Posts Tagged With: group therapy exercise

Day 1599: Bad habits and good habits

Because I’m in the habit of asking people in therapy groups to express their thoughts and feelings on paper, yesterday I asked a group to write down their bad habits and good habits. I also have the habit of reminding people that we tend to focus on the negative, so I encouraged people to make their list of good habits as long as possible. We discussed how much easier it was to identify bad habits, perhaps because we take our good habits for granted.

I have a habit of including photos to illustrate my blogging points:

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Because I have a bad habit of hastily taking pictures when I’m in a hurry, I cut off one of my good habits in the second photo above.  I have the bad habit of sometimes forgetting the good, so I can’t remember what that good habit was. I think the first word is “ask.”  I do have the habit of asking lots of questions, like this one: can anybody guess what I wrote there?

I’m trying to break my bad habit of being in a hurry, but I had a good reason for rushing yesterday: I had to get things done before signing a Purchase & Sale agreement. Soon, I’ll be developing the habit of living near the water!

I also have the habit of taking pictures that magically fit whatever topic I choose for my daily blog post.  Do you see any evidence of bad or good habits here?

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That’s Jessica, who was at Whole Foods Market last night giving free samples of Nada Moo! — a coconut milk-based alternative to ice cream.  Michael, who is trying to break the bad habit of eating too much cholesterol, bought two pints.  I’m also in the habit of including people I like in my blog and Jessica was a GREAT salesperson.

I also have the habit of sharing music with my readers.

I hope you have the habit of leaving comments for bloggers.

One of the good habits I listed above was “expressing appreciation.”  Many thanks to all who helped me create today’s post and to you — of course! — for reading it.

Categories: group therapy, personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

Day 1586: Messes

I don’t want to make any messes here in the blogging world, but yesterday the topic of my therapy group was “Messes.”

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That’s the mess I made last night, as we all got messes down on paper.  My mess was actually messier than it looks in that photo, because I actually spilled cracker crumbs all over it. Because I made a mess of taking that picture, you can’t read all that I wrote.  However, I will tell you that I messily shared at the end of the group session my inspiration to make a new t-shirt that says, “Say YES to the mess.”

Why is it important to say YES to the mess?  Because we are all messes, in ways, even though we may think we need to appear neat and organized to others.

Before the group last night, I was dealing with lots of messes related to

  • miscommunication,
  • mistakes,
  • broken promises,
  • fear,
  • worry,
  • shame,
  • guilt,
  • misunderstandings,
  • distrust,
  • anger,
  • loss,
  • regret,
  • pain,
  • insecurity,
  • health,
  • health care,
  • health care bills,
  • politics,
  • lawyers,
  • guns, and
  • money.

Here‘s another fine mess:  “Lawyers, Guns, and Money” by the late Warren Zevon.

Here are all the other messes I photographed yesterday:

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Please don’t be afraid to make messes in the comments section, below.

Messy thanks to all who helped me create this mess of a post and to you — of course! — for all the beautiful messes you bring.

Categories: group therapy, personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , | 31 Comments

Day 1318: What helps you do what’s healthy for you?

Yesterday, in a therapy group, one of the members asked this great question:

What helps you do what’s healthy for you?

Do any of my photos from yesterday help?

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What helps you do what’s healthy for you?

As you might notice, humor, music and dancing are on my list.  Here’s something healthy  that includes all three:

 

 

Gratitude is on one of my lists, too.  Thanks to all who helped me create this post and to you — of course! — for visiting, here and now.

 

Categories: group psychotherapy, group therapy, personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , | 18 Comments

Day 1306: Stories

My story — and I’m sticking to it — is that everybody has the right to tell his-story or her-story.

Last night, people in my therapy group told many important and interesting stories.  As an exercise, I suggested that we each create and illustrate our own personal book  — building that story in just twenty minutes!

Here’s the story I created in group last night:

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These other images were part of my story yesterday:

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How would you tell your story in just twenty minutes? What might be the background music for your story?

This storied song was part of my story, yesterday:

I always end the story of each of these daily posts with gratitude for all who help me write my story and for those who read it — especially you!

