Posts Tagged With: exceptions

Day 2210: The exception that proves the rule

I wonder if this post will be the exception that proves the rule.  In order to know that, we need to know what “the exception that proves the rule” means.

“The exception proves the rule” is a saying whose meaning has been interpreted or misinterpreted in various ways. Its true definition, or at least original meaning, is that the presence of an exception applying to a specific case establishes (“proves”) that a general rule exists. For example, a sign that says “parking prohibited on Sundays” (the exception) “proves” that parking is allowed on the other six days of the week (the rule). A more explicit phrasing might be “the exception that proves the existence of the rule.”

An alternative explanation often encountered is that the word “prove” is used in the archaic sense of “test”.[1] Thus, the saying does not mean that an exception demonstrates a rule to be true or to exist, but that it tests the rule. In this sense, it is usually used when an exception to a rule has been identified:[clarification needed] for example, Mutillidae are wasps without wings which cannot fly, and therefore are an exception that proves (tests) the rule that wasps fly. The explanation that “proves” really means “tests” is, however, considered false by some sources.

Does that exceptional definition, from Wikipedia, prove anything?  Maybe we need to know what the rule is, here, before we prove any exception.

One of my rules here is providing some clarity and explanation about why I’m writing each of my daily posts.  Maybe this post will be an exception to that.

Or maybe not.   In narrative therapy, it’s important to identify exceptions to people’s unhelpful, generalized, negative rules about themselves and their lives.  For example, if somebody sees themselves as a loser or a failure, the narrative therapist helps them identify and talk more about the exceptions to that self-defeating rule.

When I hear exceptions outside my therapy office, I sometimes say, “That’s the exception that proves the rule.  Whatever that means.” I’m realizing now that I do know what it means.

Let’s see if any of my photos today illustrate “the exception that proves the rule.”


Usually we don’t have balloons of woodland creatures in the cafeteria at work.  Yesterday, there was a holiday celebration called “Wintery Woodlands,” where employees received hot chocolate, chocolate-covered pretzels, a calendar, and a lunchbox.  Because I’m exceptionally distracted these days, I left my calendar and lunchbox in the cafeteria. The rule is only one calendar and lunchbox for everyone, so I guess I’m out of luck.


That’s my new and exceptional co-worker, Alice.  She’s also taking a picture of the wintry woodlands in that photo.  I have a rule, in this blog, of not identifying where I work. I don’t think this photo is an exception to that. (Although I have slipped, one or two times, during the two thousand, two hundred, and ten days of blogging, so I guess those posts are exceptions that prove the rule.)


I’ve taken a lot of photos of this hotel marquee, but none of them have ever said, “12 Days of Music.”   I am predicting that this photo won’t be the last one that says that. I’ve also included a lot of music in this daily blog, but I don’t remember ever including any punk.  If so, today will be the exception that proves the rule.

Here’s a punk rock cover of “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”


If you usually don’t comment, why not make today the exception that proves the rule?

I’m considering not thanking people at the end of this post (which definitely is a rule at this blog), but some rules I do not want there to be an exception to.  So, exceptional thanks to all those who helped me create today’s blog and — of course! —  to YOU.




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

Day 312: Exceptions

When I started this blog, at the beginning of this year, I set a structure for it, as expressed in my About page:

This blog is part of my creative process.

It’s also a way to work on my  growing acceptance and appreciation of life, and to share and develop some of the wisdom I’ve been slowly accumulating. My commitment is to start on January 1, 2013 and to blog once daily, throughout 2013.

So I made a commitment to blog once daily.

A commitment  I have kept, all year.

Until yesterday.

Yesterday, I decided to blog twice, because I wanted to send out a targeted message — a message to people who receive emails whenever I publish.

You see, I recently started sending myself email messages of my own posts. As a result, after I published yesterday’s post — which had some cool video clips of dances —  I got some important, new information. The emailed version of that post, which I received, did not include any of those videos.

So I was presented with a problem. And when my mind perceives a problem, it really goes to town!  Here are some of the thoughts I had:

Hmm.  The email I received had no video clips.  That’s too bad!  I assume that other people who get emails of my posts didn’t get those clips, either. I really like those clips.  Maybe other people wouldn’t like them, though!  Maybe people get annoyed when I include video clips!  Who wants to play a video clip when they’re reading a blog?  I do, dammit!  And I at least want to give people the choice to play those clips if they want to. I wonder if people who get the emailed posts know that they can easily go to WordPress and see the entire post, just by clicking on the name of the post?  Geesh!  What should I do about this? People who get emailed posts are only a portion of my reading audience.  Shall I send them each an email?  Nahhh. That would take too long. Hey!  Why don’t I just send out another post?  That’s not the best way to reach a portion of an audience — because there are lots of people it won’t apply to — but why not?  What’s the worst that could happen?  The people who it doesn’t apply to can just ignore it. Maybe it will confuse some people, but so what? Of course, I’ll be blogging twice, and I committed to blogging once. Arrghhh!

I tell you, my mind is one scary place to visit sometimes.  All those thoughts!  All that back-and-forth action, about one simple, relatively unimportant issue.

Although, in defense of me, some of that frenzied thought action was due to this:  Commitments ARE very important to me. I like to stick to commitments. I think it’s an excellent way to live.

But it’s also important to prioritize and let go of perfectionism, when it comes to commitments.  While I try very hard to keep ALL commitments and promises, that’s pretty darn impossible, isn’t it?  Some commitments are definitely more important than others.

For example, it’s okay to break a social commitment, every once in a while, to take care of myself. Yes, it is.

Ann!  Are you listening?

(That’s something I have trouble remembering.)

Some might say that breaking commitments is a “slippery slope.”  That is, once you start going back on promises, you’ll end up breaking lots of them.

To me, right now, that sounds like All-or-Nothing thinking. And Labeling, too. (See here for a list of those and other cognitive distortions.)   That is, either I have to be 100% about commitments or … I’ll turn into a  Dirty, Rotten Promise-Breaker.

I’m not a Promise-Breaker, people!  I can declare that now, even though I “broke” a commitment yesterday.


Yesterday, after I had all those thoughts, in italics above, about that Momentous Breach of Commitment, I had this, more helpful thought:

If I make an exception and post twice, that will be a great opportunity to write about the helpful side of exceptions.

Exceptions are an important concept in Narrative Therapy (which I’ve written about previously this year — like here —  because it’s one of my favorite ways of working with people).

Here’s what Narrative Therapy says about Exceptions:

  1. People tend to tell certain types of stories about themselves.
  2. Some of those stories are “stuck”, unhelpful, negative, and limiting.
  3. Whenever people tell negative stories about themselves, they are ignoring exceptions to that fixed story.

So, when people tell me stories about how incompetent, inadequate, lazy, worthless, etc. they are, I pull for the exceptions to those stories. I ask questions,  to invite the times, the actions, the moments that don’t fit those negative self-judgments.

And those exceptions are ALWAYS there.  Always.

Sometimes, it takes some digging, to discover them.


But there’s no better buried treasure, I believe.

Now that I’ve inserted an image in this post, let’s see what Google Images has for us, today, regarding “exceptions”.

Here we go!


Thanks to James Thurber, SQL Soldier (for the buried treasure image), exception-makers,  kind commitment-breakers, and to you, especially, for visiting today.

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

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