck in fight-or-flight or freeze mode. The primitive brain perceives separation, experiences mistrust, and then tries to control and defend, perhaps aggress. In short, finding the shades of gray between the black and white. For example, if black-and-white thinking causes you to feel envious while scrolling through your friends' newsfeeds or Instagram posts, remind yourself that life is complex and multilayered. This means that, in reality, no one's life can be perfect all the time. Make a list of at least three things you feel grateful for in your life and three positive qualities you love about yourself that you can refer to whenever you're feeling bad about yourself. Jumping to conclusions. At the heart of this cognitive distortion is the belief that we know exactly what another person is feeling and thinking--and exactly why they act the way they do.

It's a kin to being a mind reader. It's not hard to imagine how communicating via text, e-mail, and social-media messaging makes this kind of cognitive distortion more likely to manifest. This is because when important communication clues are missing, like body language and vocal tone, we're more likely to misunderstand what people are trying to communicate and therefore fill in the gaps by jumping to conclusions. Misunderstandings often lead to online drama, disagreements, and conflict. The distorted symbolization, distorted to preserve the threatened concept of self, is: I perceive this behavior as unsatisfying, It is in this way, it would seem, that parental attitudes are not only introjected, but what is much more important, are experienced not as the attitude of another, but in distorted fashion, as if based on the evidence of one's own sensory and visceral equipment. Thus, through distorted symbolization, expression of anger comes to be experienced as bad, even though the more accurate symbolization would be that the expression of anger is often experienced as satisfying or enhancing. The more accurate representation is not, however, permitted to enter awareness, or if it does enter, the child is anxious because of the inconsistency he is entertaining within himself. Consequently, I like baby brother remains as the pattern belonging in the concept of the self, because it is the concept of the relationship which is introjected from others through the distortion of symbolization, even when the primary experience contains many gradations of value in the relationship, from I like baby brother to I hate him! In this way the values which the infant attaches to experience become divorced from his own organismic functioning, and experience is valued in terms of the attitudes held by his parents, or by others who are in intimate association with him. These values come to be accepted as being just as real as the values which are connected with direct experience. The self which is formed on this basis of distorting the sensory and visceral evidence to fit the already present structure acquires an organization and integration which the individual endeavors to preserve. Behavior is regarded as enhancing this self when no such value is apprehended through sensory or visceral reactions; It is here, it seems, that the individual begins on a pathway which he later describes as I don't really know myself. We have only weak activation of our prefrontal cortex, which is the brain area responsible for connection. We see ourselves as separate from one another. From an evolutionary perspective, maybe we're in the midst of a paradigm shift. Our actions used to be dictated by our primitive brain, the one that initiates the fight-or-flight or freeze response, the one ruled by unconscious biases and toxic messages, the one that has been taught a fundamental unworthiness. Over the course of evolution, the human prefrontal cortex is growing and the interconnections are increasing so we have more control over the more primitive and reactive brain structures and are better able to move into the tend-and-befriend response, which fosters our need for connection and belonging. It can help us see past that separateness, feel empathy, experience our shared situation, and care and collaborate.

