cognitive behavioral therapy

Day 2245: Expendable

Yesterday, in a therapy session, somebody talked about feeling expendable.  When someone labels themselves in a painful way, I write the word up on the board, to get it out of the person’s head and so that we can look at the label with different perspectives, perhaps making the unhelpful label expendable.

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A definition of “expendable” may be expendable, but I’m sharing it anyway.

ex·pend·a·ble
/ikˈspendəb(ə)l
adjective
of little significance when compared to an overall purpose, and therefore able to be abandoned.
“the region is expendable in the wider context of national politics”
synonyms: dispensable, able to be sacrificed, replaceable
(of an object) designed to be used only once and then abandoned or destroyed.
“the need for unmanned and expendable launch vehicles”

As I read that definition, it occurs to me that many people might be feeling expendable, as the current U.S. government shutdown drags on and on.

In that therapy session yesterday, I invited the expendable-feeling person to name what is opposite to expendable.  Here’s one non-expendable word:

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Another opposite-to-expendable word was “valuable.”  Apparently a picture of that word was expendable.

Wait! I found “valuable” on this scale, which I drew on the board:

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It might be valuable and appreciated, here and now,  if I ask my readers these questions: Do you ever feel expendable?  Appreciated?  Valuable?  Where are you on that scale, as you read this?  What helps you feel less expendable and more valuable and appreciated?

I wonder if any of the photos in this post are expendable, appreciated, and/or valuable.

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It’s always appreciated when my non-expendable boyfriend Michael asks me to dance, and last night, after his very appreciated and valuable dinner (pictured above), we danced to this music, which is the opposite of expendable to me.

I really appreciate that Michael danced with me for the full eight-and-a-half minutes of that highly valued McCoy Tyner tune.

I hope you know that your comments are very valuable and appreciated.

Finally, here is some non-expendable gratitude for all who helped me create this post and — of course! — for YOU.

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Categories: cognitive behavioral therapy, definition, personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 22 Comments

Day 2232: Who is your harshest critic?

For years, I would have answered the question, “Who is your harshest critic?” like so:

“It’s me.”

Many of the people I work with in therapy also say that they are their own harshest critics. Using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Narrative Therapy, and other proven techniques, we acknowledge the harm of that harsh criticism and reduce its toxicity.

There are times in my life when my answer to the question, “Who is your harshest critic?” would be, “It’s not me.”  I remember, decades ago, when I agonized over whether to leave my job as a writer at a technology company, which had not worked out as I expected.  I said many harshly critical things to myself  (including “you make terrible decisions!”  “what makes you think you’ll find a better job?”)  as I went through the  painful process of pros and cons about staying or leaving.  One of the obvious advantages of leaving was that I did not respect management at that company, so  I did end up resigning. Before I left,  one of the top managers said harsh things to me, including labeling me “a quitter” and somebody not capable of sticking to things that are challenging and difficult.  Once this man externalized my internal harsh criticism, I was able to recognize the unfairness in his reaction, stand up straight, look him in the eye, and say, “That’s not true. I’m leaving because I know I can be happier elsewhere.”

I’ll never forget how good that felt — to directly confront those harsh messages and say, “That’s not true.”

Since becoming a therapist, I’ve done a therapeutic exercise in groups where people write down their harsh internal criticisms and we externalize them.  Somebody in the group reads the harsh critical statement out loud, and the person gets a chance to respond back, sometimes being coached by others.  It’s always inspiring to witness people challenge their internalized harsh critics, replacing those old and toxic messages with more accepting and helpful ones.

Last night, when I performed my latest original song, “It’s Not Me,” about a toxically critical person, I became my harshest critic, again. For one thing, I went on immediately after the featured performer,  a 13-year-old prodigy “– The Mighty Quinn”  — who blew out the joint with his fiddle playing and his singing.  Here’s a photo of Quinn and his father:

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They were the proverbial tough act to follow.  I considered saying, “Let’s hear it for my opening act!” before I started performing, but I harshly criticized that and said something else instead.  As I started playing,  I realized that my ukulele was out of tune. I blanked on something I wanted to say,  and I didn’t like that I needed to use a cheat sheet to remember some of the chords and words.  After I finished,  I sat down, ignoring the applause and the positive comments from people in the audience, listening, instead,  to my harsh inner critic.

I then asked my new co-worker and friend, Alice (who is also a musician), whether she felt bad when her performances weren’t up to her own standards. She said many supportive things, including, “I think you’ll feel better when you watch the recording.”

And, when I watched the recording later, I did feel better. I let go of the role of my own harshest critic and, as always, it felt great! Here‘s the recording, which Alice made:

When I watch this, I use one of my helpful phrases: “It’s good enough AND I can make it better.”