Categories: blogging, group therapy, personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , | 23 Comments

Day 1264: What’s filling your head?

Last night at a therapy group, people’s heads were filled with so many feelings and thoughts that  my head was filled with a new idea.  The new idea filling my head was this:

Draw an outline of your head and add words and images of what’s filling it.  Then, draw another outline of your head and fill it with what you would like it be filled with.

Here’s how I filled heads last night at that group:

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Ready to have your head filled with my other photos from yesterday?

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What’s filling your head, here and now?

Since I’ve been filling my head with the sounds of the musical Hamilton, here‘s what’s filling my head as I create this head-filling post:

What’d I miss?

Now, my head is filled with

  •  hope that you’ll share what’s in your head in a comment below and
  • gratitude for all.

 

Categories: group therapy, personal growth, photojournalism, Psychotherapy | Tags: , , , , , , | 28 Comments

Day 1102: Surprising

Yesterday, it was surprising to me that somebody described me as “surprising” during a group therapy exercise.

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I’ve been surprising people with group therapy exercises for a surprising number of years.  Because yesterday’s group therapy exercise  was new to all  the participants, they found it surprising how useful and moving it was.

I shall now explain, in surprising detail, yesterday’s group therapy exercise:

  1. People wrote down, on a single sheet sheet of paper, negative and unhelpful beliefs about themselves, which they’ve been carrying around for a surprising long time.  (See here for a definition of “labeling” — a  surprisingly common and toxic cognitive distortion.)
  2.  It was surprising to me how many of us wrote down the words “weird” and “stupid” for this part of the exercise.
  3. People shared their negative self-talk with others in the group, who found it surprising how harshly the other members judged themselves.
  4. The group participants ripped up and threw away, in the trash, their negative descriptions, surprising themselves with how great that felt.
  5. Without any instruction from me, surprising and strong applause greeted every trashing of old, negative self-talk.
  6. It was probably surprising to the participants when I next instructed them to write down positive descriptions of themselves and/or others in the group.
  7. It’s not surprising to me that people find it much easier to write down positive descriptions of other people than to write down positive descriptions of themselves.
  8. It was surprising to every group member how many positive things others wrote about them.

I hope it’s not surprising that I will gladly clarify any aspect of that exercise, if you wish.

Here are some surprising images I captured after yesterday morning’s surprising group therapy session:

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Which of those are most surprising to you?

Here’s my final thought about “surprising”: It’s not surprising to me that surprising and wonderful changes can occur when people are surprised by more positive images of themselves.

Surprising thanks to all the surprising people, cats, and dogs that helped me create today’s surprising post and special thanks to you — surprise! — for reading it.

 

Categories: group psychotherapy, personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , | 36 Comments

Day 324: Trust in Self

Yesterday, people who had gathered for a therapy group decided to focus on this topic:

Trust in self.

The questions people answered, during the group, included these:

  1. What does “trust in self” mean to you?
  2. What tends to decrease your trust in yourself?
  3. What tends to increase your trust in yourself?

My own thoughts, about “trust in self,” right now?

When I got up this morning, I had trust that I would write a post that would be meaningful.

I just went into another room, and this is what I found:

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That’s something I’m familiar with, because I purchased it five months ago, in May, during my spring vacation.  That mug has already appeared in another post, here.

I also found something else, which is a new arrival to this home:

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Here’s what I want to tell you about that piece of art:

It’s a watercolor, painted by my long-time friend, Paul Nagano, who appeared in a blog post that was very important to me:  “A walk down Boylston Street, Boston, on April 29, 2013.”

As my son just said, “It looks brighter in real life” (if you can imagine that).

Paul’s watercolor is now hanging in a spot that has been conspicuously empty, in our home, since we moved here.

I was waiting to find the “right thing.”

I had trust in myself that I would.

I did.

I mean, look at it, people!

It’s Boston, and it’s springtime!

Many thanks to Paul Nagano, to people who (are learning to) trust themselves, and to you — of course!  — for visiting here today.

Categories: personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Day 317: Challenging Negative Messages

Yesterday, in a therapy group, we did an exercise where we challenged negative messages.

