group therapy

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: , , , , , , , | 30 Comments

Day 2230: What’s yours/What’s not yours

What’s your understanding of today’s post title: “What’s yours/What’s not yours”?

Yesterday, one of “my” therapy groups decided to focus on that topic after several of the participants had described challenges with other people in their lives.  The group members found it useful to make a list of what was theirs on one side of a paper and a list of what was NOT theirs on the other side.

Here are my lists:

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Because of confidentiality, I would never share a list that was not mine. However, I did “steal” some of the ideas from other people’s lists, because I found they also applied to my life.

The photos in this blog post are mine. However, they show some things that are not mine.   And once I share them, are they mine, yours, or ours?

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That microphone is not mine.  It belongs to my son’s friend, Leo, who has been staying with us.  Last night, Leo ,Aaron, and Leo’s microphone helped me record all my original songs, using Apple’s GarageBand.

It was my intention to share, here and now,  the recording of my latest song, “It’s Not Me.” However, it’s not mine to share, at this point.  Instead, it’s my prerogative to share “My Prerogative,” which is not mine and is Bobby Brown‘s.

Whose turn is it to express thoughts and feelings?  It’s yours.

It’s my choice to end each blog post with gratitude, including thanks to YOU.

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

Day 2224: I’m very aware of the passage of time

I’m very aware of the passage of time, as I took time to express in a therapy group exercise about time.

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Are you very aware of the passage of time?  Do you believe that you have all the time you need? Do you rush and get very anxious because of time? I’m very aware that the passage of time affects everybody.

I’m very aware of the passage of time in my other photos from yesterday.

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I’m very aware that I notice more over the passage of time.  What do you notice, during this very precious time?

I’m very aware of the passage of time that’s bringing me closer to the first Friday of the month, which means it’s time for me sing a new original song at a local Open Mic.  I’m very aware that I need to choose between “Don’t Call Me” and “It’s Not Me.”

I’m very aware that I haven’t yet shared the lyrics of “It’s Not Me.” I will, after sharing this passage-of-time song:

I’m very aware of how much time passed before I found “Time Has Come Today” by the Chamber Brothers. Feel free to pass the time by sharing your favorite song about the passage of time, below.

Before any more passage of time, here are  lyrics for “It’s Not Me.”‘

It’s Not Me

by me, Ann Koplow

It’s not me resenting

the mistakes of the past.

It’s not me presenting

why our love shouldn’t last.

 

It’s not me who’s judging,

It’s not me keeping score.

It’s not me begrudging

Saying “you should do more.”

 

It’s not me who’s hurting,

It’s not me feeling bad.

It’s not me deserting

All the good things we’ve had.

 

It’s not me complaining

From dusk until dawn.

It IS me explaining

That it’s me, moving on.

© Ann Koplow, 2018

I’m very aware of the passage of time as I ask for comments and express my thanks to all  (including YOU!) who have helped me in my blogging passages, over time.

Categories: group therapy, original song, personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 26 Comments

Day 2223: Be a hero.

“Be a hero” — a sign I saw yesterday —

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reminds me of a post I wrote my second week of blogging, almost six years ago: Day 11: You might as well be the hero of your own story.

As you can see from the blog title and from the post itself, being a blogging hero, back then, meant using far more words and a lot fewer photos.

I guess being a hero changes as we grow, learn, and mature.

Be a hero, to me, and check out my other photos from yesterday.

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Last night, Michael was being a hero by making our favorite vegetable lasagna for me and my son Aaron.

Because I’m feeling nostalgic today, here’s the first appearance of my hero Michael and his heroic lasagna in my blog (starting at 1:23).


Be a hero and please leave a comment, below.

Being a hero includes expressing appreciation and gratitude, so thanks to every hero who helped me create today’s blog and — of course! — to YOU, my heroes!

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Categories: group therapy, personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Day 2212: What’s the worst thing that anybody ever called you?

Yesterday, on Facebook, I posted and posed the question: “What’s the worst thing that anybody ever called you?”

Was that called for, to invite people to remember the worst thing they had ever been called?  I believe that if we expose and share the worst thing we have ever been called, we can

Now, somebody may call me out and ask, “Ann, what if the worst thing that anybody ever called me IS true?”  If  there is truth in it, you can decide what you want to do about it. However, in all my years of asking this question, and people answering

  • stupid,
  • lazy,
  • worthless,
  • crazy,
  • selfish,
  • fat,
  • ugly,
  • incapable, and
  • other harsh, hurtful,  and over-generalized judgments,

I have seen no helpful truth there.

We could do worse than examine today’s photos for worst things we’ve been called.

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Has anyone ever called you despicable, including yourself?

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Has anybody ever called you gross? Artificial?

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Has anybody ever called you out for  hanging on for too long?

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Has anybody ever called you weird-looking?  Scary?  Too starey?  Too expressive?   Too transparent?

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Has anybody ever called you an ass? Too distant?

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Has anybody ever called you too spacy?

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Has anybody ever called you foolish?  Greedy?  Not knowing what’s good for you?

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Has anybody ever called you vain?  Up-tight?

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Has anybody ever called you pushy?  Has anybody ever told you you’re not doing enough with your life?

 

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Has anybody called you thoughtless?  A doormat? Catty?  A baby?

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Has anybody ever called you a psychopath?

I’m working on a song called “Don’t Call Me” (and I’ve called out the lyrics here). Before I can call that song finished, here’s “Call Me” by Blondie.

