Posts Tagged With: antidotes to cognitive distortions

Day 1748: Keep calm and carry on

Several years ago, a calm co-worker carried this gift from London to my office:

I need that reminder as I carry on at work, sipping calming tea from that cup which I carry on my way.

Today, I shall do my best to keep calm and carry on through

  • the news,
  • loss,
  • obstacles,
  • miscommunication,
  • mistakes,
  • injustice, and
  • everything else.

I hope my other photos from yesterday help us keep calm and carry on.

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Last night at the “So You Think You Can Dance” tour in Boston, Lex found it difficult to keep calm and carry the pizza when he saw Koine. Here‘s a reprise of the video from yesterday’s blog post:

How do you keep calm and carry on?

I keep calm and carry on with the help of others, including you!

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

Day 788: Turning bad into good

Yesterday, it was a relief for me to:

  1. attend my third and last day of a group psychotherapy conference in San Francisco,
  2. listen to one of my heroes — group therapy expert Irvin Yalom — give a down-to-earth, soulful, and moving talk,
  3. participate in a “medicinal drumming” workshop, given by Sal Núñez from City College of San Francisco,
  4. go to a very interesting  panel discussion about “Group Psychotherapy Practice of the Future,”
  5. hear from one the  esteemed panelists afterwards — much to my surprise and delight — that she considers the therapy groups I’ve developed and facilitate  at a Boston hospital a “Practice of the Future” (and that she would have described my groups in her talk yesterday  if she’d had more time),
  6. get a free, stress-relieving 10-minute massage at the conference,
  7. see and talk to other group therapists I feel I’ve connected to in  authentic and important ways,
  8. use this incredibly cool app to easily drop off the car I drove to the conference  and then miraculously get it back when I was ready to leave San Francisco at 9:30 PM, and
  9.  discover and read this amazing blog post by esteemed and admired WordPress blogger Randall Collis.

Here’s the comment I left there, in response to Randall’s gorgeous words and images:

Randall, this story and your images are so beautiful and important to me, right now. Your post is the only thing that has cut through my negative thoughts and feelings about returning home tomorrow to Boston after my two weeks in sunny, warm California. Now I actually feel strong and hopeful about what lies ahead for me. Thank you for your spirit, creativity, and talent; you make our world better with your gifts.

Here’s the last sentence of Randall’s response to me:

Thank you very much Ann, nothing like a little creativity to turn bad into good.

I have to admit that I was feeling bad two night’s ago, about

  • returning to the cold, dark, and snow of my home town of Boston, Massachusetts and
  • health uncertainties and possibly scary recommendations from doctors about my heart, which I will surely face soon after my flight home today.

However, as Randall wrote, a little creativity can turn bad into good.

Here’s just a little photographic evidence of  bad-into-good creativity, from yesterday:

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Because of all the things I learned (or re-learned) yesterday, I hereby resolve to turn bad (New England weather, fears about my health, etc.) into good  (self-care,  in-the-moment acceptance and joy) by:

  • seeking out the sounds, sights, and places that sustain me (like the ocean, which — despite how cold and gray and snowy New England may be — is NEVER silenced),
  • asking for help, when I need it, from the people around me,
  • looking into a drumming class,
  • continuing to help myself and others let go of  old unhelpful messages and images from the past, and
  • facing my immediate future with hope, resiliency, and clear vision.

I hope I turned this morning’s post into something good (enough). Gotta go catch a plane back to Boston!

Before I go, here’s some good musical creativity for you (found here on YouTube):

Thanks to Irvin Yalom, Sal Núñez, all my esteemed colleagues at the group psychotherapy conference, Randall Collis, the massage guy, the local dudes who took care of my car yesterday, the Beach Boys,  everybody everywhere who has ever turned bad into good with a little creativity, and — of course! — special thanks to you, for turning things better for me today, with your visit here.

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , | 34 Comments

Day 739: Rules and guidelines

Here’s a catch-phrase I used to hear when I was in my 20’s, working as a technical/marketing writer at an innovative start-up company in the Northeastern USA;

It’s more a guideline than a rule.

