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Anger Activity Two

By Tricia Andor, Licensed Professional Counselor

When we dig into the causes for anger, four of the Cognitive Distortions noted earlier are common culprits.

The four types of distorted thinking that frequently accompany anger problems are:

  1. All-or-nothing thinking
  2. Jumping to conclusions (aka making assumptions)
  3. Should statements
  4. Labeling

Here’s a review of these four distortions.

All-or-Nothing Thinking

Definition: You see things in black-and-white categories. There are only two categories: success or failure.


“Either I’m perfectly competent at everything I do or I’m a total failure!”

You planned to eat three cookies and instead, ate eight, then conclude “My whole diet is blown! I may as well finish the rest off.”

“Either I find a job that pays top dollar, or my whole job search is a waste of time!”

“I lost the election for president of the club; now I’m a zero.”

Jumping to Conclusions

“Mind Reading”

Definition: You make a negative interpretation even though there are no definite facts that convincingly support your conclusion.
You arbitrarily conclude that someone is reacting negatively to you, and you don’t bother to check this out.


Your boyfriend doesn’t compliment you after you got dressed up and you conclude “He thinks I’m unattractive.”

Someone interrupts you and you conclude “they think they’re better/smarter/more interesting than me.”

You’re telling someone about a problem and they look at their clock; you conclude “they don’t even care about what I’m saying!”

“She wants to hang out with her other friends and didn’t invite me. She’s outgrown our friendship.”

“The students didn’t answer questions during my lecture; they don’t like me.”

“The reason that guy in the Porsche pulled up so close to me is because he thinks he’s better than me.”

The Fortune Teller Error

Definition: You anticipate that things will turn out badly, and feel convinced that your prediction is an already-established fact.


“I’m going to be depressed forever. No treatment or therapy will work for me; I’ll going to be miserable forever.”

“I’m going to pass out or go crazy (with no history of either).”

Before a speech you think, “my mind is going to go blank and I’ll forget what I’m going to say!”

“This party is going to be a drag.”

You’re having a hard time completing a homework assignment and conclude: “I’ll never get this done.”

Should Statements

Definition: You try to motivate yourself with “shoulds” and “shouldn’t”s, as if you had to be whipped and punished before you could be expected to do anything.


“I should be nice to everyone I meet.”

“She should have appreciated all the work I put into volunteering.”

“My family should be happy to see me when I get home from work.”

“I shouldn’t have to struggle to provide for my family.”

“People should think and act the way I do.”

“I should be able to solve all my problems easily.”

“I shouldn’t feel down unless something big has happened, like a death.”

“I should want to have my devotional time everyday.”

Labeling and Mislabeling

Definition: This is an extreme form of overgeneralization. Instead of describing your error, you attach a negative label to yourself: “I’m a loser.” When someone else’s behavior rubs you the wrong way, you attach a negative label to him or her: “What a louse.”


You forget to bring treats to your writing group and conclude, “I’m such an idiot.”

Your colleague contributes half of what you do for a project; you conclude “she’s a loser.”

“The new secretary didn’t know what accounts receivable were – ha! What an airhead!”

“That driver just cut me off – that bastard!”

Here are some questions and suggestions to help raise your awareness about the role these four distortions may play in your anger:

  1. Ask: In what situations am I most likely to use All-Or-Nothing Thinking?
  2. Mind Reading When angry with someone, it’s easy to fill in the blanks about the other person’s motives with what you think is the reason for what they’ve said or done. Recognize that if the other person hasn’t said why they did what they did, your interpretation may be exactly that: an interpretation. And it may be an incorrect interpretation. Look for times you’re telling yourself things like:
    • “She spoke in that abrupt tone because she wants to control me.”
    • “He made a mistake on his project because he doesn’t really care about quality work or the company.”
    • “I know why she didn’t call me back – she got my message and just thought, ‘I’ve got more important things to do than to call him back.’”

    Right now, think about a person with whom you’re angry. Notice the ways in which you’ve filled in the blanks for reasons behind why he said what he said or she did what she did (“S/he did this because…”). Admit to yourself that, instead of knowing for sure why someone did something, the reason is simply unknown to you.

  3. Should Statements Anger with other people typically has more to do with using the “should statements” on others, rather than yourself. Think again about the person or situation you are most angry with right now. Notice all the ways you’re telling yourself that “He should have known,” “They should have told me why…,” or “She shouldn’t have asked me to…”
  4. Labeling This one is easy to identify. Notice words you’re using about the person you’re mad at. “Jerk.” “Idiot.” “Ass hole.” “Loser” “Bitch.” “Crazy.” “Freak.”

angry birdsFor the coming week: Keep a daily list of times when you are angry – at home, with family, driving, at work. At the end of the day, review these four Cognitive Distortions list and identify which you were employing at the time when you were angry.