Psychotherapy

Day 1543: Backgrounds

My background includes technical writing, marketing communications, and psychotherapy.

In the background, I’ve been looking up the definition of “background.”

Definition of background

  1. a :  the scenery or ground behind something – a picture of her son with mountains in the background – background scenery for the play

    b art :  the part of a painting representing what lies behind objects in the foreground – dark shadows in the background of the painting

    c :  an image that displays on a computer screen underneath the various available icons and windows – As they participate, they earn “Kinetic City Points,” which they can spend on downloadable prizes, such as screensavers and computer backgrounds. — Science

  2.  an inconspicuous position  – shy people who try to stay in the background

  3. a.  the conditions that form the setting within which something is experienced… set in a background of tropical luxuriance. — Tom Marvel

    b (1) :  the circumstances or events antecedent to a phenomenon or development – the economic background of the American Civil War took place against a background of increasing tension

    (2) :  information essential to understanding of a problem or situation – background information

    c :  the total of a person’s experience, knowledge, and education – comparing the candidates’ backgrounds –  ran a background check to make sure she had no criminal record

  4.  a. intrusive sound or radiation  that interferes with received or recorded electronic signals – a recording with a lot of background noise

    b physics :  a more or less steady level of noise above which the effect  being measured by an apparatus is detected;  especially :  a somewhat steady level of radiation in the natural environment (as from cosmic rays)

  5.  a level of computer processing at which the processor uses time not required for a primary task to work on an additional task — compare foreground.

In the background, I’ve been inconspicuously trying to correct the inevitable formatting errors and complications that occur whenever I try to bring a definition into the foreground of my blog.

Here’s the background of how I chose the title of today’s post: Yesterday morning I was changing backgrounds while I was self-soothing with a game of on-line solitaire.

Congratulations to me for winning at solitaire and congratulations to worldofsolitaire.com for offering so many backgrounds.  I usually use the first background shown above; perhaps from now on I’ll use different backgrounds, depending on my mood.

After I solitarily photographed all those backgrounds, I noticed other backgrounds throughout my day.

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That last photo, with the artwork and books in the background, shows my EMDR therapist, George Sawin, moving some EMDR equipment at the end of our session. George’s background includes psychotherapy, law enforcement, flower shops, and  business management.  When we were discussing the importance of backgrounds, I mentioned this poem to him:

THE INVITATION
It doesn’t interest me
what you do for a living.
I want to know
what you ache for
and if you dare to dream
of meeting your heart’s longing.
 
It doesn’t interest me
how old you are.
I want to know
if you will risk
looking like a fool
for love
for your dream
for the adventure of being alive.
 
It doesn’t interest me
what planets are
squaring your moon…
I want to know
if you have touched
the centre of your own sorrow
if you have been opened
by life’s betrayals
or have become shrivelled and closed
from fear of further pain.
 
I want to know
if you can sit with pain
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it.
 
I want to know
if you can be with joy
mine or your own
if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you
to the tips of your fingers and toes
without cautioning us
to be careful
to be realistic
to remember the limitations
of being human.
 
It doesn’t interest me
if the story you are telling me
is true.
I want to know if you can
disappoint another
to be true to yourself.
If you can bear
the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless
and therefore trustworthy.
 
I want to know if you can see Beauty
even when it is not pretty
every day.
And if you can source your own life
from its presence.
 
I want to know
if you can live with failure
yours and mine
and still stand at the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,
“Yes.”
 
It doesn’t interest me
to know where you live
or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up
after the night of grief and despair
weary and bruised to the bone
and do what needs to be done
to feed the children.
 
It doesn’t interest me
who you know
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the centre of the fire
with me
and not shrink back.
 
It doesn’t interest me
where or what or with whom
you have studied.
I want to know
what sustains you
from the inside
when all else falls away.
 