I like that expression, because:

  1. I’m a child of the 1960’s, and lots of people who grew up then do not love rules,*
  2. I’m an Aquarius and a Myers-Briggs ENFP — in both cases, people who don’t love rules,*
  3. I’m a psychotherapist who does groups that break some rules* of group psychotherapy (e.g., group members have the control to attend these groups when and how frequently they choose), and
  4. I have an overactive superego — also called the internal critic — which means I can judge myself and my behaviors by some rather harsh rules, unless I practice, practice, practice new habits and guidelines for how I think.*

I’m also thinking about another rule* I heard, last year:

Ann, you’re now on anticoagulants for your atrial fibrillation,  which means your blood won’t clot normally. No antidote exists for this medication, so PLEASE DON’T SLIP ON THE ICE.

This guideline/rule — which one of my cardiologists told me — tends to make me more anxious when:

  • It’s friggin’ cold outside, and there’s ice,
  • I’m driving a car, in any weather, and
  • I hit my &*%$@! head on a cabinet, like I did right before I started writing this post.

If this post makes less sense than usual, that MAY indicate that I’m developing a subdural hematoma. So if my regular readers notice anything different in my writing style, please contact my nearest health provider.

Where was I?

Oh, yes.  Guidelines rather than rules.

Yesterday, I encountered several rules and/or guidelines throughout my day.

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That’s something I wrote on my whiteboard in my office, yesterday afternoon . Why? Because yet another kind, empathic person who sees me for psychotherapy was being too critical of themselves. Therefore, the antidote we came up with together was “The Platinum Rule” rather than “The Golden Rule” (do unto others as you would have others do unto you.)

Here’s another photo I snapped in my office, later in the day:

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Note that the barista spelled my name wrong. I used to have a rule* about that: I believed somebody misspelling or forgetting a name was demonstrating that the other person wasn’t important enough.  I no longer think that’s a rule, at all.

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That’s a photograph I snapped after I got home, after a long day at work yesterday (which included my facilitating a therapy group starting at 5:30 PM). Even though it was verrrrrry cold outside, I wanted to take that photo of the moon. Because my communication style includes full disclosure*, I want to tell you that even though that moon LOOKS full, it really isn’t.

There are many other things I could write, this morning, about rules vs. guidelines,  but I need to leave soon for cardiac rehab, so I can get my very unusual heart into great shape. The morning session there starts at 7:30, but thanks to the wonderful Carla, Danise and Kathy (l. to r.):

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.. that’s more a guideline than a rule.

One of the rules* of my daily posts is that I try to include some music. Instead, today, I’m going to break some conventions and do something new!

I just searched YouTube for “rules and guidelines,” and here are two things I found:

(Photo Composition: Should You follow Rules and Guidelines? found here on YouTube.)

(Stoudman’s Western Movie Marathon: Rules and Guidelines found here on YouTUbe.)

Inspired by that last video, here are ….

Ann’s Rules and Guidelines for the Weekend, Starting Tomorrow:

  1. Must Watch Movies I Love.
  2. Must Spend Time with People I Love.
  3. Must Use The Platinum Rule.

Them’s the rules, pardner.

Thanks to all those who contributed to my writing this post this morning AND to anybody, anywhere who follows or thinks about rules and guidelines (including you, of course!)


* More guidelines than rules, I think.  What do you think?

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

Day 513: It’s nothing personal

When a possible title for a post occurs to me, I often check my old posts, to see if I’ve used it before. For example, I just searched old titles for the words

  • personalize (0 posts)
  • personalization (0 posts)
  • personal (many posts)

Why do I check old posts?

It’s nothing personal.  I just check old posts as

  • a way to avoid being too repetitive and
  • an early step in the creative process, for me.

Wait!  I guess it IS personal, but it has everything to do with me, not you.

And that leads me to the cognitive distortion of ….

Personalization.
You see yourself as the cause of some negative event for which you are not primarily responsible, and you conclude that what happened was your fault or reflects your inadequacy. Personalization distorts other people’s reactions into a direct, personal response to you. For example, if somebody seems upset, you immediately assume it was because of something you said or did.

