Posts Tagged With: all or nothing thinking

Day 3477: Decisions, Decisions

I’m pretty sure I’ve written other blog posts about decisions, decisions because making decisions can be difficult for me.

Some people have decided that decisions, decisions can be especially challenging for people who are Perceivers (rather than the Judgers) on a Myers-Briggs scale.

One of my decisions about decisions is that there often isn’t one right or wrong decision. All-or-nothing thinking puts too much pressure on decisions, decisions.

At the same time, a series of bad, thoughtless decisions, decisions can have global consequences, like climate change.

Do you see decisions, decisions in my images for today?


The National Day Calendar people are offering only two decisions, decisions today.

I’m making a decision, decision to share this result from searching YouTube for “decisions, decisions.”


So many decisions, decisions to make as I create this daily blog, but I always decide to end each post with gratitude for YOU!

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

Day 1346: Winners and Losers

Today’s title reminds me of two common cognitive distortions:  black-and-white thinking and labeling.  Yes, we humans — winners and losers all — tend to see things in all-or-nothing terms and we also assign judgmental labels to people, especially ourselves.

We are all winners and losers at some points, aren’t we?  Actually, a more winning perspective might be that “winners” and “losers” are subjective terms that don’t really help.  If I call myself a winner or a loser today, does that change who I am?  Don’t those all-or-nothing labels just cause me to temporarily win or lose confidence,  putting myself on a self-esteem roller coaster?  What would we lose if we stopped calling ourselves losers or winners and just radically accepted ourselves exactly where we are? Personally, I think we would win a lot.

Considering my thoughts on winners and losers, am I a winner or a loser to now ask  which of my photos from yesterday are winners or losers?




















I shall not lose the opportunity to win you over by sharing the impulses behind those photos:

  1. I am trying to win some acceptance about starting a new medication: Warfarin (a/k/a Coumadin).
  2. Warfarin/Coumadin affects how your body uses Vitamin K.
  3. The foods listed on the white board win the prize for having high amounts of Vitamin K.
  4. I’ll need to win a greater understanding of how to control Vitamin-K-rich foods in my diet, or I might lose my health.
  5. Hygga is a Danish word meaning “cozy,” a new-to-me concept which I find very winning.
  6. My cat Oscar can be very hygga.
  7. I am trying to win calmness and lose stress about my upcoming heart surgery and my only child going overseas for college by playing online solitaire.
  8. My boyfriend Michael cooked a winning meal last night.

Is this piece of music a winner or a loser, according to you?


If you leave a comment, I’m a winner!

I’d be some kind of loser if I didn’t express thanks to all who helped me create this post and to you — of course! — for winning my heart by visiting here, today.




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

Day 1159: Good enough

Yesterday, in therapy, somebody described feeling guilty about how good a friend they were to somebody else.  We discussed how we humans tend to think of ourselves as all good OR all bad — in friendship, at work, with families, etc. —  flipping back and forth between the two extreme judgments of ourselves.

I suggested that this person always think of themselves of a “good enough friend” no matter what, rather than getting caught in the trap of “all or nothing” thinking.

Is this post good enough?

It IS good enough, but I can make it better by adding all the photos I took yesterday.









It’s good enough, here and now, to let you know that last night’s therapy group chose to focus on the topic of “Happy/Happiness.”  During that group, I drew the two pictures shown directly above AND I also wrote down the lyrics of this good enough song by Pharrell Williams:


I hope you know that any thoughts or feelings you share here are good enough for me.

Good enough thanks to all!


Categories: group therapy, personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , | 43 Comments

Day 774: What’s the right thing to do?

“What’s the right thing to do?” is a question I can ask myself, quite frequently.

Lately, I’ve been asking myself that question about:

  1. Preparing for a trip to California, starting tomorrow.
  2. Preparing for tax day, April 15.
  3. Preparing for my high school’s 45th reunion, some time in 2015.
  4. Preparing for the rest of my life.
  5. Interacting authentically with people, balancing my needs with their needs.
  6. Deciding, with the help of a cadre of cardiologists,  how to keep my very unusual heart beating, for as long as possible.
  7. Writing today’s blog post.

