The Science Of Fortune Telling And Cognitive Distortion: How Bad Assumptions Can Destroy Relationships And Life

The Science Of Fortune Telling And Cognitive Distortion: How Bad Assumptions Can Destroy Relationships And Life


Photo by Ketut Subiyanto

On the surface, fortune telling seems innocuous. But not when it comes to mental health. And we’re not talking about fortune telling with a crystal ball.

Fortune telling is actually a thought process in which people tend to believe that they can predict the adverse outcomes of an event.

But this prediction is often made without any reasoning. With fortune telling, people believe something terrible will happen without proof. And fortune telling is a cognitive distortion. Cognitive is conscious mental activity (thinking, reasoning, remembering, imagining, learning words, and using language). Fortune telling distorts reality and does not allow for clear thinking or decision-making.

Fortune telling is tied to anxiety and depression. It is one of the most common cognitive distortions that arise during the course of cognitive restructuring, according to Roamers Therapy, a Chicago-based counseling service.

“Cognitive distortion is continually inflicting bias or criticism or negative thoughts about ourselves,” explained psychotherapist Dr. Teresa Taylor Williams to The Moguldom Nation. Williams runs her own practice in Manhasset, NY, and sees patients for various reasons, including obsessive-compulsive disorder, emotional abuse, marriage therapies, and adult psychotherapy. She is a NYS certified-board certified human services provider, board certified psychotherapist, teacher and administrator who has been an adjunct assistant professor in the CUNY system for 15 years.

“Negative forecasting–or fortune telling–especially that implies a fault or failure in our past can contribute to our distorted thoughts,” continued Dr. Williams. 

Fortune telling is actually common and can be a defense mechanism.

“It can almost serve as a protective response in some way. If you already decide the worst possible thing will happen, then you won’t be disappointed or let down,” Casey O’Brien Martin, a licensed mental health counselor and the founder of Whole Child Counseling, told Pure Wow.

Most everyone will dabble in “what-if” thoughts from time to time, and we can sometimes predict the future using rational thought. You know you will get burned if you touch fire, for example.

Fortune telling, however, is trying to predict the future “when we assume that some event or events will end badly for us, that we will fail at something or we will be in danger, more as an assumption rather than an educated guess…fortune telling is not an accurate assessment based on evidence, it is a global assumption we make without considering the real odds,” according to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Los Angeles.

Fortune telling, however, can be harmful and is often associated with anxiety and depression.

“Those who are anxious about their future and even suffer from anxiety are looking for something to calm their fears might turn to fortune telling as a way to have some control seemingly,” noted Dr. Williams.

You can monitor your thought pattern and try not to fortune tell.

One way is to think of both the bad-case scenario and the good-case scenario, suggested Evolution Counseling. Also, seek professional help.

“Talk to a coach or therapist. If you are struggling with this, know that it is something that can be changed, and it does not necessarily take a long time. Know that it is okay to get support and reach out to a professional, so that you can get strategies very specific to your situation and get results faster,” said Karen Vincent Solutions.

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto, https://www.pexels.com/photo/man-in-blue-crew-neck-shirt-holding-his-head-with-both-hands-4584296/