When we personalize, a good antidote is this thought:

Most likely, this has to do with the other person, and not so much with me.

Or, we can get radical and try this thought:

It’s not personal

no matter what the situation, and see if that helps.

I wonder why human beings personalize, so automatically?  We must think it helps us, in some way. Perhaps we believe that personalization helps make us:

  • successful,
  • important,
  • unique,
  • safe, or
  • something else we want, hope for, or need.

We must think personalization helps, because — as I witness in others and in myself — it’s a very difficult habit to break.

Am I personalizing now?

I don’t know if I AM personalizing, in this post, people. However,  I’ve already personalized, in the short time I’ve been awake this morning, several times, regarding:

  • my boyfriend, Michael, getting out of bed and going downstairs,
  • a small ant crawling across my laptop screen, and
  • some emails I received.

In each case, it wasn’t personal. Even though I raised the question:

Did I do something wrong?

…. the answer, for all of the above, was:

It’s not your fault.

By the way, in a therapy group I facilitated yesterday at work (where we were discussing the feeling of shame), one of the members wanted to remember to think or say

It’s not my fault

as often as possible.

Speaking of emails I received this morning (and I was, a few paragraphs back), I got mad at a few of them, which had these lines:

  1. We picked these just for you.
  2. Can we talk?
  3. We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Why did I get mad?  Because it was nothing personal (but it pretended to be).

I interrupt this post to bring you a conversation I just had with my 16-year-old son, Aaron, preparing to leave for school:

Aaron: Look.  It’s 7:11.

Ann: Yes.

Aaron: (a significant look and laugh)

Ann: Sometimes I look at the clock and notice certain times, and think they’re significant.  Like ‘it’s 11:11, again!’

Aaron: Yes. You do that.

Ann:  Me?

Aaron: People.

I guess it was nothing personal, again.

Personally (as my regular readers know), I like to include photos in these posts that have some personal significance to me (whether or not I personally took the photo).

Ready for today’s photo?

ImagePersonally, I believe that photo is unique. I can also tell you that photo was up-to-the-minute and not posed. Whether it was also successful, important, safe, or something we want, hope for, or need …. ?

I’ll leave that up to you.

Thanks to everyone who sent me an email this morning (whether or not it was personal), to people who personalize, to everyone who’s working on reducing unhelpful thoughts,  and a personal thanks to you — of course! — for visiting today.

 

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

Day 394: Fear of losing track of things

In past posts, I have written about many types of fear (or dread or whatever you want to call it), including:

  1. Fear of loss.
  2. Fear of losing things.
  3. Friggin’ fear of practically everything else1 you might think of.

Today I would like to write about …

… fear of losing track of things.

Losing track of things seems to be a recurrent theme of mine (see here, here, and here for possible proof about that).  And, as usual, when I write about fear, I assume that I am not alone (although your details, in this area, may vary).

Among things I have recently feared losing track of:

  • The right word to use, when expressing myself.
  • The exact right number, as I’m needing to enter credit card numbers, patient numbers, numerical dates, account numbers, and a kashmillion 1other non-intuitive codes2, while performing computer-based transactions, before TIME RUNS OUT!!

(pant, pant, pant)

Okay, I caught my breath.  Where was I?

Oh, yes.  That list of things I have recently feared losing track of:

  • The cable for my camera, which I plan to use in Panama (when I’m away, in less than two weeks)
  • The actual dates for my trip (although I think I may have memorized those at this point).
  • The right way to do bullet points for this list (don’t even try to visualize how bullets have been flying everywhere, here, in the construction of this post because … it’s been a disaster).

Well!  The last word — of that last bullet point of that last list — leads me to this cognitive distortion. 3

Catastrophizing. 
This is a particularly extreme and painful form of fortune telling, where we project a situation into a disaster or the worst-case scenario. You might think catastrophizing helps you prepare and protect yourself, but it usually causes needless anxiety and worry.

