Day 935: Circles

The cognitive distortion of Negative Filter — filtering out all positives, including hope — keeps the mind stuck in painful circles.

In my work as a group therapist, I witness those painfully negative circles of thought in others — over and over again, around and around.

Because of  criticism, self-doubt, and disappointment, I   — like any other human being — can get temporarily stuck in the painful circles of Negative Filter, too.

Yesterday morning, after reading about some particularly upsetting circles of injustice in the news, my mind got stuck in negative circles, again.

Then, on my walk to work, a tune I dearly love — First Circle by The Pat Metheny Group — circled through my ears and into my circulating mind.

(That live version of “First Circle” is circling beautifully here on YouTube. And don’t click the rectangular button in the middle of the screen, or you’ll have to circle back to listen to the rest of the music.)

That familiar, wonderful music was enough to nudge  my mind out of the painful, repetitive circles of Negative Filter.

I immediately noticed — and captured — the first circle I saw:

From then on, noticing non-negative circles helped me help others who were stuck in their own negative circles of thoughts and feelings.


That  circle — of group therapy hand-outs on the floor of my office — demonstrates what happens when a group therapist forgets to press the circular “collate” button on a new, rapidly circling copy machine.

The water in that circle-filled bottle helped sustain me through that circular ordeal.

After completing the circle of a 10-hour work day —  witnessing many people support each other in getting out of negative thinking circles — I noticed all these circles, too:




What circles are you noticing , now?

Circles of thanks to Pat Metheny, Lyle Mays, and the rest of the Pat Metheny Group, to all the people who sat around in circles of supportive group therapy yesterday, and to every circle I saw around the Fenway Park area of Boston and around my non-circular home. Also, special circular thanks to you — of course! — for circling your way here, today.

Categories: personal growth, photojournalism, Psychotherapy | Tags: , , , | 42 Comments

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42 thoughts on “Day 935: Circles

  1. A lot is circles, for sure.

  2. I always liked “Circles of Life” from the Lion King.

  3. For the first time ever, Ann, I am notice the circle of my dear wife Karen’s family, from her oldest brother to her youngest sister, and it is very, very good.

  4. For some reason the expression “circling the drain” comes to mind, but it reminds me how as a child I was fascinated by whirlpools. The small ones in the bathtub were fun to watch, but then one summer we visited the Bay of Fundy and witnessed some spectacular whirlpools. Watching the water disappear made me think about how every exit is really an entrance to another place.
    Also thank you for the “American Non Sequitur Society” button–a circle I haven’t seen since college. It was a time when some of my friends at parties would sing a song called “Circles”. I can’t seem to find a performed version of it, but the lyrics are out there, in particular these that I remember:
    “Circles for healing and working the weather,
    Circles for knowing the moon and the sun,
    Circles for thanking the Lord and the Lady,
    Circles for dancing the dance never done.”

    • I just circled around on the web, Christopher, and I believe this is the music for those lyrics. This is “Windmills” by Alan Bell. Does this tune ring a bell?

  5. Ann, I love circles!!! My two favorite circles are polka dots (why are they called polka dots = does it have to do with polka? I Googled it – turns out they are a by-product of the immense popularity of the polka) and bubbles. When I have a child in the clinic who is sad or scared, I blow big bubbles with my hands (using soap and water). Bubbles always make the children – big and small, smile. I blow them into the sunshine coming from the window, and the color in the bubbles sparkles from the sunlight. It is magical, and the children are happy, and I am happy because they are happy. I hope you have a big, shiny bubble day!!!!!!

  6. When our daughter Becky is explaining something technical to me and she loses me, I glaze over and, with her fingers, she represents the turning circle you get on the PC when its waiting for something to unfreeze.

  7. Love the sentiment and positivity in your blog today! Your circle theme took me on somewhat of a tangent musically, but I think you will love this 1989 rendition of “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” featuring a huge ensemble of musicians from Johnny Cash to The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. Crank up the volume!
    Hugs to all, Sunny

  8. Love how you worked pizza in.

  9. Circle of Life is a great song. You’ve quoted that one already, so have Ring of Fire by Johnny Cash.

  10. Leturos

    Loved the photos. I had a negative filter today until I talked with someone who has my best interests in mind. It was an injection of positive somehow. Soon, we’ll be the proud owner of a second house in a retirement community. We plan to rent it out but I may set up an office and live there when it isn’t being rented if i can work out the logistics with my company. We’ll see.

    • Talking to somebody who has your best interest at heart — what a wonderful way to circle past negative filtering. Best of luck with the second house!

  11. As crazy as the world often is, just “circle the wagons!”

  12. It’s not good to go around in circles, or as you said allow negative things to keep circling in your head, but there is a rhythm to the circle of life and the circles in life I think.

  13. From Joni Mitchell…”And the seasons they go round and round
    And the painted ponies go up and down
    We’re captive on the carousel of time
    We can’t return we can only look behind
    From where we came
    And go round and round and round
    In the circle game.”

    ☺ Van

  14. Neverending circles …. I love the badge/pin! As I do you and circles Ann.

  15. The “Ouroboros” is the serpent eating its own tail. Swiss psychologist Carl Jung saw the ouroboros as an archetype and the basic mandala of alchemy. Jung also defined the relationship of the “ouroboros” to alchemy:

    “The alchemists, who in their own way knew more about the nature of the individuation process than we moderns do, expressed this paradox through the symbol of the Ouroboros, the snake that eats its own tail. The Ouroboros has been said to have a meaning of infinity or wholeness. In the age-old image of the Ouroboros lies the thought of devouring oneself and turning oneself into a circulatory process, for it was clear to the more astute alchemists that the prima materia of the art was man himself. The Ouroboros is a dramatic symbol for the integration and assimilation of the opposite, i.e. of the shadow. This ‘feed-back’ process is at the same time a symbol of immortality, since it is said of the Ouroboros that he slays himself and brings himself to life, fertilizes himself and gives birth to himself. He symbolizes the One, who proceeds from the clash of opposites, and he therefore constitutes the secret of the prima materia which […] unquestionably stems from man’s unconscious.”-Jung

    Early alchemical ouroboros illustration. From the work of Cleopatra the Alchemist (Greco-Roman Egypt) (via Wiki) The famous ouroboros drawing from the early alchemical text “The Chrysopoeia of Cleopatra” dating to 2nd century Alexandria encloses the words hen to pan, “one is the all”. Its black and white halves represent the Gnostic duality of existence. As such, the Ouroboros could be interpreted as the Western equivalent of the Taoist Yin-Yang symbol.

  16. The actual Yin and Yang:

  17. It’s always great, once writing and reading blogs, to circle back here and see what you’re up to Ann! ❤
    Diana xo

  18. Pingback: Day 937: Everything’s falling into place | The Year(s) of Living Non-Judgmentally

  19. Pingback: Day 1460: Circles | The Year(s) of Living Non-Judgmentally

  20. Pingback: Day 2634: Heartland | The Year(s) of Living Non-Judgmentally

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