Posts Tagged With: mind reading

Day 2299: Cognitive Distortions

Regular readers of this blog know I often write about the cognitive distortions described by Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, including overgeneralization, mind reading, catastrophizing, personalization, comparisons, shoulds, and labeling/name-calling. Regular readers of this blog do NOT know that I soon will be performing my latest original song (titled “Nobody’s Perfect” and co-written with a Social Work intern at work named Nat) with other musicians, and we’re thinking of calling ourselves “The Cognitive Distortions.”

Last night, my boyfriend Michael and I were experiencing cognitive distortions when we were both making overgeneralizations about human beings.  Our cognitive distortions have increased since the last U.S. Presidential election as we both try to make sense of the human behavior described in the media, by cognitively debating and trying to understand what people are really like and why they say what they say and do what they do.

Do you see any cognitive distortions in this part of our discussion last night?

Michael:  I think people who say “I believe in him” or “I believe in that” know, on some level, that those things are not true.

Ann: Michael, this is the same disagreement we constantly have. I think that a lot of  people really believe what they say. How do you know what they really believe?  That’s overgeneralization and mind reading.

Michael:  How do YOU know what they really believe?

Me: I don’t really know, but I’ve encountered so many people in individual and group therapy who seem to really believe what they say they believe.

Michael: And I’ve encountered thousands of people through my work in the food industry.

Me: THOUSANDS?

Michael: Let me tell you a story that sums up my experience of people. There was this woman I used to work with. One day, somebody asked her if she believed in ghosts.  She said, “No.” And then she added, “But I’ve seen one.”

Me (laughing): I’m putting that in tomorrow’s blog.

Do you see any cognitive distortions in today’s photos?

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I just searched YouTube for “cognitive distortions” to see if any musical group already has that name.  This is what I found:

Feel free to express your cognitions and feelings about Cognitive Distortions, below.

Thanks and appreciation to all who helped me express the cognitive distortions in today’s post and — of course! — thanks and appreciation to YOU.

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Categories: personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

Day 1912: Jumping to conclusions

Are you ready for some jumping to conclusions?

If you jump to this page about jumping to conclusions, you’ll see that jumping to conclusions includes two very common cognitive distortions:  mind reading and fortune telling.

Perhaps some of you are jumping to the conclusion that I’m writing about jumping to conclusions today because of something that jumped out at me yesterday.

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I wonder if there are any conclusions or jumping in my other photos from yesterday.

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With all those bunnies jumping out at us, we might jump to the conclusion that Easter is approaching.

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I jumped to the conclusion that cats would be in that box and in that card holder, but they weren’t. However, cats were nearby.

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This  is always on my mind about jumping to conclusions:  sometimes we’re right and sometimes we’re not.  Let’s not jump to the conclusion that our conclusions are always right and other people’s conclusions are always wrong.

If jumping to conclusions really burned calories, I wouldn’t be gaining weight from eating delicious food.

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If you jumped to the conclusion that Michael made salmon last night, your conclusion would be correct.

Has anybody jumped to the conclusion about what music we’ll be jumping to now?

In conclusion, thanks to all who helped me create today’s post and to you — of course! — for jumping to my blog today.

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Categories: cognitive behavioral therapy, personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 25 Comments

Day 1606: Self conscious

I am very conscious that many selves have shared being self conscious this week, in individual and group therapy.

Yourself, are you conscious of the meaning of “self conscious?”

self-con·scious
adjective
feeling undue awareness of oneself, one’s appearance, or one’s actions.
“I feel a bit self-conscious parking my scruffy old car”
synonyms: embarrassed, uncomfortable, uneasy, nervous

Why do so many selves feel embarrassed, uncomfortable, uneasy, and nervous about awareness of oneself?  This week, self conscious people described pain, mind reading, personalization, paranoia, projection, isolation, and a drastic restriction of activities.  This self is conscious of a wish that consciousness of self could lead to  self-confidence and self-worth, not self-judgment.

Should I feel self conscious about today’s photos?

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I don’t think cats are particularly self-conscious.

Here’s Ellen being self conscious:

I am conscious that I, myself,  love comments from my readers.

Conscious gratitude to all who helped me create this self-conscious post and to you — of course! — for being yourself, here and now.


Minutes after I published this post, I became conscious of today’s New York Times piece on being self conscious.

Categories: cognitive behavioral therapy, personal growth, photojournalism, Psychotherapy | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 30 Comments

Day 1124: When somebody leaves the room

Recently, at a therapy group of people who had all never met  each other before, somebody left the room and stayed away for quite a while.

I noticed the absence.  The other members of the group didn’t seem to, as they talked about everything but the missing person. However, because of my experience with groups, I knew that everybody was as aware of the absence as I was.