While asking

What’s the right thing to do?

can be important and helpful,  focusing TOO MUCH and TOO OFTEN on

“What’s the right thing to do?”

can be paralyzing and overwhelming, especially when right or wrong is not obvious.

When I am leading therapy groups at the Boston hospital where I work, I often say

There is no right or wrong way to do this.

I like saying that. And, people in the groups seem to like hearing that, too. Maybe that’s because we can all get caught up in the “cognitive distortion” of all-or-nothing thinking:

All-or-Nothing thinking (also known as “Black-and-White thinking”).
Things are either all good or all bad, people are either perfect or failures, something new will either fix everything or be worthless. There is no middle ground; we place people and situations in “either/or” categories, with no shades of gray, or allowing for complexities. Watch out for absolute words like “always”, “never,” “totally,” etc. as indications of this kind of distortion.

Today, Friday the 13th, February 2015, I hereby resolve to let go of right-or-wrong, all-or-nothing, and black-and-white thoughts that get in the way of my moving forward.

Instead, I’m going to allow room for shades of grays and the full spectrum of colors, like in these photos:


IMG_5428 IMG_5429 IMG_5430 IMG_5432 IMG_5431 IMG_5436

Yesterday, I couldn’t figure out

What’s the right thing to do?

… to load all those photos from my iPhone to my laptop.  Sometimes, just waiting patiently resolves a problem.

That last photo shows a new snow shovel that my wonderful downstairs neighbor, Karen, recently bought for us, to help us deal with all the !!@&!!!! snow in Boston  (see here, here, here, here, and here, for more details and images about that).

I don’t have to worry about

What’s the right thing to do?

with that shovel, until I get back from California.

I’m going to ask myself, just one more time:

What’s the right thing to do?

… before I publish this post.  What’s the right music to include here?

Do you have any ideas? Because I’m a little distracted today.

Maybe I should take my own advice:

 Sometimes, just waiting patiently resolves a problem.

Got it!

Dr. John performing “Right Place, Wrong Time” is in the right place here on YouTube.

Thanks to doctors everywhere, to anybody who has ever asked “What’s the right thing to do?” and to you — of course! — for being the right place at whatever time, today.

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , | 47 Comments

Day 676: Colors

Several years ago, I went into a store in the Boston area and noticed that people from a local radio station were there. One of the DJs announced to the shoppers:

A prize to the first person who can come up with eight musical groups with a color in the band’s name!

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this in any of my previous colorful or non-colorful blog posts, but I love

  • CONTESTS and

I wonder if people who are reading this know that about me, or whether they are finding this out for the first time, much like I discovered, just now, that I can use colored letters in WordPress.

Anyway, the radio guy in the store announced that contest, and my mind went to work.

I now interrupt this story to bring you this question:

What band names, with colors in them, can you think of, right now?

While you’re thinking of those, here’s some mood music, brought to you this morning from high (or medium) atop the Koplow Family & Friends Building in beautiful suburban Boston:

(YouTube video of Duke Ellington‘s “Mood Indigo” found here)

And in case you prefer a different kind of music, here’s another tune, with the same color in the title:

(I found “Indigo Passion” by the Atlanta Rhythm Section on YouTube, in this video created by DJ Bayonic)

Okay, ladies and gentleman! For my listening and viewing pleasure, please place your colorful, musical names in the comment section, directly below this post.

For your listening and viewing pleasure, here are the band names I came up with, back then:








Green Day

Simply Red


Black Sabbath

Deep Purple

Pink Floyd

The Moody Blues

Blue Cheer

I remember the radio D.J. doubting “Blue Cheer” as a real band name, but I must have convinced him (without anybody having access to the internet, back then), because:


Like I said, I love winning.