As I tell people, I have yet to encounter a human mind that does NOT generate negative, self-critical messages, like these:

You’re too selfish.

You’re not smart enough.

Why try anything?  You’ll  fail again.

You are weird.

You are worthless.

Arrghh!  I hate writing those messages. And whenever I do this exercise in group, I hesitate to invite critical messages, because they are SO painful and toxic.

But every time I invite these messages in, we have a chance to look at them anew.  And challenge them.

Here’s how the exercise works:

People think of some familiar critical messages. Then, a group member is chosen to be the voice of a critical message, repeating that message over and over again.  Other members can challenge that message, however they choose.

For example:

Critical Messager  You’re too selfish.

Challenger:  I am NOT too selfish!

Critical Messager:  You’re too selfish.

Challenger: What you call selfishness is just me taking care of myself.

Critical Messager:  You’re too selfish.

Challenger:  I am SO SICK of you telling me that. That doesn’t help me.

Critical Messager: You’re too selfish.

Challenger: I am no more selfish than anybody else.

Critical Messager: You’re too selfish.

Challenger: What about all the times I haven’t been selfish??

Critical Messager: You’re too selfish.

Challenge: My friend says I’m not selfish enough.

Critical Messager: You’re too selfish.

Challenger:  SHUT UP!!!

I personally LOVE doing that exercise, because I usually  get to yell, in a socially acceptable way.

Some things I notice, whenever a group does that exercise:

  1. People do NOT want to be somebody else’s Critical Messager.  They say, “I don’t want to say that horrible thing to somebody!”  (This gives me the opportunity to invite them to apply that kindness to themselves.)
  2. In response to  challenges, the Critical Messager usually changes tone — softening, hesitating, even stopping.
  3. People often express gratitude for the exercise, when it’s over.

If you don’t have a group of people on hand, you can still do a form of that exercise, by:

  1. Writing down a critical message.
  2. Challenging that message, in as many ways as you can.

I just looked for an image to support that, through Google, and this is what I found:

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Thanks to ExpertsMind.com, for that.

Ending messages, for this post:

Negative messages are like any other bad habit.  Practice, practice, practice changes.

And support helps, too.

Thanks to role-players everywhere, critical thinkers, habit-breakers, and to you, especially,  for reading today.

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Day 263: Bad Day/Good Day

In my therapy groups, I sometimes do an exercise where people write about bad days, good days, and the differences.  I don’t have the actual worksheet with me as I’m writing this post, so here’s an approximation of it:

Bad Day/Good Day Worksheet

  1. Write about a bad day  (including  details about thoughts, feelings, actions, choices, etc.)  You can describe a specific bad day or bad days, in general.
  2. Write about a good day (including details about thoughts, feelings, actions, choices, etc.)  You can describe a specific good day or good days, in general.
  3. What do you notice about the differences between a good day and a bad day, for you?

Right now, I can’t figure out how to insert spaces between the questions, above, and still keep the numbered formatting the way I want it.

Hmmmm. I wonder if that would be an indication of a bad day or a good day for me?

Maybe it would be helpful to jot down some answers to that Bad Day/Good Day worksheet, right now.

Answer #1. A bad day.

When I’m having a bad day, I tend to feel isolated, alone, helpless, powerless, and with much less hope about the future.  I am usually focusing less on the moment and more on worries about the future and/or regrets about the past. I am judging myself and others, with disappointment. No matter what is happening around me, things look dark and flat. Joy is absent. I tend to isolate. I assume that people are seeing me in a negative way, or sometimes I feel invisible.  Nothing seems to matter.

Some lyrics that capture my experience of a bad day:

People are strange, when you’re a stranger,

Faces look ugly, when you’re alone…

Streets are uneven, when you’re down…

No one remembers your name
When you’re strange.*

(I’m guessing that Jim Morrison had some bad days, people.)

Answer #2.  A  good day.

When I’m having a good day, I’m much more in the moment, accepting of where I am, where other people are, and of everything that happens. I’m a lot less self-critical and I have faith that whatever comes along, I will figure things out, well enough.  I am not mind-reading what people are thinking about me or if I am, I recognize that I’m doing that, and I let those thoughts go. When worries or regrets come into my mind, I recognize those for what they are, and let them go, as soon as I can.