Sure enough, when I invited feelings and thoughts about that — simply by asking  “Is anybody having any reactions to ___ leaving the room?” —  that triggered an outpouring of thoughts and feelings, including worry, concern, projection (“___ looked very upset”),  personalization (“I figured it was something about me”), and wishes that I would do something (“Maybe you should go after them and see if they’re okay!”).  However, I know enough about group work NOT to leave the room, no matter what people’s worries and concerns are.

While people were talking about the person who had left the room, the door opened and that person came back in, bearing bags of food for the rest of the group.  Why?  Because several people had mentioned earlier in the group session that they were feeling hungry.

No matter how many times I’ve facilitated groups, I continue to be amazed at what happens there, including

  • unexpressed thoughts and feelings
  • people’s willingness to share, if they feel safe enough
  • projected fears
  • cognitive distortions including mind-reading, personalization, and catastrophizing
  • generosity  and
  • countless other beautifully human reactions.

As I said, a week ago today, at a presentation about group work to the Massachusetts Psychological Association:

When I watch the news, I despair for the future of this planet.  When I sit in my therapy groups and observe human behavior, I have infinite hope and optimism.

Before you leave the room today, here are some photos I took yesterday, inside and outside of therapy rooms:

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What feelings and thoughts might you express, before you leave this WordPress room?

Thanks to all the human heroes who helped me write this post and to you — of course! — for visiting here, today.

 

Categories: group psychotherapy, personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , | 29 Comments

Day 652: Magical Thinking

Magical thinking

… is the attribution of causal relationships between actions and events which cannot be justified by reason and observation.

Wikipedia

… is a fundamental dimension of a child’s thinking.

… involves several elements, including a belief in the interconnectedness of all things through forces and powers that transcend both physical and spiritual connections.

The Skeptic’s Dictionary

Here‘s what psychologytoday.com says about Magical Thinking:

Think you don’t believe in magic? Think again. Our brains are designed to pick up on patterns: Making connections helped our ancestors survive. You’re not crazy if you’re fond of jinxes, lucky charms, premonitions, wish fulfillment, or karma. You’re just human.

I’ve got some recent examples of magical thinking by

IMG_0870,  in The Years(s) of Living Non-Judgmentally:

  • I wrote, two days ago, that I was not afraid of Ebola. Poof! The same day, the media reported a possible case of Ebola in Boston (where I live and work), too close for comfort.
  • I bought a portable drive to  relieve storage problems (mostly for photos I’ve taken for this blog). Poof! Installing the drive took up too much space and screwed up several things on my laptop. The magical thinking here: Whenever I try to make things better, I actually make things worse. (By the way, that drive has gone Poof! back to the store.)
  • Because I wish to be Freshly Pressed here on WordPress, (Poof!) I won’t be.
  • Because I’ve been feeling “too good” and “too confident” lately about (1) work, (2) giving presentations, and (3) writing these posts, I’ve been wondering: WHAT AWFUL THING IS GOING TO HAPPEN?!?!
  • Because it’s getting darker and colder in these parts, I’ve been thinking: WHAT AWFUL THING IS GOING TO HAPPEN?!?!

Magical Thinking was a lively topic of discussion, over breakfast yesterday, for me and my friend Deb (who has made previous magical appearances in this blog, including here and here).

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In that second photo, Deb is telling me how she magically created a wine bottle in one of her glass-blowing classes!

When there were several problems with the service and the food at that restaurant yesterday, I had this passing thought, which I shared with Deb:

The server hates us!

Now, that is  definitely a great example of the cognitive distortions of Mind Reading and Personalization, but I’m not sure if it qualifies as magical thinking.

What are your magical thoughts on all this?

As you’re making your own magical connections, here are more photos I took, yesterday, with “magical thinking” dancing in my head:

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Do you have any magical thinking about what magical, musical number might appear — Poof! — in this post, right now ?

 

 

After several moments of magical thinking, I made up my mind to show you that YouTube video of The Lovin’ Spoonful performing “Do You Believe in Magic?” on Shindig! in 1965.

Did you have any wishes that a different song about magic might have appeared here, instead?

Before I — poof! — magically transport myself back to work, I wish to share a dream I had last night.

I dreamed that, in various ways, my health kept deteriorating, until I was bedridden. Thank goodness, I do NOT consider myself psychic.  When I have a dream, I don’t think, “That is now going to come true.”

I am thinking, though, why that dream might have magically appeared.  I’m reading this extremely compelling, well-written,  heart-rending, thoughtful, soulful, and otherwise admirable memoir by a fellow WordPress blogger, Charles Gulotta:

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I think The Long Hall is magic, in this sense of that word:

special power, influence, or skill

 

Many thanks to Charles, to Deb, to winged fairies and black cats, to The Lovin’ Spoonful, and — of course! — to all you magical thinkers out there.