And I love colorful things, including these:


and these:

IMG_1809… which are the “Coping and Healing” group handout folders, that people get to choose from, before they join my therapy groups.

I also love shades of grey (which is an antidote to the unhelpful cognitive distortion of Black-and-White Thinking), as you can see by this still life in my office:


I like to point out the ever-present box of tissues to people in individual and group therapy, to let them know that all feelings are welcome. I like to point out that clock, too.

Speaking of feelings, time, color, and art, yesterday I got this email from my long-time friend and amazing artist Paul Nagano (previously appearing in posts here and here):

Dear Friends:                                

                    THE FINAL
                               OPEN STUDIO  
                 of PAUL NAGANO in Boston
Saturday and Sunday —     Nov. 15 and 16        11am to 5pm
                 This is a 
                             CLEARANCE SALE 
               because I will be leaving Boston and moving to Honolulu on December 19.
art, frames, books, art materials, objects, kitchen utensils, tools, 
even a few pieces of furniture  —  will be available for sale.
You will also be able to view the original of my magnum opus from this past summer–
“PARINIRVANA in the Great Garden” —
 I look forward to seeing you for a fond farewell.
Please, as always, bring some canned goods or other non-perishable food items
to benefit our Annual Food Drive for the GREATER BOSTON FOOD BANK.

P a u l — (after 47 years, leaving Boston on Dec. 19, to live in Hawaii 

                       …..and…….    arriving    there     on     Dec. 22)


In response, I sent Paul this one-word email (even though I knew this move was coming):



and Paul replied:


Remember, Ann, CHANGE is GOOD!  –even when it’s bad, and a little sad.

I’m going to let Paul have the last words, today, except for these:
Categories: inspiration, Nostalgia, personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 36 Comments

Day 587: It’s Been Real

(opening music video found here, on YouTube)

“It’s Been Real” is a way people say “Goodbye.”

Is that a particularly American way people say “Goodbye”?  Is it a sarcastic way?  Is it a cool way? Is it a way to — even unconsciously — acknowledge that being real with each other, during any encounter, seems important?

Sometimes I wonder whether my personal interpretations and experiences match other people’s.  Therefore, I just googled “It’s Been Real” and found this:

it’s been real 
A farewell greeting, but with a negative connotation. The speaker is usually disappointed or annoyed at the person to whom (s)he is speaking.
It’s been real. Have a nice life.

Aha!  Urban Dictionary thinks that it’s a particularly negative way to say “Goodbye.” However, I’m not sure if I want Urban Dictionary to be the final authority. After all, Urban Dictionary also says that “It’s been real” is “a farewell greeting,” which seems like an oxymoron, to me.

Let’s see what Yahoo Answers has to say about “It’s been real.”

What does “It’s Been Real” mean?   When you hang out with someone and they say this to you as you’re saying goodbye, what does this mean? Positive/negative connotation?

While that reminds me of All-or-Nothing thinking (judging something as either all positive OR all negative, with no shadings in between) … I still think it’s a good question.

And here is the “best answer”:

It’s positive. It means the time you spent together was genuine, without pretentiousness or egoism.

Wow. That’s confusing.  The first two definitions I find, through Google, are completely contradictory.

I’ll try a third  definition, as a tie-breaker.

Hmmmm. I don’t know if Slang Dictionary — which is the third and final entry coming up for me in Google —  is really going to help much. That says:

It’s been fun, nice

… with no other explanation or connotation, except for this mysterious line:

See also: I don’t know who is fucking skinning this cat, but I’m getting scratched.

Okay. Now my mind is totally blown, and I’m not sure HOW I’m going to finish this post.

There ARE some things I want to tell you, this morning:

  1. Today is the last day of my son Aaron’s appearances as John Wilkes Booth in the Sondheim musical Assassins. (For more about that, see yesterday’s post.)
  2. In less than a week, Aaron and I are boarding a plane to Edinburgh, Scotland, for wee-bit-less-than-a-complete-week of fun at the Fringe Festival.
  3. I love a good pun as much as anybody, and I remember seeing a great pun in Edinburgh, when my son and I were at the Fringe Festival last August.