Hmmmm.  You know what?  When I went to retrieve that cognitive distortion from my other blog here  — called Ann’s Helpful Hints (re: Letting go of Judgment)  — I realized that there’s something else I’ve lost track of.

How to edit my posts on that second blog of mine.

Yes, dear readers, I was thinking I would like to add something new, to this list of antidotes for unhelpful thoughts.  I wanted to add a new antidote, but because I haven’t edited the two posts at that second blog since I created it (almost a year ago) …. I don’t remember how. And How to Edit those particular posts …. is not immediately obvious to me. And I can’t consider trying to figure that out, right now, because I have to finish this post and get to work, before …. TIME RUNS OUT!!

(pant, pant, pant)

Sorry. Where was I?

Oh,yes. I was thinking of adding a new antidote to my list, for the first time since March.  What is that new antidote?  Something like this:

Talking to yourself.  If you are stuck in an old, unhelpful way of thinking, especially one that involves a “critical voice,” try challenging that old voice by speaking in a new, kinder way to yourself. Watch the language that you use, and speak to yourself as you would to somebody you might be naturally kinder to — a friend, a stranger, somebody that evokes empathy and sympathy in you.

I have found that antidote — of talking to myself — can be a really effective way to learn (and unlearn) things.  As a matter of fact, here are some times when I’ve been talking to myself, lately:

  • When I’m afraid (especially of doing something that’s new or that feels new, because I haven’t done it in a while).
  • Other times when I’m judging my abilities.
  • When I have to enter incredibly long patient IDs, when I’m at my work computer, about fifty friggin’ times a day.

Okay!  It’s time for me to start wrapping up this post, people.

What feels left unwritten, at this point?

My mother sometimes said to me, “Ann, I think you might lose track of your head, if it wasn’t attached.” Therefore, as a supporting image for this post, I COULD show you a picture of my head.

However, I can’t do that right now. If you’ve lost track of that of why that is, you’ll just have to see footnote #4, below, for the answer.

Instead, here’s a photo I snapped a few minutes ago:

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Why THAT photo? (I imagine you saying to yourself, right now.) Well, it represents several other things I tend to lose track of:

  1. Food, once I put it in the refrigerator.
  2. Eating healthier.
  3. A Zen, mindful, balanced, centered, or what-ever-you want-to-call that helpful frame of mind.
  4. My own personal power (that is, awareness of those things I can control).

Okay!  Time for me to take some personal power and end this post.

Thanks to Earthbound Farm Organics (for the Zen and the Power), people everywhere who lose track of things, and to you — of course! — for reading today.


  1.  It’s possible that this is an exaggeration.

  2. Other non-intuitive codes include any collection of alpha-numberic characters that don’t resemble the language I learned growing up. Email addresses, anybody? Not to mention the numbers and symbols I need to use, every time, to insert these friggin’ footnotes.

  3. It’s not the last entry on this list of unhelpful and automatic thoughts (also called cognitive distortions in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy), but I think you’ll be able to find it, soon enough.

  4. I’m not showing a photo of my head, because — at this point in my blogging path, I am not showing photos of my face. I suppose i could show a photo of the back of my head, but, I washed my hair before I went to sleep, so my hair’s a mess. Don’t even try to imagine it … it’s a disaster.  Plus, I’ve got to end this post, soon, and get to work.  Did you lose track of that, too? (Don’t worry, you’re probably not alone.)

Categories: inspiration, personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Day 326: Helpful reminders, on November 22, 2013

I have another blog, besides this one, called Ann’s Helpful Hints (re: Letting go of Judgment).  It only has two posts: a list of cognitive distortions and a list of antidotes for unhelpful thoughts.

Here’s one of the antidotes:

Use Helpful Reminders.  Use helpful phrases to challenge habitual distortions. For example, for mind-reading or fortune telling, remind yourself “I’m not psychic.” Make a list of other phrases that help you, such as “I am doing the best I can,” “One step at a time,” etc. Consider sticking these reminders where you can see them.

In therapy groups, I often put up a list of helpful phrases.  The group members and I add to it, as we choose. In other words, the list is a work in progress (like everyone who comes to the groups).