Categories: personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 38 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

Day 375: Direct Communication

I am having lots of thoughts, right now, about the topic of “Direct Communication.”  The challenge (as usual) is translating those thoughts into a blog post that’s coherent and enjoyable (enough), today.

Allow me to start out with a short trip down memory lane — that is, a return to yesterday’s blog post, called “We’re doing the best we can.”

In that post, there was (at least) one thing I communicated indirectly.  Because direct communication is very important to me,  I will be more direct about this, right now:

I wanted you to notice my cool umbrella, in yesterday’s post.

Here’s a photo of this umbrella, which I have been enjoying for many years:

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I have been considering featuring that umbrella in a blog post for many months, because it always cheers me up.

Yesterday, I was hoping that somebody would notice that umbrella (which appeared in two, very similar photos). However, nobody commented on it.

Here’s  one of the photos from yesterday, which included the umbrella.

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I don’t want to indulge in the human cognitive distortion of mind-reading, but hey!  Why should I be any different from anybody else?  Here are my guesses as to why nobody noticed that umbrella in yesterday’s photos:

  1. The umbrella is being upstaged by Fenway Park.
  2. Those aren’t great photos of the umbrella. Maybe the umbrella isn’t even recognizable there, but hey! YOU TRY taking a good picture when it’s freezing, the light sucks, you don’t want to be late for work, and you’re trying to capture a favorite ballpark and umbrella, while balancing an iPhone, your mittens, AND that friggin’ umbrella! **

Ahem.

Please forgive the somewhat hostile tone of #2, above, which is most likely due to the cognitive distortion of Mind Reading (see here for the complete list of those common judgmental ways of thinking) and perhaps other things, too.**

What was the topic of today’s blog post, again?   Oh, yes, direct communication.

At this point, I wanted to look at what’s been getting in the way of my direct communication about my umbrella:

  • Sometimes, being coy can be fun.
  • Saying, “Look how great this is!” can feel uncomfortable, especially if it’s about something of yours.

Also, when I’ve considered being more direct about that umbrella, before — that is, featuring it more prominently in its own blog post —  these things have gotten in the way of that:

  • Hassles, discomfort, and absent-mindedness (I write my blog posts in the morning and my umbrella lives in my car).
  • Superstition (it’s bad luck to open an umbrella inside).

What else did I want to tell you about direct communication, this morning?

Just this: I’ve been thinking about something my son told me, after he had his teeth cleaned for this first time by my new dental hygienist.  (I wrote about my first visit to her, here.)

My son told me some very positive, flattering things she said to him, about me.

Now, this dental hygienist, named Michel,  is a very direct person, I think. That’s one of the things I really like about her. However, I was surprised by what she said to my son, about me. As a matter of fact, some things were SO positive,  that I’ve been holding on to them, as gifts, to help me feel more confident and secure, and to help me replace old, negative (and very common) types of self-judgmental thinking.***

So I wonder why she told my son these positive things, instead of telling me?

I will tell you this: Despite Michel’s directness (which I’ve observed in other ways), she did a similar thing about praise, regarding my son. That is, the next time I saw her, she raved about how wonderful HE was.  But she didn’t tell him.

I think there are lots of reasons why people don’t communicate directly, including their positive thoughts about other people.

I might wish other people would be more direct, more often, because I think that helps.

However, I believe that everybody — including Michel — is doing the best that they can.****

And THAT, ladies and gentlemen, is something else I wanted to communicate directly, in yesterday’s blog post.

Thanks to all who are doing their best at communicating directly AND to my wonderful readers, whom I probably don’t praise enough (which would include you, y’know).

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* I found this photo through Google Images, which informs me you can find this umbrella many places, these days, like here.

** Regular readers of this blog might have considered another Usual Suspect: hunger.

*** Hey!  I’ve now linked to the same page three times in the same blog post!  A new personal record!

**** Which does NOT mean that people can’t improve, grow, mature, evolve, and get better in many ways.

Categories: humor, inspiration, personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , | 28 Comments

Day 295: Random Images

Hello, dear readers.

Today’s blog post is a collection of recent photos which I like.

That’s right, I like them.  I could be polite here and say, “I hope you like them, too,” but that’s really besides the point, you know?

Because I can’t control how you are going to react to them.  And, throughout this year, I have dispensed pearls of wisdom such as this:

You can’t control other people, especially their thoughts.

Other people’s thoughts can’t hurt you.

If you are going to assume something (including about what other people are thinking), why not assume the best?

These aren’t exact quotes, people, but what do you want from me?

Geesh!

It’s in the middle of the night, I’m having trouble sleeping (probably from a combination of excitement — e.g.,  WORLD SERIES TICKETS — and some fears about unknowns/new things that have been happening here).  With all that, I am NOT going to check my past posts, just to make sure that those quotes are correct.