So what’s the connection? What’s my point, if I do have one?

Just this.  I see a lot of farewell greetings coming up, in the near future.

Thanks to Michael Brecker (for “Itsbynne Reel“), to Edinburgh Scotland, to anyone I’ve ever greeted or farewelled, to those who do their best to define terms, to people who make a real effort to say hello or goodbye, and — of course!  — to you, for reeling by here today.  It’s been real.

Categories: inspiration, personal growth | Tags: , , , , , | 46 Comments

Day 563: Intuition

I wasn’t sure what to blog about today, so I figured I would follow my intuition.

Recently, I took a mid-day break from my work (as a group psychotherapist at a Boston medical center). The weather was muggy and warm, but I decided to go outside to get lunch.  As usual, I let my intuition guide my way.

IMG_6975 IMG_6976  IMG_6977

IMG_6978 IMG_6980



IMG_6984  IMG_6990 IMG_6993

IMG_7005 IMG_7006

Later in the day, a therapy group followed its intuition to focus on self-love (instead of self-hatred). I suggested imagining an on-and-off switch, somewhere inside, that people could use.  The group suggested that my metaphor was too all-or-nothing, and thought a different kind of lighting control would be better.

IMG_7015 *

I love when others have better intuition than I do.

Right now, my intuition is telling me that somebody needs food.


What does your intuition tell you?

Thanks to all who have intuition, alone and in groups. And thanks to you — of course! — for intuiting ** your way here, today.

* The way I intuitively draw might be confusing. This might help:


(photo found here)

** My intuition told me that “intuiting” might not be a real word. Spell check disagrees.

Categories: inspiration, personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , | 32 Comments

Day 404: Difficult/Easy

Before I get started on my usual ramblings about Whatever The Hell I Want To Write About Today, I’m noticing the number in my title.

Doesn’t 404 have a tinge of danger to it, dear readers? Unless I’m mistaken, I believe that “404” is a common way the internet tells us, “Somebody screwed up!  And I’m not saying it’s me or you. However, I’m not taking responsibility for this, so WHO do YOU think is likely at fault?”

Let me check my numerical memory, there:



1. an error message displayed by a browser indicating that an Internet address cannot be found.

Thank you, Google, for your support, for classifying “404” as a noun, and for having the guts to have a list of just one item.

Already, I feel easier than I did before I began writing this post. Yes indeed, blogging is my personal medicine.

Oh, and one more thing, before I really get this post started. Isn’t it amazing how the automatic, human distortion of mind reading can easily attach itself to anything, including the “thoughts” of the friggin’ internet?

Hmmm.  Getting started today is more difficult than I expected.

Hey!  I’m back on topic!

Yes, my dear denizens of the internet, today I would like to expound, ramble, riff, and otherwise randomly write about the opposite concepts of Difficult and Easy.

Want to come along?  Let’s go!

Random Thoughts about


My first thought about Difficult/Easy is that it represents a common cognitive distortion: Black and White (or All or Nothing) Thinking.  Yes, fellow humans, we can easily classify things as All Bad or All Good, Perfect or Useless,  All This or All That. However, most experiences, people, things, etc. are not in an either/or extreme. We live in a world of greys, where things shift and change, even if we naturally see things in absolutes.

Difficult and Easy are expressions of absolutes and extremes, aren’t they?

Let me take this opportunity to show you something in my office. In its first appearance in this blog (drum roll):


The Zero to 100 scale, on Ann’s whiteboard!!!

Wait. That’s too difficult to read and too difficult to decipher.  Hold on, while I crop that photo:


Ah. That’s easier.  So yes, that’s my all-or-nothing scale. It’s always there, on my whiteboard.  While everything else you can see in that first photo is gone, that scale remains.

