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Challenging The Cognitive Distortion of Fortune Telling and HOW TO SOLVE YOUR OWN MURDER by Kristin Perrin

Cover of the book How to Solve Your Own Murder by Kristen Perrin used as a teaching example for the concept of Challenging the cognitive distortion of fortune telling.

When Frances was a teenager, she, along with her two best friends, visited a fortune teller who told her that she would one day be murdered. A year later, one of the two best friends disappeared. The rest of Frances’ life was spent assuming that someone would, in fact, murder her and pre-emptively trying to solve the mystery of who was going to kill her.  As part of her research, Frances kept files on the very private lives of other members of her close-knit community. She frequently called the police, stating that she feared for her life. Big life decisions, like where to hold weddings, were made based purely on the wording of the prophecy. This strained her relationships with family members, from whom she grew estranged. It is, perhaps unsurprisingly, very hard to build trusting connections with other people when you constantly believe that one of them is plotting your demise.


In short, Frances’ behavior to avoid being murdered gave everyone a motive to kill her.


Frances may have set out to have fun with a fortune teller, but she ended up engaging in a cognitive distortion (thinking error) for the rest of her life. The cognitive distortion of fortune telling occurs when a person predicts and truly believes that a negative outcome will occur without realistically assessing the likelihood or other facts. This very common cognitive distortion leads to anxiety and depression.

Challenging or reframing cognitive distortions stops these negative thought patterns from impacting functioning. Here are tips for challenging the cognitive distortion of fortune-telling:


Consider Alternatives: Widen your thoughts to include other potential outcomes.


Check the Facts: Analyze the info available and assess the chances of the prediction occurring.


Stay in the Moment: Make decisions based on the here and now, not the feared future. 


Identify Opinions: Value knowledge and truth more than assumptions and guesses.


See Shades of Gray: Consider ways the situation is more complex, not just black and white.


Evaluate the Source: Assess the reliability of the person who suggested the prediction.


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