Posts Tagged With: blaming

Day 2355: Blame

Who’s to blame for never writing a post titled “Blame” before, even though it’s one of the thirteen cognitive distortions discussed here?

I’m to blame for that and for repeating that description here:

We blame ourselves for every problem, or hold other people entirely responsible for a negative situation or feeling. When we focus on assigning blame and figuring out who is “at fault”, we are usually ignoring the complexity of a situation. Also, blaming can result in staying stuck in negative feelings, rather than moving towards action and solutions.

Does it help to blame?  What about this major news story?

1 million species are at risk of extinction.  Humans are to blame.

I’m very upset about that news story.  Can you blame me?

However, I don’t want to stay stuck in negative feelings. I’d rather move towards actions and solutions. But what actions and solutions are there?

I try not to blame myself for becoming overwhelmed, sometimes, by the immensity of problems.

I do think there is a difference between blaming and taking responsibility. Blaming keeps us stuck in the past and pointing fingers at each other.  Taking responsibility is more adult, focusing less on shame and more on the next achievable steps.

I take responsibility for all these photos and please don’t blame me if they don’t relate to today’s topic (because I took them all before I knew what I was going to write about this morning).

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Here‘s the witch from Stephen Sondheim’s  Into the Woods singing about the futility of blame:

I take responsibility for expressing my sincere gratitude at the end of every post.  Thanks to all for helping me create this blog and for reading it, here and now!

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Categories: personal growth, photojournalism, therapy | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 22 Comments

Day 1891: Stones

About a thousand days and blogs ago (but who’s counting?) I wrote a post about the basket of stones I use in my work as a group therapist.

When I orient a new person to my groups, I ask them to choose a stone from the basket for a mindfulness exercise.  At the end of the orientation, I tell them that the stone they chose is their “Coping and Healing Stone” to keep. People seem to love their stones.

Yesterday, when I returned to work from a week-long group therapy conference in Houston,  the basket of stones was not in its usual place on my bookshelf.  I searched my office and the rooms where I do group therapy, but that big basket of beautiful stones  remained missing.

I asked Juli,  who had facilitated some of my groups while I was away, if she had taken the basket of stones from my office.  She said, “What? No!  What a weird thing for somebody to take!”  As she thought about it, she remembered that when she had gone into my office to get some shells for a group mindfulness exercise,  she didn’t see the stones there then. So they had apparently disappeared early in the week I had been away.

I continued to look for the stones and they continued to remain missing.

Then, I started to compile a list of suspects, which is what we humans do.  The most probable suspect was a patient with chronic mental illness, who  had been in my office and chosen a stone from the basket.  I checked to see if this patient had been in the practice the week I was gone and I discovered that he had been —   on Monday to see his primary care doctor.  I told his doctor that I suspected this patient had taken the stones.  His doctor agreed  that was possible and  we discussed the patient’s mental state and how to help him.  I told the doctor I was not going to mention the missing stones to the patient.

I got on eBay and ordered a new basket and new stones. I had two people scheduled yesterday to be oriented to my group, which meant I needed stones for the orientation mindfulness exercises. However, in an amazing  and fortuitous coincidence,  I had brought in with me several beach stones that were given to me on my birthday by my friend Megan’s daughter.

Later in the day, I was standing in the hallway talking to a co-worker, when the practice director came out of her office carrying MY BASKET OF STONES.  She explained that she had gone into my office while I was gone, taken the stones, and used them in a group.  She said, “You have a funny look on your face.”  Maybe she thought I was stoned.

I let the falsely suspected patient’s doctor know about what had happened  My conclusion: “The mentally ill get blamed for everything.”

Last night, I noticed that I had missed a phone call from my son Aaron, who is studying at the University of Edinburgh, which has many buildings built of stones.  He had called around 4:00 AM, his time.   I called him back right away.

Aaron, who often looks a little stoned (especially when he’s tired), said, “I won the Edinburgh University Comedy Competition tonight.”   My boyfriend Michael asked (as I knew he would), “Did you win any money?”  Aaron said, “No. ”  And he showed us what he had won. It was an enormous stone.

Feeling stoned yet?  Here are some photos from yesterday.

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If you look closely at that last photo, you can see Aaron holding the stone he won as the Edinburgh University Revue Comedy Champion 2018.

People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones, but feel free to throw out some comments below.

Thanks to all who helped me write this post about stones and — of course! — to YOU.