In the past, I’ve been the harshest critic of my blog writing and my photographs, like these:

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For now,   I’m celebrating not being my own harshest critic.

Thanks to all who helped me create today’s post and — of course — to YOU, for your kind acceptance (of me and yourself) (I hope!)

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Categories: cognitive behavioral therapy, group therapy, original song, personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , | 31 Comments

Day 2226: Framed

One of my favorite bloggers, Christopher, included this in his comment on my “Who is It?” post yesterday:

It looks like you’ve been framed.

Soon after Christopher framed that comment, my dear cousin Lani brought over this perfectly framed house warming present:

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The cats that are framed in that cat frame gift set look like our cat Oscar and the late, lamented Milo.  I wonder what photos will be framed in those frames in the future?

Here are the rest of the photos I framed with my iPhone yesterday.

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Here‘s a photo of Lani I framed with my  iPhone over three years ago:

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That’s Lani in the frame with her late, precious kitty, Jewel. As Lani and I framed many thoughts and feelings yesterday, she said she’s almost ready to consider getting another cat.  I framed a request that Lani include me in her search for a new kitty, when she’s ready.

In Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), we talk about reframes, defined here.

Cognitive reframing is a psychological technique that consists of identifying and then disputing irrational or maladaptive thoughts. Reframing is a way of viewing and experiencing events, ideas, concepts and emotions to find more positive alternatives.

I’ve also experienced people reframing events, ideas, concepts, and emotions to find more negative alternatives.  In those cases, people might feel framed, like The Coasters describe in “Framed.”

I’m looking forward to the comments framed by my readers about this post.

Now it’s time for me to frame my thanks to all those who helped me frame this “Framed” post and — of course! — to YOU.

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Categories: cognitive behavioral therapy, personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

Day 2203: Consider the source

Consider the source of today’s post — it’s my blog!  Is that a source you trust, know, can vouch for?  Is it a source that’s helpful, doubtful, consistent, confusing, reliable, familiar, new, or whatever for YOU?

Consider that the source of this post is a discussion earlier this week in a therapy group, where the participants were evaluating negative messages they had heard from others.   When I asked people in the group to consider one of the antidotes to cognitive distortions — Consider the Source — they considered that a helpful cognitive reframe.

Consider the source of this definition of “Consider the Source,”  which is this list of antidotes for unhelpful thoughts.

Consider the Source. If you’re receiving negative, upsetting messages, take a step back and look at where those messages are coming from. Is that source reliable? Is it usually negative? How do other people see that source?  If the source is your own internalized critic, consider that you may be too harsh on yourself.

Consider the source of today’s photos — it’s my iPhone!

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When you consider the source, you might think

  • yippee!
  • hooray!
  • way to go!
  • high five!
  • terrific!
  • you got it!
  • RIGHT!
  • too bad!
  • sorry!
  • try again!
  • not quite!
  • next time!
  • oh well!
  • WRONG!

Here‘s Consider the Source with “Many Words of Disapproval.”

 

Consider leaving a comment, below.

Consider the source of extreme gratitude for all who help create these blogs and for all who read them — it’s me!

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Categories: cognitive behavioral therapy, group therapy, personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

Day 2121: Making noise

Is making noise making things better or worse? Today, I’m making noise about the fact that some news columnists are speculating that how the USA opposition party is making noise might be hurting their chances in the upcoming midterm election.

Lately, I’ve been making noise in my therapy groups, inviting people to be making noise when we do a mindfulness exercise that focuses on listening.  This is the noise I’m making when I introduce that exercise:

In this mindfulness exercise, we’re going to focus on the sense of hearing. After you hear the sound of the chime, do your best to listen to all the noises in the room. Feel free to make noise to make the exercise more interesting for other people.

That’s my attempt at making it safer for people to be making noise, since many of us can be self-conscious about the noises we’re making, especially when other people are listening.

I’ll be making noise soon with these Right & Wrong Buzzers:

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Even though I’m often making noise about letting go of  unhelpful concepts of wrong and right, I’ll be making noise to encourage people to change old habits of thinking (including the cognitive distortions described here).

It’s okay to be making noise or to be silent about the other images I captured yesterday.

Because the wind was making so much noise yesterday, I didn’t go for my usual walk. Instead, I was making noise by making ukulele chords for  my latest original song “I’m Mad About You.”

With that song, I’m making noise about anger (especially towards politicians).

It’s time for me to be making noise about gratitude, so thanks to all who helped me create this “Making noise” post and — of course! — to YOU, for all the noises you’re making.

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Categories: cognitive behavioral therapy, group therapy, original song, personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Day 2081: Live Free or Die

Yesterday, I noticed this New Hampshire license plate  with the official state motto “Live Free or Die.”

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Who knew that hairy aliens lived in New Hampshire, parked in Boston and felt so strongly about freedom?