Consider the science. Neuroscientist Matthew Lieberman, director of UCLA's Social Cognitive Neuroscience lab, has spent decades studying how the brain responds to social interactions. Lieberman identified three neural networks in the brain that encourage social connection. Blood flow increases in whatever part of the brain is active, and fMRI technology detects changes in blood flow, so the imaging allows us to see which parts of the brain are activated under different conditions. One way to counteract this cognitive distortion is to simply ask yourself, Do I have enough evidence to support my conclusion? Should statements. Many people use should statements like, I should do this or I must do that as a way to motivate themselves. But did you know this kind of thinking often causes the opposite result? This is because should, ought, and must statements can cause us to feel angry, pressured, resentful, and depressed. For example, someone might feel they should, ought, or must get married because they're at an age where many of their friends are getting married, buying homes, having kids, and settling down. This person notices that after being on social media they question their direction in life. But in actuality, this person just completed graduate training in a field they love. Doing what they thought they should do, based on what their friends are doing, might have prevented them from pursuing their passions. And it's important to remember that what we say to ourselves influences how we feel! The primary sensory and visceral reactions are ignored, or not permitted into consciousness, except in distorted form. The values which might be built upon them cannot be admitted to awareness. A concept of self based in part upon a distorted symbolization has taken their place. Out of these dual sources -- the direct experiencing by the individual, and the distorted symbolization of sensory reactions resulting in the introjection of values and concepts as if experienced -- there grows the structure of the self. Drawing upon the evidence and upon clinical experience, it would appear that the most useful definition of the self-concept, or self-structure, would be along these lines. The self-structure is an organized configuration of perceptions of the self which are admissible to awareness.

It is composed of such elements as the perceptions of one's characteristics and abilities; It is, then, the organized picture, existing in awareness either as figure or ground, of the self and the self-in-relationship, together with the positive or negative values which are associated with those qualities and relationships, as they are perceived as existing in the past, present, or future. It may be worth while to consider for a moment the way in which the self-structure might be formed without the element of distortion and denial of experience. Such a discussion is to some extent a digression, and anticipates a number of the propositions which follow, but it may also serve as an introduction to some of them. The first network manages our ability to feel social pain and pleasure. When we experience social pain--a snub, teasing, rejection--the feeling is as real as hunger or other physical distress. In fact, the internal stress response to social pain is identical to that of physical pain. This was hard for me to wrap my head around, so I dove into the research on social pain to learn more. In one enlightening experiment, researchers created an automated computer protocol that gradually excluded participants from taking part in a multiplayer game. So we're clear: social exclusion and discrimination literally cause pain--so much so that researchers found that Tylenol effectively reduces the anguish of social loss! Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me. That old childhood chant got it so wrong. I wouldn't want to repeat it to the parents of a kid who committed suicide because they were bullied. We need to take social pain more seriously. Skill-Building Strategies Below are four ways you can challenge and change cognitive distortions when logged on and in real life. Keep a daily thought journal. The first step in making changes of any kind is to identify what exactly needs changing. Get in the habit of jotting down all the negative and troublesome thoughts you have when scrolling through social media. Extend this to include all the negative thoughts you have in real life as well.

Make a habit of regularly examining your thoughts. Set aside a time each day to read over all the negative thoughts written down in your journal. When reviewing them, practice being as objective as possible. The purpose of this exercise is to learn to identify the most common cognitive distortions affecting your thinking and in what context or circumstances they are most likely to occur. If we ask ourselves how an infant might develop a self-structure which did not have within it the seeds of later psychological difficulty, our experience in client-centered therapy offers some fruitful ideas. Let us consider, very briefly, and again in schematic form, the type of early experience which would lay a basis for a psychologically healthy development of the self. The beginning is the same as we have just described. The child experiences, and values his experiences positively or negatively. He begins to perceive himself as a psychological object, and one of the most basic elements is the perception of himself as a person who is loved. As in our first description he experiences satisfaction in such behaviors as hitting baby brother. But at this point there is a crucial difference. The parent who is able (1) genuinely to accept these feelings of satisfaction experienced by the child, and (2) fully to accept the child who experiences them, and (3) at the same time to accept his or her own feeling that such behavior is unacceptable in the family, creates a situation for the child very different from the usual one. The child in this relationship experiences no threat to his concept of himself as a loved person. He can experience fully and accept within himself and as a part of himself his aggressive feelings toward his baby brother. We need to recognize that social pain is hurtful, and that trauma can come from the banal, not just the extreme. We need to recognize, too, that it hurts if someone says it hurts. What hurts one person is influenced by their identity and history. It might not hurt someone else, but that doesn't mean it hurts less. In the case of bullying, we know that when the victim receives social support, it lessens the harm. We need allies to step up.