I want to know
if you can be alone
with yourself
and if you truly like
the company you keep
in the empty moments.
.
Want to know the background of this background, shown above?
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Somebody in my therapy group yesterday morning suggested we project a YouTube video of a beach in Hawaii on the screen in the group room. We used that for our mindfulness exercise and then we left it running in the background throughout the group.
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What’s your background? Are backgrounds important to you?
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Please don’t stay in the background; instead, leave a comment below.
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My background includes an appreciation for acknowledging and expressing gratitude, so thanks to all who helped me create today’s post and to you — of course! — no matter what your background.
Categories: personal growth, photojournalism, Psychotherapy | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 31 Comments

Day 1535: Impulse Control

“Impulse control” is a phrase we use in the psychotherapy biz.

I now have an uncontrollable impulse to share a definition.

Impulse control disorder (ICD) is a class of psychiatric disorders characterized by impulsivity – failure to resist a temptation, urge or impulse that may harm oneself or others. — Wikipedia

I am impulsively and uncontrollably thinking about impulse control this morning, probably because

  • the President of the United States demonstrates impulse control issues on Twitter and
  • some people I know have not controlled their impulses to share their  doubts with me about a decision I recently made.

I hope I control my impulses in responding to people who do not control theirs.

I had photographic impulse control yesterday — I took only these four:

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I will not control my impulse to share this video from YouTube:

 

Please share your thoughts about impulse control in an impulsive and/or controlled comment.

As always, I shall not control my impulse to express gratitude to all who helped me impulsively create today’s post and to you — OF COURSE! — for impulsively reading it.

 

Categories: definition, personal growth, photojournalism, Psychotherapy | Tags: , , , , , , | 44 Comments

Day 1528: Other people’s worries

Hello, people!  Do you have worries, right now?

If you do have worries, how might that affect me or other people?

Does anybody worry about how your worry might make other people worry?

Don’t worry, people!  I’m now getting to the point of this post.

Lately, as I recover from open heart surgery, I have noticed other people’s worries about me.  Other people’s worries result in worried questions, like “Are you sure you’re up to this?”  “Are you doing too much?”  “Are you taking on too many things, too quickly?”

I’m not worried about these other people’s worries. Instead,  I appreciate their concern.

However, I do not take on their worries.  I’ve got enough worries, of my own.

Today, I’ll be seeing my cardiologist, Dr. Deeb Salem. If he’s worried, THEN I’ll be worried.

Are other people worried about whether I have any photos to share today?

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Don’t worry, people, I’m going to explain that last photo.  Yesterday, a water main broke in the Longwood Medical Area  of Boston.  Other people besides me were very late to work.  Did that worry me?  No.   Did it affect my sense of self worth?  Don’t worry about that, either. I and many other people have been working on keeping our sense of self worth protected from everything that comes at us, including other people’s worries.

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I hope people aren’t worrying about what YouTube video I’m going to share. When I search “Other people’s worries,” THIS comes up:

I’m not worried about those dogs. Are other people worried?

Other people who regularly read this blog are not worried, I’m sure, about whether I’m going to express gratitude to all who helped me create this post or to you — of course! — for being here, now.

 

Categories: personal growth, photojournalism, Psychotherapy | Tags: , , , , , , | 23 Comments

Day 1525: Distress tolerance

Distress tolerance is an important skill to learn because, no matter who we are, we all encounter distress we need to tolerate.

I’ve been tolerating a lot of distress lately, including

  • open heart surgery,
  • a cardiac pacemaker recall,
  • American politics,
  • rejection,
  • mistakes,
  • loss, and
  • disappointment.

Chances are that you’ve been tolerating distress lately, too.

So how do we tolerate distress?

Personally, I tolerate distress with

  • blogging,
  • music,
  • humor,
  • nature,
  • animals,
  • movies,
  • walks,
  • talks,
  • reading,
  • spending time with people I love,
  • chocolate
  • taking action, and
  • taking pictures.

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Which of those photos are best for your distress tolerance?

For me, these two photos

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… illustrate this important lesson: If you want a cupcake, don’t go for a cookie masquerading as a cupcake.  Get the real thing.

And this picture

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is very good for my distress tolerance, because it shows me that beautiful things can turn up, even when and where you least expect them.

