Posts Tagged With: group exercise

Day 2138: Masks

Over two years ago, when I was in the hospital dealing with pneumonia and heart failure, I wrote a blog post titled “Masks“.

Yesterday, in a therapy group, people talked about the relationships between the masks they wear on the outside and how they feel inside.  I keep the identify of my group members masked because of confidentiality; therefore I only show what I create in group, including this mask:

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Do you see masks in my other photos from yesterday?

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Here’s “Behind the Mask” by Michael Jackson:

Here’s the “Cuban Pete” song from The Mask:

I never mask my gratitude for those who help me create these blog posts and — of course! — YOU!

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Categories: group therapy, personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 27 Comments

Day 1906: We fear what we can’t control

I fear I can’t control the news, which included this headline this morning:

We Fear What We Can’t Control About Uber and Facebook

Do you agree that we fear what we can’t control about technology and other aspects of our lives?

If we fear what we can’t control, we must be afraid a lot of the time.

Yesterday, in a therapy group, people expressed fear, anxiety, and depression about things they could not control.  When people offered each other support, I temporarily took control and suggested that members write down and send messages to each other in the group.

Earlier in the day, I took  control of a staff meeting and sang a song about my therapy groups.

You can’t control how I share photos on this blog.

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We can’t control that those are actual diagnosis codes doctors can use about their patients.  Do you fear being bitten by a cow, pecked by a chicken, etc.?

I can’t control what comments you leave but I have no fear about that.

Thanks to all who helped me control today’s blog post and — of course! — to YOU, no matter what you control or fear.

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Categories: group therapy, personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , | 34 Comments

Day 443: Fun with labels

Personally, I think the label for this post is strange.

“Fun with labels”?!?   Labeling is an unhelpful and pain-producing cognitive distortion:

Labeling or Name-calling.
We generate negative global judgments based on little evidence. Instead of accepting errors as inevitable, we attach an unhealthy label to ourselves or others. For example, you make a mistake and call yourself a “loser,” a “failure”, or an “idiot.” *

… and I’m suggesting that we have fun with it?  That seems

  • Foolish
  • Insensitive
  • Wrong-headed
  • Doomed to failure.

Of course, I’m labeling this post, aren’t I?  Plus, I’m indulging in another cognitive distortion — fortune-telling — predicting how this post is going to turn out. PLUS I’m mind-reading how YOU, the reader, might react to it.

Geesh.  The cognitive distortions are coming in, fast and furious today, aren’t they?

I can put words on why that might be happening.  Yesterday, at work, I caught myself in THREE obvious mistakes.

I sometimes liken my mistakes to mice. Or cockroaches.  That is, if I see three of them, I assume there are many, many more mistakes I’ve made, that I haven’t seen, observed, or caught.

So, I could label my mistakes

  • Bad
  • Dangerous
  • Unforgivable
  • Out of control

….or, I could label my mistakes, in a different way:

Human.

Are we having fun, yet? Probably not, because, as usual, dear readers, I have digressed from my intent, in writing this post.

Here was my intent: to show and tell you about a group exercise I did yesterday.

In a group, I gave everyone a bunch of sticky name tag labels, like these:

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(I found that image here)

Then, I told people to write down, on those labels, positive adjectives for themselves, which they could stick to themselves, if they chose. Based on my experience as a therapist, I knew that was a very difficult assignment, so I added another one: to write down familiar negative labels, also. And, not surprisingly, the latter assignment was much easier for people. But with some mutual support and help (e.g., “What are some positive things other people have said about you, even if you have trouble believing it?) … people were also able to come up with several positive labels for themselves.

Here’s a photo, from yesterday:

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Note that you don’t see any negative labels like “Stupid,” “Messy,” or “Selfish” in that photo.

Why?  Because we ripped up all the negative ones, into little pieces.

And that sure was fun, people.

Okay!  What else did I want to identify here, before I end this post?

How about this? Sometimes, we label our cats. For example, Michael, lately, has been calling Oscar “skinny”

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and our other cat, Harley, the opposite of that.  I really hope that’s not bothering Harley, because here’s where I caught him, last night:

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Although, I’ll name this: more exercise would be good, for all of us.

Thanks to people who label, those who aren’t perfectly anything, and to you — of course! — for reading this whatever-you-want-to-call-it post, today.


* See here for the complete definition of labeling and the other dozen not-fun cognitive distortions.

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

Day 2: Other people’s thoughts.

Hey!  I started a blog and wrote an entry yesterday.  Tres cool.  And, look at me, I’m writing another post, the very next day!

But I have to confess: some judgmental thoughts have crept in about this already.  Big surprise. And a lot of those have to do with what other people might be thinking. For example:

Did people like what I wrote?  Did they understand what I was trying to say? Did I come across as (smug, unhappy, too whatever)? And what will people think of this post? And how will I keep them interested in future posts?

Geesh. It’s exhausting.

I don’t know about you, but when I mind-read — that is, when I guess or assume what somebody else is thinking — I tend to go to the negative.  I recognize why that is — why not be prepared for the worst?  If you assume that people are going to judge what you do, maybe that will make you do a better job.

Nah.

In the individual and group therapy I do, we talk a lot about judgment. And sometimes people will make a case for how expecting the worst can be useful — as a way to protect ourselves and to Be Prepared.

I don’t think so, though. I constantly see how assuming the negative gets in the way. It’s draining and it screws up your ability to experience what’s actually happening.  If you assume that other people are thinking judgmental thoughts about you, that’s likely to make you more self-conscious and invite your own self doubts.

Caring What Other People Think, and the pain that often accompanies that — it’s rampant.   But what power do thoughts  — just thoughts rattling around i people’s minds — really have? ? I’m not talking about the fear about the thoughts — which can have a huge effect — but the thoughts themselves.

There’s an exercise I love doing in groups. This exercise, among other things, shows how other people’s thoughts and opinions are not as powerful as we might fear.  (This exercise is adapted from something that David Burns, a Cognitive Behavioral therapist, describes in his book, “Feeling Good.”)  Here’s what I do: I tell everybody in the group to think the best possible thoughts they might have about ME.  I wait while they’re doing that and try to look modest.  Then, I tell them to have the unkindest, most critical thoughts they can have about me.  After I let that go for a little while (people often avert my eyes as they’re getting into that), I then say, “Okay. You had the positive thoughts and the negative thoughts about me. You know what? Here’s the deal.  NONE OF THAT TOUCHED ME.”

Man, I love doing.  Not only does that BLOW AWAY any worries I might have had about what other people might be thinking, I have seen some people look transformed as they realize this: those thoughts they feared in others (and maybe also in themselves) are powerless. Powerless!  Just air!

So that’s always great.

One more thing before I post this sucker:  when we assume what other people are thinking, no matter what it is, that gets in the way of our seeing those people clearly, in all their complexity.  And that’s a loss, isn’t it?

For example,  I started out writing this blog entry imagining you, dear reader, as a potential judger and dismisser. And when I had insecure moments about what I was creating, I could even imagine you having negative facial expressions — impatience, boredom, skepticism, etc.   THAT didn’t help me write this. What helped me was to let go of those limiting assumptions about you. As a result, I could enjoy the amazing opportunity of welcoming you — a complex human being,  having lots of different and shifting thoughts, opinions,  reactions, feelings, expressions–  to spend a little time with me here.

Much better!  Thanks for reading.

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

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