I feel freer about expressing all the different parts of myself, including goofiness (e.g., singing out loud when I’m walking down the street),  sadness (e.g., if somebody is leaving), whatever. I am more aware of the choices I have, in every moment, and I recognize that it’s okay to make mistakes in my choices, because I can continue to choose and improve a situation.

I’m more aware of my accomplishments, and less focused on mistakes and What I’m NOT Doing.

While cognitive distortions — like all-or-nothing thinking or shoulds — may still creep in to my thoughts (because I’m human), I’m much better at spotting them, naming them, and ….

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Answer #3.  The differences between a bad day and a good day.

For me, often the differences have to do with my internal interpretation of what’s going on out there.

Obviously, some days are going to be worse, because of events we can’t control. (What’s coming to mind, right now, is the day this year when my son had a collapsed lung.) (And, of course, April 15th, the day of the Boston Marathon bombings.)

And some days are going to be naturally better, like two weeks ago today, when I gave a really good presentation about group therapy at work.

However,  in most cases, how I interpret, internally, what’s going on out there, is key. Often, it’s everything.

I’m thinking about a day I had last week.  It was “one of those days” where everything was going wrong in the morning. It was important for me to get to work on time, and no matter what choices I made, there were obstacles, some of them unexpected and improbable.

However, because I was in an accepting and hopeful place that day — aware of my options and  feeling competent enough — none of these obstacles were bothering me.

Over the two years I’ve been working at this job,  I’ve had the time and experience to develop a Plan A, Plan B, and Plan C for getting to work on time. This day, I had gone to Plan C, which involved driving directly to a parking lot near work, where I would need to pay some serious parking $$, but I had decided it was worth it.

And as I was approaching the finish line of my drive to work,  it looked like I was going to make it on time, with even some time to spare.  I was feeling pretty smug, I have to say.

Then, just as I was about to enter the parking garage ….

… the gate broke.

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The automatic gate (similar to that one, above) which allows cars to enter the lot, suddenly stopped working.

Another car had just entered.  But when I pressed the button to get a ticket and lift the gate, nothing happened.

Now, this would be the perfect set up, for me, to freak out. It had all the necessary Freak Out Elements:

  1. Possible lateness.
  2. Disappointing somebody.
  3. A machine breaking, for cripe’s sake.
  4. Why (only) ME???

However, I didn’t freak out, at all.  Instead …

I thought it was absurd. And funny.

REALLY???** The friggin’ gate broke?  Just when I thought I had made it??

And I stayed in the moment.  And I realized that somebody must be nearby, who could help me.

I looked around and spotted somebody, in the distance, who looked like he worked at the parking lot. I yelled something, to get his attention, and then realized he already had noticed the situation.

Then, things got “worse” (if I had been interpreting things that way).  That is, that person didn’t have what he needed to fix the gate. He contacted somebody else, who didn’t have the correct key, who contacted somebody else, who did.

But i still thought this was funny.

How is that possible?

Well, I was on guard for my typical types of unhelpful thoughts (e.g., imagining the dire consequences if I were late, including  the possible ire of the person I was meeting).  And I was batting those thoughts away, immediately.

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I was also staying in touch with the options I had (e.g., calling the person) and letting go of perfectionism (“You don’t have to be exactly on time, Ann!”)

And eventually, the gate lifted.

And as the Man With The Right Key was writing out my entry time on a parking ticket, I asked, smiling (because I figured it wouldn’t hurt to ask), “Do you think I could get a break on the fee, because of the inconvenience?”

And he smiled back and said, “We’ll see what we can do.”

The punchlines?

I got to my meeting on time.

My parking fee was reduced.

And it was a great day, people.

Thanks to Jim Morrison, Betty Boop, Lorena Marie, and to you,  for reading today (no matter what kind of day it is).


* “People are Strange,”  by the Doors.

** “REALLY???” is also a “shout-out” to   The Culture Monk, a blogger I’ve been reading lately.

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

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