Here‘s Marsha Linehan talking briefly about Distress Tolerance:

And here‘s some music that helps me tolerate distress:

Here’s a joke I just found on YouTube:

Arnold Schwarzenegger works in a record shop and a customer asks him where to find the Brandenburg Concertos.

Arnold answers “Aisle B, Bach”

I’ll be back with another post, tomorrow.

Thanks to all who helped me create this distress-tolerating post and to you — of course! — for tolerating my blog, here and now.

Categories: personal growth, Psychotherapy | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 43 Comments

Day 1500: Mistakes

In the one thousand and five hundred consecutive posts for this daily blog, mistakes have been the main topic at least five times, if I am not mistaken.

You can check for mistakes in previous posts about mistakes here, here, here, and here.

Yesterday, in therapy, somebody was focusing on mistakes.  Make no mistake, lots of people who come to see me for individual or group therapy focus on and feel bad about mistakes.  They often make the common mistake of believing that only they make mistakes every day.

Everybody makes mistakes every day.  Why?  Because we’re human.

Was it a mistake for me to take only four photos yesterday?

 

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I may be mistaken, but I believe that first photo shows people  on their way to yesterday’s victory parade for the New England Patriots. And make no mistake, that last photo shows my boyfriend Michael’s latest victorious meal. Michael was afraid he’d made  mistakes by soaking the monkfish before trying to bread it (unsuccessfully) and then poaching the fish instead.  I thought those “mistakes” resulted in a perfectly delicious meal.

When I look at the news these days, I can get upset about what I see as other people’s mistakes. Sometimes I make the common mistake of forgetting that the only behaviors I can control are my own.

It’s never a mistake for me to look for music on YouTube I want to share.

What are your thoughts and feelings about mistakes?

Time for me to end this post so I can make more mistakes!

No mistake: I am grateful for Michael, my work, my blog, patriots of all kind,  Amanda Joy, good food, the opportunity to make mistakes, and — of course! — you, my readers.

Categories: personal growth, photojournalism, Psychotherapy | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 27 Comments

Day 1468: Advice

Even though people sometimes look to me for advice, I am hesitant to give it.

My advice about advice to new psychotherapists often includes the following:

  1. Giving advice is easy.
  2. Any advice you give is subjective.
  3. People have probably heard your advice before.
  4. Wrong advice could damage your relationship.
  5. Advice is common; acceptance is rare.
  6. Encourage people to use their own wisdom and experience, rather than depending on your advice.

I don’t advise that we all stop giving or listening to advice. Advice is everywhere and some can be very helpful.

I now advise that we look at my photos from yesterday. Perhaps we’ll find some advice.

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Here‘s some musical advice:

Any advice about today’s post?

My advice is to express appreciation to others, including all those  who helped me create this blog (including Willie Nelson and Ken from Cardiac Rehab) and — of course! — YOU.

Categories: personal growth, photojournalism, Psychotherapy | Tags: , , , , , , , | 29 Comments

Day 1437: More comparisons

Earlier this year, two days before I tried out for the TV show The Voice, I wrote a post titled “Comparisons.” Because comparisons are a cognitive distortion that can lead to envy, dissatisfaction, low esteem, disappointment, and misery, I hesitate to compare today’s post with the one I wrote before.

Since I’ve been back at work after my two-month medical leave, several people I’ve seen in therapy  sessions have presented as unhappy due to comparisons with other people.  Indeed, yesterday I circled “comparisons” on the list of cognitive distortions displayed on the wall of my office, because that particular cognitive distortion seems incomparably toxic.

Here’s a definition of the cognitive distortion of comparisons:

Comparisons.
We compare ourselves to others, with ourselves coming out short. For example, “I’m not as smart (or good, competent, good-looking, lovable, etc.) as that other person.”   Or, we compare ourselves to how we think we should be, or how we’ve been before.  We might think that comparisons help motivate us, but they usually make us feel worse.