 

Categories: group therapy, personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , | 25 Comments

Day 775: Awkward

Yesterday (my last work day before a two-week vacation),  I decided that the right thing to do was to go into work for a few hours in the afternoon, despite my running an awkwardly inconvenient fever two evenings before.

During my time at work yesterday, this was the only thing I awkwardly wrote on my white board:

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I hope I can explain, non-awkwardly and clearly, why “Awkward” was hanging around on my white board yesterday, awkwardly alone like that.

I wrote “Awkward” during a final “termination” session (terminating therapy is described further and perhaps somewhat awkwardly in this here post), when a patient and I said goodbye to each other after working together for several months.  This termination session had been cancelled and rescheduled several times over the last week or so, because of the extreme Boston winter weather, which is making it supremely awkward to get anywhere these days.

I asked the patient, in yesterday’s termination session, what it was like for him to say goodbye to me (or to anybody else), and that’s when “Awkward” showed up.

Personally, I did not feel awkward about the word “Awkward” showing up in that way, because I think a lot of people feel awkward when saying “goodbye,” and I think it helps make the situation less awkward by naming the awkwardness.

What do you think of that awkward sentence, above?

I hope you don’t feel awkward about expressing your thoughts and feelings about anything I’m awkwardly including here today.

(I feel a little awkward writing this now,  but I think I might have too much to show and tell today about the topic “awkward,” which might make this post awkwardly long and confusing.)

Where was I, before that awkward digression?

Oh, yes. After I took that first photo yesterday, I knew “awkward” would be the topic today, and then I saw “awkward” everywhere, especially when I was trying to make my way home through the very awkward snow, ice, and super-cold temperatures in the Boston area. But I didn’t want to stop in the middle of any road and take photos — that would have been awkward, for lots of reasons.

I did manage to capture this one shot of the awkwardly-not-so-great outdoors:

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Hey!  That photo reminds me, awkwardly, that it’s Valentine’s Day today. However,

  • we’re all awkwardly cold and snow-bound, where I live,
  • it’s awkward to get out to buy flowers, candy, and other non-awkward or awkward gifts (depending upon your thoughts and feelings about Valentine’s Day), and
  • my son and I are flying to California today, leaving my boyfriend Michael behind with our cats, which seems like a particularly awkward Valentine’s Day present.

Also, the name of that shop  — “Paradise Flowers” — is awkward, considering the current circumstances in the Northeast USA.

A few nights ago, when I was unknowingly coming down with an awkward fever and awkwardly taking these photos at Whole Foods Market (awkwardly presented before in this blog post, here) …

IMG_5428 IMG_5429 IMG_5430 IMG_5432 … I awkwardly slipped away from Michael and found a Valentine’s Day card for him. Then, I awkwardly ran to an open line and asked a nice cashier to RING THIS UP, QUICK! because I was buying it for my boyfriend who might awkwardly appear at any moment, and she got awkward and frazzled, but we managed to complete the transaction without Michael awkwardly spoiling the surprise.

I just took an awkwardly fuzzy photo of that Valentine’s Day card, but uploading photos has been awkwardly inconsistent for me lately (which is particularly awkward timing, because of the previously awkwardly mentioned two-week trip to California), so I’ll just awkwardly tell you this: the card has a picture of a duck.

Awkward!

More “awkward” thoughts from your awkward WordPress host, in the awkwardly cold and snowy here and now:

  • For some awkwardly unknown reason, writing these blog posts is very technically awkward for me these days —   my cursor is awkwardly freezing; linking to other sites, fixing typos, etc. are now all awkwardly and unexpectedly difficult;  and I am awkwardly thrown out of each post I’m composing at least once.  I awkwardly don’t know who to blame …  WordPress, my laptop, or me.  Here’s an non-awkward solution: I shall blame nobody and just keep awkwardly posting on.
  • With post creation here more obviously awkward and difficult for me, I’m awkwardly catastrophizing that WordPress might awkwardly go away some day, AND WILL ALL MY HUNDREDS OF POSTS DISAPPEAR, TOO?  That would be VERY awkward.
  • I awkwardly read a WordPress post by another blogger whose name I’ve awkwardly forgotten the other day that put that catastrophic scenario of LOSING EVERYTHING awkwardly into my head, but when I tried to follow the instructions for saving all of my awkward and non-awkward posts for posterity, that awkwardly did NOT work.
  • I can easily feel awkward in new situations, so I may very well feel some awkwardness when I awkwardly encounter all the adventures ahead of me for the next two weeks in California. I believe I am awkwardly ready enough for all that.
  • Yesterday, when I was awkwardly looking at the awkward weather forecast for the Boston area (which included ANOTHER !*!!(@)!!!?@ AWKWARD BLIZZARD), it seemed like the timing of that blizzard might awkwardly delay the flight later today that my son and I have been awkwardly anticipating for several weeks. For now, I am awkwardly keeping my awkward fingers crossed.
  • That next awkwardly anticipated blizzard has already caused the awkward public transportation system in the Boston area to totally and awkwardly shut down for tomorrow, Sunday. That’s going to make things awkward for a lot of people.

Here’s another awkward segue: After I got home from work, yesterday, my downstairs neighbor Karen’s dog, Faxy, ran upstairs into our apartment and had a close-if-not-awkward encounter with our very non-awkward cat, Oscar. I would feel very awkward if I did not show you some of these pictures, as I promised Karen yesterday I would, but it’s awkward for me to decide which ones of the many photos I awkwardly took yesterday to awkwardly share with you now.

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That last awkward photo includes the awkwardly elusive and shy Harley under the table, who actually seemed to feel LESS awkward with a STRANGE DOG than he does with two of the humans who live with him (including one who actually CHOSE AND RESCUED HIM FROM THE SHELTER).

Awkward!

Here is one more awkward image I noticed last night:

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That’s an awkward birthday card I unexpectedly received from one of my old college roommates, Nancy. I just tried to change the awkward sideways orientation of that photo the way I usually do, but that didn’t work.

Awkward!

Would it be awkward for me to ask you what awkward music you might include in this awkward post?

Last night, I decided to choose this song, which has some awkward lyrics about California:

Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald are singing “The Lady is a Tramp” here at YouTube.

I shall now awkwardly ask, again, for any comments, awkward or not.

Thanks to all awkward and non-awkward humans, animals, weather systems, and computer interfaces who/that (awkward!) helped me compose this here awkward post and I hope it doesn’t seem awkward that I’m particularly grateful to YOU, for visiting today.

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

Day 388: What was your intent?

I have (at least) two reasons for choosing today’s blog post title.

That is, I want to answer that question in my title — “What was your intent?” — regarding …. my choice of a title, today.

Okay!  Let’s start our engines, blog post riders! 1

Here’s some advice:

When somebody does or says something that you find confusing — when you do not know what to do (or say) in response to somebody else’s behavior — ask them this simple question, “What was your intent (in saying or doing such and such)?”

I have used this technique, and it can be quite effective.  Other people have told me they have found it effective, too.

In other words, I recommend asking that question.

Now, my wish might be that, at this point in our relationship — Me as Writer, You as Reader — that you might respond, “Yes, Ann!  We believe you!  We will do what you suggest!”

But that’s not realistic, is it?

So let me explain my recommendation, further:

As human beings, we tend to mind-read. Here’s the definition of mind reading, from this list of  Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) distortions:

Mind reading.
Without individuals saying so, we know what they are thinking and why they act the way they do. For example, you assume that somebody is having a critical thought about you, you don’t check this out, and this affects your actions and feelings towards them.

So, asking “What was your intent?” is one way to apply the following “antidote“to a very human — but often unhelpful — thought process:

 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.

Speaking for myself, I tend to NOT ask this question — in many instances where it could help improve interpersonal communication.

Instead of asking

What was your intent?

… I project my own experience and make assumptions about what the other person meant when they said or did something.

For example, last night, my boyfriend, Michael, and I had a “discussion” (translation: we got mad at each other, briefly). And in the course of this discussion, we both were “mind reading”  — making assumptions about each other’s intentions.  And we figured that out, and we’re fine.

Here are clues that you — or somebody else — might be mind reading, too. If you have these thoughts:

I don’t understand why this person did or said this!  This makes no sense to me!  If I were in that situation, I would NEVER do that!

And then, in an attempt to make meaning of what seems inexplicable, you then think:

This person must be trying to hurt me!

This person must not care about me!

This person must be a _____! 2

This is all evidence that Mind Reading might be in the house.

So just stop doing that, people! It’s not good for you!  It’s not good for your relationships!!

As if changing, like that, could be THAT easy. (But wouldn’t that be nice?)

However, here’s something you CAN do, in this situation.  Ask the other person this question:

What was your intent (in speaking or acting that way)?

And then, have an open mind to what the other person replies.  (Which is easier said than done, especially if you’re angry.)

I also want to say this:  in abusive relationships, this would not be an effective antidote. That is, some people’s intentions might be to hurt you (even though they won’t admit it). Actually, in this case, it doesn’t matter what the other person’s intention is — if they are hurting you consistently, get out of the house!

Boy, I sure am giving a lot of advice today. I’m not very comfortable giving advice, usually.

But I did today.

What was my intent, in doing that?

I thought it might be helpful.

Okay, so what remains for me to do, before I end this blog post? In other words, it’s time for the …

The Tying-Up-Loose-Ends Portion of Today’s Blog Post

In my opening sentence, I said I had at least two reasons for writing about this topic today. I’m not sure whether I’ve explored different reasons.  Perhaps I have.

One thing I DO know: I promised fellow blogger Mark Bialczak, in the Comments Section of yesterday’s post, that I would explain this photo:

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which I included in Day 386: Clues.

Mark wrote:

And the what-was-it from yesterday’s post. Are you going to share the elusive message down the line, or was it just a brain-teaser like that little game the put on the table at Cracker’s Barrel restaurants where you try to leave just one golf tee standing?

I don’t want to mind read here, but we, as humans, do that.  I think Mark was asking:

What was your intent?

I responded to Mark, in the comments section, like so:

What elusive message is it, to which you refer, Mark? I’m not being coy, I’m just losing track of all the hints and clues I’ve been putting out there in blog posts lately. If you ask directly for me to clear something up, I will do it, most happily.

In other words, I was asking:

What was your intent?

Mark wrote back:

OK, you put the shot of your one-socked foot on the floor with a kitty in the corner and asked what it meant. I’d love to know what you were going for with that one, Ann.

In other words …. Oh, you know.  He was asking: What was my intent in posting that photo?

This was my response:

I am going to attempt to answer your question in the blog I write today (Day 388). Thanks, as always.

Notice the stall — what some people might call “procrastination.”  That is, I didn’t answer his question when I first read it, last night. Instead, I waited until this morning. I waited until right now — this moment — to answer.

Sometimes, it’s difficult for me to answer that question: What was your intent?  Sometimes my intentions are complicated. Sometimes, I have multiple intentions. Sometimes, my intentions are both conscious and subconscious.

Confused?  You’re not alone.

But I will do my best, right now, in explaining what my intentions were, in posting that photo:

  1. I wanted to show another “mystery”3 — that is, when I sleep with socks on my feet, one of those socks often comes off during the night.
  2. I wanted to let people know that I am so engrossed in writing this blog, every day, that I can go downstairs to write, unaware that I have one sock on and one sock off.
  3. It’s so friggin’ cold out, here, that I soon realize that I have one sock off, as one foot starts to freeze.
  4. I am having this experience, frequently, as evidenced by the fact that the sock in this photo is brown, while the sock I mentioned in the previous blog post — Day  385: Wicked Pisser — was …. (drum roll): PURPLE!

Confused? Too Much Information?  It’s Mark’s fault!! (Hint: this would be a reference to another cognitive distortion:  Blaming.)

If it’s anybody’s fault, it’s my fault, because my intentions are often complicated. But, really, it’s nobody’s fault.

Maybe, to be clear and simple,  I should ask myself my own question, one more time. This time, I’ll ask it — not just about that photo or those particular blog posts — but about my writing this blog, in general.

What was (or is) your intent?

Simply and honestly?

To heal.

Okay!  That concludes our blog post for today.

Thanks to Michael, Mark, people who have questioned their own or other people’s intents, and to you — of course!! — for reading today.


  1.  Apparently I’m still using car metaphors.  By the way, if you read this blog regularly, the other driver who was involved in my minor fender bender still has not filed a claim (as far as I know).  I have theories about why that might be. If she were here, I could ask her, “What is your intent?” But she isn’t. So I’ll just have to guess.

  2. This would be the cognitive distortion of Name Calling — which we do to ourselves and to others, too, especially when we’re upset. I sometimes use the word “jerk” (to myself), when I’m mad at somebody.  Sometimes I use stronger language (to myself).   Here’s what I think we’re often saying, when we call somebody a “jerk” or “a _______”: “This person is NOT who I thought s/he was. Maybe they’re not a good match for me. Maybe I shouldn’t be with them.” And, dear readers, sometimes that is true. But often, it’s not. Confused? You’re not alone.

  3. Mysteries have been a theme of my recent blog posts. What has been my intent, in doing this?  Arrrghh!  Will these questions never end?

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 26 Comments

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