Why do I keep that there?  Because it’s so handy, to have that Zero-to-100%  scale, when people talk about all-or-nothing concepts, including:

    1. Labeling themselves as worthless or any other negative extreme, losing sight of the positives.
    2. Believing that some decision might be all good or all bad, and feeling paralyzed and afraid to make the wrong decision.
    3. In general, seeing the OR’s in a situation instead of the AND’s.1

How do I use that scale, in my office?  I’m very low-tech, people. When I hear an All-or-Nothing statement that isn’t helping somebody, I take this sophisticated instrument (of which I have two):


… and move my hand up and down that scale on my whiteboard, challenging the all-or-nothing thinking.

Here’s what I’m wondering right now:

Why didn’t I write about that 0-100 scale before? I mean, it’s been up on my white board since way before I started this blog, I use it quite frequently, and people seem to find it useful. So why did I wait?

I probably thought it would be too difficult to explain.

Okay, before I end this blog post, I want to check out my stash of photos on my iPhone, because I know I have at least one cool shot I want to share. So let’s see how difficult/easy it will be, to apply some photos to today’s topic.

Here’s another photo from my ride into work during Wednesday’s snowstorm (which I wrote about, here).


And, yes, I expected that drive to be difficult, but it was way down in the other direction, on the Difficult/Easy Scale.

Finally, here’s a recent photo I took at a local ice cream place — Rancatore’s Ice Cream and Yogurt — that I liked so much, I tweeted it yesterday:


The caption for the tweet?

Usually I have trouble finding straws in take-out places. Not here.

In other words, finding straws  was in an unexpected place, on the Difficult/Easy scale.

Okay!  Time to wrap up this post.

Thanks to you.  Just you.  That wasn’t so difficult, was it?

1  I’m not sure how I feel about the Ford Fusion car commercials — about OR’s and AND’s — which I’ve been seeing a lot lately, including:

Do I love or hate those commercials? Do I think they’re good or bad? Usually, somewhere in between, depending on my mood, my thoughts, and the day.

Coincidentally, when snow first appeared, two months ago, I was considering the Ford Fusion as my next car. Why? I had read that it would be easier to drive in the snow, compared to my current car. What does my mechanic think?  He’s not so sure.

Categories: humor, personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

Day 296: The other side of containment

“The other side of containment.”

That was the title on my mind, when I woke up today.

And I just want to warn you: it’s going to take me a while to work back to that title.

So let’s digress together, shall we?

I’ve blogged a lot about cognitive distortions, this year, including this one:

Shoulds. We have ironclad rules about the behaviors of ourselves and other people.  For example, “I really should exercise. I shouldn’t be so lazy.” A more effective way to motivate ourselves is to identify positive results, rather than whipping ourselves with guilt.  For example, “When I exercise, I feel better.”

I’ve seen “shoulds” do a lot of damage to people; and yet, people naturally think those thoughts.

There is a particularly nasty form of “should”-ing, related to feelings.

Two examples:

I shouldn’t feel this way.

I should be over this, already.

As I’ve written before, cognitive distortions are human, so I assume that you have thoughts like those. I know that I do.

So they’re human. Yet, I have never experienced a helpful “should” thought, about feelings.

And that sentence I just wrote? That fits the “duck test” for another cognitive distortion:

All-or-Nothing thinking (also known as “Black-and-White thinking”).

Things are either all good or all bad, people are either perfect or failures, something new will either fix everything or be worthless. There is no middle ground; we place people and situations in “either/or” categories, with no shades of gray, or allowing for complexities.  Watch out for absolute words like “always”, “never,” “totally,” etc. as indications of this kind of distortion.

It was the word “never” in my sentence,  that tipped me off.

However, that sentence IS also the truth. I have never experienced a helpful “should” thought, about feelings.

I think it’s time for me to re-approach my topic, for today:

The other side of containment.

Why was that on my mind, this morning?

Because I have been having some difficult feelings lately. And I often hear people talk about containing difficult feelings.

What are the difficult feelings I’ve been having?

Fear, for one.