I can remember a few of the phrases on that list, right now:

You’re exactly where you’re supposed to be.

The pain of the loss is directly related to the importance of the connection.

Less is more.

That last one was easy for me to remember, because somebody suggested it last night.

Here’s why I’m writing about this topic, today.

I want to include, in this post, some  helpful reminders that people have written to me, lately.

If you wish to “connect” with me, please do.

While you are observing the anniversary of your 1st [pacemaker] implant, is it possible to view it as a celebration ( not painful) of life…YOUR life…& your continued presence in my life and the life of your other readers & friends & family. 

Take heart, Ann.

Thanks to all, for every helpful reminder, phrase, or thought. Quoted or not. Expressed or unexpressed.

Here’s one more phrase, before I end.

Rest in peace.

Rest in peace, John Kennedy.

Image*

Rest in peace, all those I love, who have passed on before me.

Scan_Pic0017**

I want to use that phrase for the living, now.

Image***

Here’s my wish, for all my “readers & friends & family.” (And for me, too.)

May we all rest, in peace, while still here on this earth.

Not perfectly. Not all the time. But as best we can.

Thanks so much, for reading today.


** Left to right: my father, my mother, Nell Zaitchik, Rabbi Samuel Zaitchik

***  fromanxietytolove.com

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 25 Comments

Day 270: Help with hangovers

Yesterday, at work, I felt  …

Cloudy.

Not myself.

Distracted.

I was thinking thoughts like these:

I’m having trouble being here today.

I wish I could go home.

Why am I feeling this way, after having such a great day yesterday?

I wonder if I’m getting sick?

Have I taken on too much?

What can I identify, right now, that might have contributed to those feelings and thoughts?

  1. Some people, whom I have really enjoyed working with, are leaving.
  2. I’ve been watching many hours of “Breaking Bad,” in a row.
  3. Because of changes in the weather, I  am often too hot or too cold (thanks a lot, Goldilocks).
  4. Because of operating system changes to my iPhone AND to my computer at work, lots of things look quite different.
  5. Perhaps lots of things are looking quite different, because of other things on this list.

What helped with these feeling and thoughts, yesterday?

Listening to other people’s wisdom about what helps them, including the following:

It helps to do a cost-benefit analysis.

Yesterday, somebody named this antidote as particularly helpful to them:

Cost-Benefit Analysis.  List the pros and cons of a negative thought (like “I always screw up”) or a behavior pattern (like isolating when you’re depressed). A simple version of this is to ask yourself, “Does this [thought or action] help me?

It helps to let people know that you appreciate them.

This is especially helpful during these times:

  1. When people are leaving.
  2. When people are still there.

It helps to make a list of Pros and Cons, especially when you are facing a difficult decision.

I just went to my Go-To Application (Google), for some back-up on Pros and Cons.

Here’s what I found, thanks to The Oatmeal:

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Which leads me to this:

It helps to laugh.

This is especially helpful during these times:

  1. When you’re alone.
  2. When you’re with other people.

That concludes our blog post for today, ladies and gentlemen.

Thanks to The Oatmeal, to wise and funny entities of all kinds, and to you, for reading today.

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Day 144: “Emergency” messages

I’ve often blogged here about cognitive distortions,including mind-reading, fortune-telling, comparisons, and negative filter. (Here’s a list of all thirteen cognitive distortions.)

I’ve also been working on a list of antidotes or remedies, to help break the habit of cognitive distortions.

Here’s the antidote I wanted to focus on, today:

The “In Case of Emergency, Break Glass” Technique. Prepare for the possibility that when you are feeling at your worst, coping strategies and solutions might be difficult to remember. Write down a couple of things that might be helpful to remember when you are feeling bad, and put that in a special place. Also, consider telling somebody else about these “emergency messages,” so they can remind you.

I’ve got my own message I would like to remember, in case of emergency. When I’m feeling down, depressed, hopeless, discouraged, self-critical, or self doubting, I wish I could remember this:  I will come through the bad time, with gifts I can use.

