Here’s a cognitive distortion that came up several times last week, in therapy groups and elsewhere:
You see yourself as the cause of some negative event for which you are not primarily responsible, and you conclude that what happened was your fault or reflects your inadequacy. Personalization distorts other people’s reactions into a direct, personal response to you. For example, if somebody seems upset, you immediately assume it was because of something you said or did.
In Thursday evening’s group, we were discussing this distortion antidote:
Use Helpful Reminders. Use helpful phrases to challenge habitual distortions. For example, for mind-reading or fortune telling, remind yourself “I’m not psychic.” Make a list of other phrases that help you, such as “I am doing the best I can,” “One step at a time,” etc. Consider sticking these reminders where you can see them.
One of the group participants said he’s put up this helpful reminder, where he works:
It’s not personal. It’s just business.
and he’s looked at that, thousands of times.
Personally, I too find it helpful to remember, over and over again, that most things are NOT personal. It also helps me to realize that human beings are built to take things personally. So, it takes constant practice to think, when other people do (or NOT do) things, that it’s
If you’re wondering if something IS personal, there’s always this antidote, too:
Reality Testing. Ask people questions to find out if your thoughts and concerns are realistic or true. This is a particularly effective response to the distortion of mind-reading
Yesterday, as I was walking to work, thinking about what I had learned during the week, this old friend of a tune showed up in my earphones:
(found here on YouTube)
I made note of the title — “Nothing Personal” — and considered it blog-worthy.
Here‘s the Wikipedia entry for the old, familiar, and beloved album …
… where that song lives.
As I listened to “Nothing Personal,” I thought about all the personal time I’ve spent, enjoying the music of the amazing jazz players on that album:
Whenever I listen to Michael Brecker play, I feel a tinge of sadness, because of the too-soon loss of that
quiet, gentle musician widely regarded as the most influential tenor saxophonist since John Coltrane
— Charles J Gan (Associate Press), quoted on Wikipedia
As I was driving home last night, I heard the news that Charlie Haden, also on that album, and
— Nat Chinen (New York Times)
had died that day.
While this post may have started with “Nothing Personal,” it’s turned into something quite personal.
My small tribute to some who are missing, and still live on.
Thanks to giant Charlie Haden, to gentle Michael Brecker, to group therapy (of all kinds), to every talented human being (alive or gone) who contributed to this post, and to you, personally, for participating here, today.