I don’t want to compare myself to other people, but I’m wondering whether others ever make the kinds of comparisons I’ve been making lately.  These comparisons have included:

  • comparisons to people who are healthier,
  • comparisons to other blogs with higher readership,
  • comparisons to when I was younger,
  • comparisons to when I was thinner,
  • comparisons to those who have more endurance,
  • comparisons to people who live in better climates,
  • comparisons to how I felt before I had my latest surgery,
  • comparisons to the time before the U.S. presidential election, and
  • comparisons to others who work in my field.

As always, I might think these comparisons help motivate me, but they usually make me feel worse.

To help  myself feel  comparatively better, I’m going to invite comparisons among the photos I took yesterday.

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Please leave  presents of comments here, below.

And feel free to make comparisons between  two  music videos (here and here on YouTube) inspired by “Dance Yourself Silly” above.

 

To all who helped me create today’s post about comparisons and — of course! — to my incomparable readers, I express comparable gratitude:

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Categories: personal growth, Psychotherapy | Tags: , , , , , , | 40 Comments

Day 1339: What’s missing?

Whenever I facilitate a therapy group, I write all the themes I notice up on the board. Because the discussion is always so rich, the themes I don’t miss will cover the entire board, from top to bottom and side to side.  Then, I ask the group, “What’s missing?”

Yesterday, when I asked that question, one of the group members did not hesitate to respond: “Love.” I didn’t miss the opportunity to add “love” to the themes I’d already written on the board.

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What’s missing from that photo?  Dozens of other themes we discussed yesterday in that therapy group.

What’s missing from this post?  Perhaps my other photos from yesterday?

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What’s missing from those photos?  Captions?

What’s missing for me is an explanation of this photo:

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That was an assignment I gave somebody (and myself) yesterday:  Whenever you imagine that people are angry at you, visualize that angry face changing into a neutral face.  What’s missing for many people is the ability to reality-test their fears that other people are having negative reactions to them.

What’s missing from this post?  Music?

What’s missing, now?

For me, it’s this: Since I’ll be missing six weeks of work when I go out on medical leave starting September 17, I have not missed opportunities to discuss with my patients how missing people can affect them.

What else is missing from this post?

Gratitude, of course, to all those who helped me create this what’s-missing post and to you, especially, for not being among the missing, today.

Categories: personal growth, Psychotherapy | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

Day 1336: Stress Relief

Because I’m a psychotherapist,  I know about  stress relief. And because I’m a person alive in the year 2016, I sometimes  need stress relief.

Where do you find stress relief?

In a can?

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In the refrigerator?

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In books?

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In travel?

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In other creatures?

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In things you can buy?

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In boo boo kisses?

Tomorrow, I’m going back to work in Boston, Massachusetts, USA.  In two weeks, my only child is leaving for a five-year mathematics program in Edinburgh, Scotland.  In three weeks, I’ll be in Minnesota preparing for my first open heart surgery.

I don’t know about you, but I could probably use some stress relief.

Here’s the first thing I found on YouTube for “stress relief.”

 

Is it possible that leaving a comment for this post might provide stress relief for somebody?

I know that gratitude is great for stress relief, so thanks to all who helped me create this post and to you — of course! — for any stress relief you find or bring, here and now.

 

Categories: personal growth, photojournalism, Psychotherapy | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 60 Comments

Day 1278: How can I be happy?

How can I be happy, when

  • I have to stay out of work today because I’m running a fever,
  • I need to get tested for endocarditis whenever I run a fever,
  • happiness is so elusive,
  • my definition of happiness keeps changing,
  • it’s difficult to be happy when you’re feeling sick, and
  • I’ll be away from the whiteboard in my office for four full days, because it’s July 4th weekend?

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How can I, you, or anybody else be happy?

How can I be happy if I don’t share the other photos I took yesterday?

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Here‘s James Taylor — who’ll be appearing at Boston’s Fenway Park on August 3 — singing a tune with some unhappy lyrics.

How can I be happy if you don’t leave a comment?

Happy-enough thanks to all  who helped me create this How-Can-I-Be-Happy post and to you — of course! — because I’m happy when you’re here.

Categories: personal growth, photojournalism, Psychotherapy | Tags: , , , | 33 Comments

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