In today’s video, I’m going to talk about something we are all guilty of: the cognitive distortion of “magnification.”

Read or watch below to learn more about “magnification.”

Zachary Stockill: Welcome back to my ongoing series on retroactive jealousy and cognitive distortions.

Very briefly, before we get into it: the term retroactive jealousy refers to unwanted intrusive thoughts, often obsessive curiosity, and what I call “mental movies” relating to a partner’s past relationships and/or sexual history.

“Cognitive distortions” refers to unhelpful, irrational thought patterns that hold us back from a happier life, hold back our relationships, and sometimes hold us back in our careers. There are negative thought patterns that can also contribute to disorders like anxiety, depression, OCD, and yes, the topic of today’s video, retroactive jealousy. 

So needless to say, it’s in your best interest to start getting a handle on your own cognitive distortions as quickly as possible. Start replacing those cognitive distortions with healthier, more well-balanced perspectives on the world and on events. 


Today, we’re talking about magnification, which basically refers to minimizing the importance of the significance of desirable qualities, and exaggerating the importance of shortcomings. 

In short, magnification refers to minimizing the good things about yourself. For example, exaggerating the challenges you’re facing, exaggerating your lesser qualities.

You can also think of it as being too hard on yourself. Not giving yourself the credit you deserve, not seeing the total picture of who you are as an individual.

Not seeing the total picture about anything because “magnification” doesn’t only refer to the way you view yourself. 

Many people also engage in magnification when it comes to other people. For example, their partner.

You know if you’re falling victim to magnification if, when something good happens to you, you immediately discount its importance. Or you see it as proof of your own failures. And when good things happen, you minimize their importance.

This can also be true when it comes to looking at your partner. For example, in the context of retroactive jealousy, many retroactive jealousy sufferers are troubled by a single event, or maybe a certain period in their partner’s past, or a certain person that their partner was once involved with. They’re usually only focused on a relatively small portion of their partner’s overall past. 

But again, a theme that I’ve been exploring throughout this series on retroactive jealousy and cognitive distortions is :

The inability and sometimes even the unwillingness to look at the entire picture when someone’s considering who their partner truly is. 


If you want to go down the road of judging your partner or judging anyone, you really owe it to them and yourself to look at the entire picture rather than a tiny little portion.

You may see what you consider to be red flags in your partner’s past.

So you may be magnifying the importance of these “red flags,” as you see them. You may be making them bigger and scarier and more significant than they really are in the grand scheme of your partner’s life.

At the same time, you may be minimizing or overlooking what I call the green flags in your partner’s personality, or in your partner’s past. 

You may be ignoring facts about the past people they were involved with, or, for example, a pattern of stability. For example: their ability to stay loyal, they never cheated on anyone, they have a good financial life… Whatever it is, you may be ignoring all the green flags in your partner’s past that indicate they’re someone with good character, and you could have a future together. 

As I always tell retroactive jealousy sufferers: if you want to go down this road of judging, be sure you’re considering the entire picture. And this cognitive distortion is very common among retroactive jealousy sufferers.

Sometimes, we’re magnifying the significance of a person or an event, and we’re totally wrapped up and consumed by it.

Of course, some people have more red flags than others. 

But the whole point of this video is to encourage you to look at how you’re looking at your partner’s past. Ask yourself if you aren’t engaging in some kind of magnification, in some kind of minimization, or minimizing green flags in favor of focusing on red flags.

As I’ve been saying throughout these videos, journaling can be a great tool for this, to help get some distance and perspective from your thoughts, to help record your thinking, to help sort out some of the mess in your subconscious.

Over the next week or two, catch yourself every time you’re engaged in this process of magnification.

If you need more help with retroactive jealousy and cognitive distortions, check out my online course “Get Over Your Partner’s Past Fast”, or consider applying for one-on-one coaching with me.

Zachary Stockill
Zachary Stockill

Hi! I'm a Canadian author and educator whose work has been featured in BBC News, BBC Radio 4, The Huffington Post, and many other publications. I'm the founder of, the author of Overcoming Retroactive Jealousy and The Overcoming Jealousy Workbook, and the host of Humans in Love podcast.