However, I can never remember that message, when I’m down. Never!  It’s like a spell is cast, that affects my memory.  When I’m feeling hopeless or powerless — because of disappointment or shame — my  belief is some form of this:

I suck and/or life sucks.

That’s what cognitive distortions do, in a nutshell. They present Sucky-ness of Self and Existence,  as The Truth.

But, it’s not The Truth. It’s just a belief, a thought, a temporary state of mind.

Each time, though, when I descend into a State of Ultimate Sucky-ness,  I simply cannot remember anything else. My Emergency Message is beyond me.

So, in order to try my “In Case of Emergency, Break Glass” antidote, I’ve been scoping out a special place to place my helpful Message to Self.

About a month ago, I got this box, with a hidden compartment. I thought I’d place my message there.

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However, since I so easily lose sight of the message, I decided I needed a receptacle that was a lot less subtle.

So on my vacation, I bought this:

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That’s a lot harder to miss.

I’ve printed out this version of The Message:

When you are feeling, hopeless, powerless, selfish, foolish, disappointed or otherwise bad about yourself and your situation, remember this:

You will come out of this. And you will have ideas about ways to move forward.

I’ve placed that message in the box:

photo (52)

Now my box, with message inside, is sitting on the mantle:

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I hope I remember it’s there, the next time I need it.

I’ll keep you posted.

Thanks for reading, everybody. (And feel free to post what “emergency message” you might leave for yourself.)

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

Day 67: Fears AND Antidotes!

Today, I still have fears that I might be ill with endocarditis.

I am not quite as paralyzed by fear as I was yesterday, when I wrote this blog post  before leaving home in the morning.

 (I am letting go of judgment, right now, of how confusing that post might have been, and about how I might have included Too Much Information.) (Poof! )

Better.

So even though I’m feeling more centered and calm today, I am still in the challenging and difficult position of waiting for the results of the test for endocarditis.

When I work with people in therapy, I point out to them what a difficult place this is to be: Not Knowing, while waiting for important results. How stressful it is being in a position where you have no control over an outcome which may have a major impact on your life.  (For example, waiting to hear if you’ve gotten into the school you want, waiting for the results of a biopsy, etc.)

I often forget to tell myself what I invite my clients to tell themselves: This is a very difficult place you are in. Therefore, be as kind to yourself as possible.

In groups I do, I hear this very common theme: we can see what works for other people, but it is hard to apply it to ourselves.

That reminds me of the following antidote for unhelpful thinking:

The “Double-Standard” Method. Instead of judging yourself harshly, talk to yourself as compassionately as you might to a friend with a similar problem. Also, ask yourself, “How would I react if somebody else did this?”

That gives me an idea for the rest of this post for today.  I’d like to focus  on antidotes. And when I say “focus on”,  I mean “ramble about in that general direction until I get to the point I want to make.”

 I am now going to reframe some negative mind-reading I am doing,  assuming that you, my reader, might find my writing style annoying.  I am going to reframe that into this: “Maybe some people find my writing style … charming!”  Oooh!  That helped me feel better. I will now reframe again into a more balanced thought:  “Some people might find my writing style annoying. Some people might find my writing style charming. Enough people will find it understandable and worth reading.”

Better.

Yesterday, I did two groups at work, and  I was very focused on inviting people to look at The Positive.

Okay, time for a digression about a way I think about therapy.

Digression about How I Think About Therapy

 I think there is a duality about therapy.  I think it is important to leave room for people’s ambivalence — their experience of the positive AND the negative. I think it’s important to leave room for people’s hopes AND fears.  The light AND the dark.  The good in them AND the not-so-good in them.

I think it’s important for me to show my acceptance of exactly where they are AND have hope with them for what they want to change — in themselves and in their lives. And I work hard to invite people to do the same for themselves.

I think it’s important to invite both sides — the positive and negative. But I want to be careful to invite the negative, especially, because — if I focus too much on the positive —  people might not feel seen, with all their pain, shame, and fears about themselves and their lives.

