Day 558: Nothing Personal

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

nothing personal.

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 …

download (31)

… 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:

Michael Brecker

Jack DeJohnette

Charlie Haden

Kenny Kirkland

Pat Metheny

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

one of the most influential bassists in the history of jazz

— 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.

(“NIghtfall” with Charlie Haden,  Michael Brecker, and Brad Mehldau, found here on YouTube)

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.

Categories: inspiration, Nostalgia, personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , | 24 Comments

Post navigation

24 thoughts on “Day 558: Nothing Personal

  1. wonderful, joyous sounds
    for healing and blogging, thanks 🙂

  2. I’ve found that everything is personal to me, but I have to learn not to take it personally. That frequently what is happening isn’t a result of me and not to take it personally, but it’s okay that I live my life where everything is personal and I’m making connections for a reason. Yes, it’s business, yes I’m doing the best I can and yes, it’s personal, but I’m not personally responsible for everything good or bad that happens. There was some freedom in discovering it could be personal, but that I didn’t have to hold the world up on my shoulders by being personally affected or responsible for the feelings and actions of others! 🙂 I don’t know if that makes any sense outside my head.. but there it is! Have a great Saturday Ann!

    • Well, I can tell you this, Kate. What you expressed makes total sense inside my head. Personally, I’m assuming it also makes sense out there, in the world. Thanks for this great comment.

  3. Because it’s impossible to not take your stories personally, Ann, today I give you a link to a YouTube song delivered by Michael’s brother, Randy Brecker, along with Bill Evans, and their SoulBop Band. This weekend, I am personally in the middle of our two-day jazz fest in Syracuse. In previous years, I saw Randy play here with SoulBop, and other ensembles, many times, and had the chance to talk to him. Nice man. I could tell it was more than business to him, always.

    • Thank you, dear Mark. I am seeing your personal reminiscence, and raising it with my first encounter with Michael Brecker in 1970, through the group Dreams (starring Randy Brecker, Billy Cobham and many others).

      I hope you have a wonderful time at the Jazz Festival!

      • Now I will be dreaming of the Brecker Brothers and Billy Cobham until the first song at 5 p.m. today, Ann. Thank you for this clip. It’s a great one from 1970!

  4. Thank you! What a wonderful post with such an important message. I take things far too personally which as a school teacher, constantly in contact with people, can be something of an emotional hazard! I really like the antidotes you posted and will try them 🙂

    • I am so glad that you found this useful. I continue to love the name of your blog (and what you have to say).

  5. Great post Ann and you are right, we need to learn not to take all personal. Thank you for showing your personality here on your wonderful blog Ann 🙂

  6. Pingback: Day 559: Go Back | The Year(s) of Living Non-Judgmentally

  7. in my hidden space, easily accessible when needed, I rely on the following quote, “The less you respond to rude, critical argumentative people, the more peaceful your life will become.” (Mandy Hale)

  8. Gene Phillips

    Very nice, personal post.

  9. Beautiful music.

  10. Pingback: Day 650: Today’s fears (and safety and dreams) | The Year(s) of Living Non-Judgmentally

  11. Pingback: Day 1286: Take a break | The Year(s) of Living Non-Judgmentally

  12. Pingback: Day 1342: Subjective Stress | The Year(s) of Living Non-Judgmentally

  13. Pingback: Day 1606: Self conscious | The Year(s) of Living Non-Judgmentally

  14. Pingback: Day 1757: Don’t take it personally | The Year(s) of Living Non-Judgmentally

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: