Posts Tagged With: challenging cognitive distortions

Day 1257: Is that a helpful thought?

Is that a helpful title?

Since I try to be a helpful psychotherapist, I help people identify  automatic and unhelpful thoughts, also known as cognitive distortions. If you think it would be helpful to see a list of those unhelpful thoughts, I can help — click this helpful link.

Because unhelpful thoughts — including catastrophizing, personalizing, blaming, mind-reading, shoulds, and labeling — feel like “the truth,” it’s helpful to identify and challenge them. I try to help people do that with cognitive distortion “antidotes” (which I’ve helpfully listed here).

However, no matter what the unhelpful thought, there’s an all-purpose, one-size-fits-all way to help yourself challenge it: the helpful title of today’s helpful post.

So, if you notice yourself feeling worse because of a thought you’ve just had, please help yourself by asking this question:

Is that a helpful thought?

If the answer to that helpful question is “no,” then help yourself by dismissing that thought, however you can.

Here’s a short list of unhelpful thoughts I’ve encountered recently:

  • I don’t know what I’m doing.
  • Other people don’t know what they’re doing.
  • Nobody cares about me.
  • This is going to kill me.
  • I am not worthy of love.
  • People don’t like me.
  • I am clumsy.
  • Life will never get better.

Is that a helpful list?

Is that a helpful photo? Yesterday,in therapy, when somebody had the unhelpful thought  “It’s all my fault,” I helped them replace that unhelpful thought with the more helpful thought of “I tried.”

Are any of these helpful thoughts?

Is it helpful that WordPress just published this post before I was ready?

It’s not all sweetness and understanding.  Sometimes you have to kick ass with some helpful music.

Is it a helpful thought to thank everybody who helped me create today’s post?  Is it a helpful thought to appreciate you for reading it? I think “YES!”

Categories: personal growth, photojournalism, Psychotherapy | Tags: , , , , | 30 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

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