Lots of clients/patients (I don’t like those labels, but I have yet to find a title I like for people I see)  tell me that others  in their lives don’t want to hear their “negatives” — their  depression, anger, despair, fear, or hopelessness.  The people I see at work often tell me they feel bad about  how other people in their lives react to their pain. This might make them not want to talk to other people. It can cause them to isolate.

And I understand how people who love my clients/patients — or who are otherwise connected to them — might not want to see my clients’ pain.  These people may feel exhausted, helpless, or incompetent about what to say.

I think that’s a big reason why people go into therapy, actually, because they are desperate to have the “negative” parts of themselves — their anger, hopelessness, fear, despair  stuck-ness, etc. — acknowledged, instead of avoided.

So human beings are both  positive and negative,   holding both hope and hopelessness — and they are ambivalent about many things.  By “ambivalent”, I mean that they have two conflicting feelings. For  example, someone might want change AND fear change at the same time.

End of Digression about Therapy in General

In the groups I did yesterday, I wanted to go more towards the positive  (while, at the same time, leaving some room for negative thoughts that were in the room, too).  But I remarked in myself that I really wanted to focus on antidotes yesterday.  I wanted to focus on hope, not on leaving as much room for people’s pain in the moment.

And I named that, in the moment, to the group members.

And I knew (although I didn’t name it) that my wish to go toward the positive was related to my fears about my own health.

And we focused on antidotes, during the group.

As I said in this blog post, I like to use props in therapy.  And two of my props are (1) The Bowl of Distortions and (2) The Bowl of Antidotes.

bowls

There they are — straight from my office to your screen!

What’s in The Bowl of Distortions?  Slips of paper containing the definitions of all 13 cognitive distortions.  The Bowl of Antidotes holds slips of paper containing descriptions of ways to challenge these (which I keep adding to).

Yesterday, because I really wanted to focus on the positive, I suggested that we use the Bowl of Antidotes. And each person in the group chose an antidote from the bowl,  and talked about it with the group  (including details about whether the person used that antidote, how they used it, whether it was useful, what got in the way of using it, how to use it more, and so on).

Here are some antidotes the group members chose from the bowl yesterday:

  • List the positives. To deal with the tendency to focus on the negative, make lists of good things that are happening, good things about yourself, and things that you are accomplishing (even little things). Focus on what you ARE doing, rather than on what you’re NOT doing.
  • The Semantic Method.  Substitute language that is less emotionally loaded and less judgmental.  For example, instead of telling yourself, “I should have known better,” you could say, “I didn’t know that.”
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis.  List the pros and cons of a negative thought (like “I always screw up”) or a behavior pattern (like isolating when you’re depressed). A simple version of this is to ask yourself, “Does this [thought or action] help me?”

Another antidote somebody picked from the bowl was “The Double Standard Method,” described earlier in this post. And this one came up, too, which the group discussed at length:

  • The “In Case of Emergency, Break Glass” Technique. Prepare for the possibility that when you are feeling at your worst, coping strategies and solutions might be difficult to remember. Write down a couple of things that might be helpful to remember when you are feeling bad, and put that in a special place. Also, consider telling somebody else about these “emergency messages,” so they can remind you.

The members of the group really liked that one, and talked in detail about ways to put this one into effect.

Here’s two more antidotes, which we didn’t pick yesterday in the group, but which I’ve been trying to use a lot the last couple of days:

  • Reality testing.  Ask people questions to find out if your thoughts and concerns are realistic or true. This is a particularly effective response to the distortion of mind-reading.
  • The So What? Technique. Consider that an anxiety-producing possibility (even the worst case scenario) might not be as bad as you fear. For example, “So what if this one person doesn’t like me? Not everybody is going to like me.” or “So what if I lose my cell phone? It’ll be an incredible hassle, but I’ll be able to deal with it.”

Antidotes can really help.

Thanks for reading.  As always, I would welcome any comments on any antidotes you find helpful.  And, I love collecting antidotes, so let me know if you have others you like in addition to the ones listed here.

© 2013 Ann Koplow

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

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