According to Wikipedia (which is free):

“Live Free or Die” is the official motto of the U.S. state of New Hampshire, adopted by the state in 1945. It is possibly the best-known of all state mottos, partly because it conveys an assertive independence historically found in American political philosophy and partly because of its contrast to the milder sentiments found in other state mottos.

As I have lived free for many years, I have noticed that flashy assertiveness gets more attention than milder sentiments.  Here are some of the milder sentiments displayed on U.S. license plates:

The Natural State

Colorful

World Famous Potatoes

Visit

It’s That Friendly

Smiling Faces

Is  OK!

Sounds Good to Me

Peace Garden State

The Hospitality State

Seat Belts Fastened?

Drive Carefully

Do you agree that those other state license plates are not as lively or as to-die-for?

Today, as I live free and do not die, I would like to share something I said to my sister, last night, over dinner, after a very difficult day where I died several psychological deaths because of worry, projection, mind reading, fortune telling and other cognitive distortions:

I would like to declare that, as of now, I will never, ever again assume that other people are having harshly negative and judgmental thoughts about what I’m doing or not doing.  Tomorrow morning, I will wake up, free of that old and unhelpful habit.

This morning, as I try to live free of those old patterns and habits, I’m noticing this:  So far so good.

Actually, “So Far So Good” would make a good (if not entirely memorable) license plate.

Shall we live free and/or die for my other photos from yesterday?

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It looks to me like that pineapple and broccoli are living free, undyingly.

Here‘s “Live Free or Die” by Hayes Carll:

Live free and/or comment below, please.

Gratitude is free, here and now, for all those who helped me create this “Live Free or Die” post and — of course! — for YOU.

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Categories: cognitive behavioral therapy, personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 27 Comments

Day 2080: Negative filter

After filtering the positive and the negative for two thousand and eighty consecutive days here at The Year(s) of Living Non-Judgmentally, I’m amazed that I haven’t written about the common cognitive distortion of Negative Filter before today.

Negative filtering (also known as “Disqualifying the positive”).
This is when we focus on the negative, and filter out all positive aspects of a situation. For example, you get a good review at work with one critical comment, and the criticism becomes the focus, with the positive feedback fading or forgotten. You dismiss positives by explaining them away — for example, responding to a compliment with the thought, “They were just being nice.”

Why do people disqualify the positive?  Why do we focus on the negative?  When I try to filter through experience and answer those questions, my best guess is that the negative gets our attention because our survival has depended on our being hyper aware of danger and fixating on problems until we solve them.

However, negative filter can lead to depression, hopelessness, and an inability to enjoy the positive.

How can we filter our experiences more effectively, letting in the positive AND the negative? And how can we deal with all the information around us, which can clog up our filters?

As usual, I don’t have all the answers but I do have lots of questions, like what kind of filters do you see in my recent photos?

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Let things come to you, but please don’t filter out the positive.

Last night, when I was working on letting go of my own negative filter, I positively  and completely enjoyed this tap routine on the season finale of So You Think You Can Dance (if you want to filter everything else out, the dancing starts at 2:30):

 

Gratitude helps clean out the filter, so thanks to Evan DeBenedetto, Lex Ishimoto,  choreographer Anthony Morigerato, everyone else who helped me filter through recent experiences to create today’s post and — of course! — YOU.

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Categories: cognitive behavioral therapy, personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Day 2078: Preparing for the worst-case scenario

Yesterday, as I was preparing for several worst-case scenarios, I noticed this headline in a local newspaper:

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I captured that image, preparing for the worst-case scenario of people getting confused, angry, or annoyed that I was inexplicably snapping a photo of a folded newspaper in a busy restaurant, perhaps momentarily inconveniencing people going about their business.

I wanted to photograph that “Preparing for the Worst-Case Scenario” headline — despite the worst-case scenario of bothering other people — because  I believe that I am not alone in preparing for the worst-case scenario, consciously and unconsciously, every day.

Preparing for the worst-case scenario that the previous paragraph was either confusing or otherwise inadequate, I will now redirect you to many blog posts about the cognitive distortion of catastrophizing (here, herehere, here, here, here, here,  here, and here).