It’s time to go to my old friend, Google, for images about fear:







fear5 (1)


Speaking of fear,  I fear,  right now, that I won’t be able to complete this post before I need to leave today.

And why am I afraid that I won’t finish in time? Because fear wasn’t the emotion I was intending to write about.

Here’s the emotion I planned to tackle, this morning:


But it’s more difficult to write about anger. At least it is for me.

I have some fear about anger, people. And I know I’m not alone in that. Here’s  some immediate evidence, from the Google Image Buffet:


Here’s a particular fear I have, about anger: I fear that I (and others) judge and disown our anger.  And I think THAT can be dangerous.

When I see that fear of anger in others, sometimes I respond by saying:

Anger is just one of the basic human emotions.

Anger is the human response to not getting our needs met.

And I hope that’s helpful.

But what does this all have to do with containment, my alleged topic for the day?

Here’s what:

When I was hospitalized as a young child, I got some messages that anger and fear were not okay.   I got the sense that people did not want to see — or deal with — any anger or fear I might have about what was happening to me.

Therefore, I believed  (whether or not the messages were really there) that I needed to contain those feelings.

In this blog, I have written about several containers, for feelings and thoughts (like here and here).  And those containers can be useful, for sure.

However, I will say this:

When  a therapist talked to me, recently, about the technique of imagining a container for difficult feelings, I replied, “Personally, I would need such a  container to be open.  I wouldn’t want to believe that I have to close off my feelings, no matter how difficult they are.”

Therefore, I imagined a container, like this:


but opened, like this:


And that seemed like a good idea.

Before I end, I want to mention/brag about one more thing.

I am going to Game One of the World Series, tonight!


Earlier this morning, I had this thought about that:

What’s the matter with you?  You should be ecstatic!

There it is, again: another “should” thought about feelings.

Earlier this morning, I also had the urge to yell, to get some anger out. And I thought, “I can’t do that!!”

But what about this, as a solution?

I’m going to the World Series tonight! What better place to yell??!!?


Much better.

Thanks* to the Boston Red Sox, the St. Louis Cardinals, to containers of all kind, to people who have fear and anger, and to you, too, for visiting today.


Also, for the images, to (for the “fear face” and an interesting article), (for another “fear face” and interesting article), HowStuffWorks,, Rebuilding Divorce Recovery, and

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Day 176: All wet

Last night, I walked around in the rain, with my bf. We had one umbrella, but we still got wet. That was fun, because it’s pretty hot and humid right now, in these parts.

There are going to be thunderstorms for AT LEAST 10 DAYS IN A ROW, if we believe the weather people.

Believing the forecasters (or any kind of fortune-telling, no matter what the data) is a proposition I sometimes find dubious. (I wrote about the meteorological kind of fortune-telling on Groundhog Day. I write and talk about the cognitive distortion of fortune-telling most days of the year.)

Here are a few of my associations with rain and the title of this post, this morning:

#1.  Spotting bunnies — one of my favorite walk-time activities —  is still possible, if not probable, when it’s raining.


Because of my policy of honesty, I need to confess that I did not spot this bunny last night — nor at any point when it was raining.  However, I did spot it with impressive proximity in both time and space. (That is, very recently and very close to where I’m typing right now.)

#2.  One of my favorite standard/jazz tunes is “Here’s That Rainy Day.”

(This has nothing to do with the topic, but Ella Fitzgerald is my favorite female singer.)

#3.  The meaning of the idiom “all wet” is

all wet Slang

Entirely mistaken.

Which is an example of “All-Or-Nothing” thinking,  another cognitive distortion.

#4.  Jackie Chan pretty much always gets wet at some point in his made-in-Hong Kong movies (movies I love, which I wrote about, here).

First Strike Jackie Chan

The above is a rather extreme example, from the movie “First Strike.”

#5.  Getting wet is actually not dangerous.

Sometimes, I forget that.  It’s only water, people.

Thanks for reading, this morning.  Stay dry, or not … it’s all okay.

Categories: personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

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