Label Distortion / Emotion

Identifying the type of cognitive distortion(s) we engage in is an important skill that helps us move beyond the “automatic thoughts” that enter our minds and the feelings we associate with them. Labeling these distortions involves taking time to become familiar with the types of distortions, as well as considering how the thoughts trigger specific emotions in us. Research in cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) gives us some insight into the range of cognitive habits we can fall into–and a lexicon to help label them in a way that will be useful to understanding ourselves and improving our well-being.

While most people have little difficulty identifying what kind of emotion they are experiencing, there are times when it can be a challenge to precisely label them. Anxiety can mask itself as anger; fear or embarrassment as depression. Sometimes the intensity of the emotion needs to be identified before our minds are fully prepared to manage our feelings and adapt our cognitive habits. Assessing the situations that make us feel a certain way and developing a rich vocabulary for labeling our emotions can provide clarity.

In addition to CBT, the positive psychology movement has created numerous evidence-based strategies for managing emotions, cultivating resilience, and promoting well-being.


Developing the self-awareness needed to understand your own response to stress, including recognizing and managing emotions, is a skill essential to growth and well-being. Cultivating a commitment to self-reflection and personal growth comes over time. It sometimes begins with a moment of insight generated through an unexpected interaction, uncomfortable situation or other jarring experience. Such experiences can displace our understanding of our selves and prompt us to examine the cognitive assumptions, habits and expectations we bring to our perception of ourselves and others.

Understanding the pathways that drive self-awareness and the growth needed to develop emotional maturity is largely the purview of the field of psychology that deals with emotional intelligence (EI). Emotional intelligence is the capacity to recognize, understand, manage and express our own emotions, as well as to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically. Popularized by Daniel Goleman in the 1990s, the concept of EI has been embraced by educators across disciplines as key to equipping people to learn and grow both in their professional as well as personal lives. Learn more about emotional intelligence and the Trait Emotional Intelligence Questionnaire (TEIque) self-assessment.

Take the Trait Emotional Intelligence Questionnaire (TEIque)


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