Preparing for the worst-case scenario that nobody will look at those previous posts I’ve written, I shall now prepare a list of my current thoughts and feelings about preparing for the worst-case scenario, as follows:

  • People who want to sell you something often do so by seemingly preparing you for the worst-case scenario.
  • Action movies, like the latest Mission Impossible film (which I saw yesterday), are built on worst-case scenarios (e.g., the destruction of the world)  being thwarted, at the last possible second,  by super human actions performed by people who are much stronger and smarter than anybody I know.  My mind then goes to this worst-case scenario: what chance do actual human beings have in averting disaster in real time and real life?
  • Some reader might chastise me with this: why can’t you just enjoy a great action movie without all this thinking about worst-case scenarios?
  • It’s difficult to prepare for the worst-case scenario when so many seem possible in the moment. How do we even  choose what the worst-case scenario is, from moment to moment and day to day?  And then, how do we prepare for it amid all these shifting sands and different opinions out there?
  • Whenever I listen to or watch the news, I notice people preparing for worst-case scenarios that are often diametrically opposed from each other.
  • A nation (and world!)  so polarized and conflicted is — according to Abraham Lincoln —  a worst-case scenario: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
  • I’m preparing for the worst-case scenario that my readers might think I haven’t done my homework in preparing this post by pointing out that “A house divided against itself cannot stand” originally appeared in the New Testament.
  • Preparing for worst-case scenarios in our daily lives (e.g., my health is declining,  my money is running out, I won’t be able to survive this latest loss, I may fail miserably in this venture, people will judge and/or abandon me) may seem to prepare and arm us for difficulties, but it also depletes and sometimes defeats us, even before we’ve tried.

Should I be preparing you for any worst-case scenarios in my other photos from yesterday?

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Last night, as I watched the fabulous fireworks celebrating the opening of the new Hancock Adams Park in historic Quincy, Massachusetts, USA, I was preparing myself for the worst-case scenario that I wouldn’t capture any of the wonderful smiley-face fireworks that were a part of the display. Despite preparing for that worst-case scenario, I loved every moment of those fireworks.

So I guess that’s the best I can do, these days: realize that my mind is going to naturally be preparing for the worst-case scenario but also getting as much as I can from every moment I’m still alive.

I’m now preparing for the worst-case scenario that people will notice all the flaws I see in this performance of my second original song “Catatrophizing” from two months ago …

… and this more recent performance, listed under the title “How not to be a busker, by Ann Koplow” on YouTube (and starting at 4:04):

How are you preparing for the worst-case scenario, these days?

As always, I’m preparing for the worst-case scenario by focusing on gratitude for what I do have. Thanks to all who helped me prepare this worst-case scenario post and — of course! — YOU, from the bottom of my catastrophizing heart.

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Categories: cognitive behavioral therapy, personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 27 Comments

Day 2070: What’s your super power

Yesterday, I used my photographic super power to take a picture of this:

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What’s your super power?  Do you have more than one? Are you so super modest that it’s difficult to own your super powers?

Here’s a super incomplete list of my super powers:

  1. Taking pictures (see above).
  2. Blogging daily.
  3. Facilitating group healing.
  4. Coming up with new ideas.
  5. Finding cool socks.

I recently told a  super co-worker that helping a patient find a psychiatrist was NOT one of my super powers. I’m super secure that it’s super helpful to be aware and accepting of our super powers AND our limitations.

Speaking of limitations, I recently had the super idea that I stop using the super-judgmental  label “stupid” about myself or anybody else and use the superior word “limited” instead.

Do you see any super powers in my other super snapshots from yesterday?

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We think you deserve a treat, no matter what your super powers or limitations. I shall now attempt to find a super treat on YouTube for my super readers.

There’s a super number of videos on YouTube asking and perhaps answering the question, “What’s your super power?”  However, I’d rather share some super music like Super Stevie Wonder’s “Superstitious” and “Superwoman.”

I hope you use your super power of making comments, below.

It’s time to use my super power of expressing thanks to all those who helped me create today’s post and — of course! — YOU.  And I shall use my super powers to get back here as quickly as possible.

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Categories: cognitive behavioral therapy, personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

Day 2047: A thought is just a thought

Yesterday, in a therapy group where many thoughts were expressed …

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… I said, “A thought is just a thought.”  One of the group members thought that thought was important, so I wrote it up on the board:

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The group members thought that was helpful, because the thoughts people expressed in the group included fortune telling, catastrophizing, mind reading, personalization, all-or-nothing thinking, over-generalizing, jumping to conclusions, labelling, shoulds, and other cognitive distortions.  For example, my expressed thoughts included, “The plane might crash on Saturday!”

As I’m writing this blog post, my thoughts include this one: “My shoulder, after my fall in January,  will never be right.”

We all have lots of thoughts. Thoughts are NOT the same as actions or accurate forecasts of the future. I’ve thought, many times, to challenge a thought with this question, “Is that a helpful thought?”

A thought is just a thought and a photo is just a photo.

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A thought is just a thought, a barrier is just a barrier, a verb is just a verb,  a memory is just a memory,  and a theme song is just a theme song.

Feel free to express your just thoughts in a comment, below.

Gratitude is just gratitude, so thanks to all whose thoughts helped me create today’s post and — of course! — to thoughtful YOU.

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Categories: cognitive behavioral therapy, group therapy, personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments

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