Also, I found “The Worst Thing You’ve Been Called” on YouTube, which shows the same exercise I’ve done in my therapy groups.

I call that effective.

Now’s the time I call for comments.

I’ve never been called ungrateful (at least to my face). Thanks to all who helped me create today’s post and — of course! — to YOU.

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Categories: group therapy, personal growth, photojournalism, Psychotherapy | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 31 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 2202: Conclusions

My conclusion, here and now, is that the definition of “conclusion” includes two very important meanings.

con·clu·sion
/kənˈklo͞oZHən
noun
plural noun: conclusions
1. the end or finish of an event or process.
“the conclusion of World War Two”
synonyms: end, ending, finish, close, termination, windup, cessation
2. a judgment or decision reached by reasoning.
“each research group came to a similar conclusion”
synonyms: deduction, inference, interpretation, reasoning

Sometimes, people reach conclusions (judgments/decisions) that result in the conclusion  (ending/finish) of a pattern of behaviors, a way of thinking,  a relationship, a job, or something else important in their lives.

Yesterday, in a therapy group, participants concluded to write down a list of other people’s harsh and unfair conclusions about them.  At the conclusion of that group exercise, they tore up these internalized negative messages and threw them away.  One person’s conclusion was that the internalized belief that she was trash deserved to be ripped up and tossed in the trash.

Are there any conclusions about or in my photos from yesterday?

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Writing a Killer Conclusion includes many conclusions:

At the conclusion of each blog post, I express gratitude and appreciation to all those who helped me create it and to you — of course! — for reading it.

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Categories: definition, group therapy, personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , | 23 Comments

Day 2196: Danger

When you’ve been blogging as long as I have, there’s always a danger you might repeat yourself.  And on May 12, 2016, I published a post also titled “Danger” (which is allowed here in The Year(s) of Living Non-Judgmentally).

In that post, there was a drawing of a fish committing suicide. However, nature seems to be in much more danger now than it was in May, 2016.

Because I’m in danger of being late for work, I’ll quickly share yesterday’s photos, which include danger and also some ways to deal with danger.

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Here‘s ‘Danger’ dance practice, featuring the  “South Korean boy band” BTS.

I’m in danger of assuming that there are no North Korean boy bands.

I hope you know there is no danger involved if you leave a comment, below.

There’s also no danger in expressing thanks to all who help me create this daily blog and — of course — to YOU.

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Categories: group therapy, personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Day 2187: Energy

One thousand, nine hundred, and forty-three days ago (but who has the energy to count?), I wrote a post titled Day 244: Positive Energy.   The post was about my dear relative, Diane, who exudes and sends positive energy.

I have the energy to notice that, back then  (five years ago!), I didn’t have the energy or the wherewithal to share my own photos in this blog. Now that I’ve practiced taking photos and sharing their energy through years of blogging, it takes little or no energy to share these three  photos from yesterday:

 

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Yesterday, in a therapy group, we had the energy to explore our personal experience of energy, what gets in the way of having more energy, and what helps energize us.

I had the energy to take a photo of  the first part of my answer to the question of “What is your personal experience of energy?”   Do you have the energy to read that answer, above?

Today I have the energy to answer this question: “What gets in the way of you having more energy?”

  • Lack of self-care.
  • Cognitive distortions like comparisons, blaming, shoulds, negative filter, black and white thinking, fortune-telling, catastrophizing, and mind-reading.  (If you have the energy to go there, a full list of cognitive distortions is here.)
  • Procrastination (mine and other people’s).
  • Worry.
  • Judgment.
  • Shame.
  • Fear.
  • The news.
  • Difficult people.

However, I don’t have the energy to remember all the other things I listed yesterday.

What helps energize me?

  • Self-care.
  • Reframing cognitive distortions (for a list of energizing “antidotes” for unhelpful thoughts,  go here.)
  • Nature.
  • Good people.
  • Animals.
  • Helpful phrases like “You have all the time you need,” “You’re exactly where you’re supposed to be,” and “You’re doing the best you can.”
  • Walking.
  • Blogging.
  • Music (herehere, here, here, here, here, and here on YouTube).

 

Do you have the energy to make a comment?

I definitely have the energy to thank all  who helped me create this Energy post and — of course!!!!! — YOU.

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Categories: group therapy, personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Day 2146: Just beneath the surface

I’m writing this post (which will probably reach just beneath the surface) in the back seat of a car traveling on the surface of the highway to a group therapy conference in New York City. Earlier tonight, when a fierce snowstorm surfaced and obliterated any view of the road surface, the slippery surfaces almost caused us to give up the trip. Just as we were about to seek shelter from the storm at a motel (which on the surface seemed depressing and suspiciously overpriced), we decided to try navigating the road surfaces one more time. Amazingly, the surface of the roads suddenly changed from snow to rain.

When the snow was covering all the surfaces, we stopped and this surfaced beneath a slice of pizza:

Since we are now going to make it to the conference, I know we’ll be going far beneath the surface in the groups there.

Earlier in the day, I facilitated two groups where many topics came to the surface.

The topics of “gifts” and “self-forgiveness” rose to the surface in those groups.

This is what it looked like on the surface in Boston when we started our trip:

What’s going on for you, just beneath the surface?

For me, gratitude is always just beneath the surface, so thanks to all who helped me create all the surfaces of this post and — of course — YOU.

Categories: group therapy, personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

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