What do you want from me, people?

Blood?

Oooops!

I’m mind-reading, aren’t I?

I’m assuming that YOU want my posts to be “perfect.”

That urge for perfection comes from ….

…. not YOU, but …..

(Three guesses, and the first two don’t count.) (Whatever the hell THAT means.) (Actually, see here for an explanation of that.)

Did you guess?

Whether you did, or not, the answer is …..

ME.

That’s right, dear readers. I’M the guilty party here. I’m the one who has the high standards that are so tough to fill.

Nobody else (I’m told), expects as much from me as I expect from myself.

Sooooooooo, the good news is this:  My standards are high, and I LOVE THESE PHOTOS.

So who cares what you think?

(Actually, I think I’m repeating myself, at this point.)

So, therefore, I’m just going to post these friggin’ photos, make a half-assed attempt to link them together somehow, and call it a blog-posting day.

And, maybe if I (and you) are in luck, the attempt won’t be half-assed.  Maybe it will be somewhere between 85-95% assed.  (I was going to say “completely assed,” but that would be perfectionism, wouldn’t it?)*

PHOTO #1:

As I believe I have mentioned in a recent blog post (look for the reference yourself, people!!), “Yummy” is one of my favorite words. I have recently been thinking about the possibility of helping to open up a local restaurant with that name.  So what do I see, two days ago, on Sunday?

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FIgures. (Although I would include an apostrophe.)

PHOTO #2:

I saw this on Sunday, also, during a walk with my friend Kathy. (See here for a picture of Kathy, at Fenway Park!)

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That’s a rather startling image, isn’t it?

Now why did I take THAT photo?

  1. It reminds me of several funny jokes about penguins I’ve heard, over the years**.
  2. Maybe I feel trapped by existential issues I cannot control.
  3. (Fill in your own answer, here.)

PHOTO #3:

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I saw this, on Sunday, with Kathy, too. (Kathy is a professional photographer, by the way. I’m not sure why, but that seems ironic to me, right now.)  (If my son reads this blog post, which is unlikely, he will probably tell me that I’m misusing the word “ironic.”)

Anyway, what do I want to say about this photo?  This cheered me up, somehow, when I saw it on Sunday, and it’s cheering me up right now.

PHOTO # 4:

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This photo is from last night, and demonstrates continuing progress in the process of introducing a new cat (Harley, close to piano) to established cat (Oscar, closer to photographer). Would you believe me if I told  you that I  had just helped the process along by actually singing  the song “Kumbaya***” while the three of us (four of us, if you count the mouse), were sitting in this room?

Because it’s true.

Okay, those are the photos I wanted to post.

You know what? I’m going to make a completely non-assed attempt to link those photos together.  That is, I am going to end this blog post, without identifying a common theme among them.

Although, maybe I’ll do a little more, before I end.

This is something I do in therapy groups, after everybody has had a chance to speak.  I sometimes say, “Do people notice any common themes in what they heard?”

So I guess the ball is in your court, readers.  Do you see any common theme(s) among those photos?

Okay!

Thanks to insomniacs everywhere, amateur and professional photographers, real and stuffed animals, and to you, especially, for visiting today.

__________________________________________________

*The half-assed/completely-assed thing is an “homage to” (read “steal from”) the movie,”The Graduate”:

Mr. Braddock: Ben, this whole idea sounds pretty half-baked.

Benjamin: Oh, it’s not. It’s completely baked.

** I was going to post some favorite penguin jokes, here, but screw it!  I’m tired.  Here‘s a link to a google search about penguin jokes.

*** Here’s a quote from the Wikipedia description of Kumbaya:

“Kumbaya” or “Kumbayah” (Gullah, “Come By Here” — “Kum ba yah“) — is a spiritual song from the 1930s. It became a standard campfire song in Scouting and summer camps, and enjoyed broader popularity during the folk revival of the 1960s.

The song was originally associated with human and spiritual unity, closeness and compassion, and it still is, but more recently it is also cited or alluded to in satirical or cynical ways which suggest false moralizing, hypocrisy, or naively optimistic views of the world and human nature.

Categories: personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 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: , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Day 230: Random thoughts (on a non-random Sunday)

Fact.  I am returning to work tomorrow, after taking a two-week vacation which included a trip to London and Edinburgh with my son.

Past-focused thinking.  When I’ve returned to work after time off, I’ve previously experienced:

  1. A helpful sense of perspective.
  2. Feeling overwhelmed as I’ve tried to catch up with things I’ve missed.
  3. All sorts of assumptions about people’s reactions to my being gone and my being back.

Future-focused thinking. I hope that #1, above, will be with me when I return to work tomorrow, and that it will linger, a welcomed guest.*  I fear that #2 and #3 might be with me, in unhelpful ways.**

Wishful thinking. I’m looking forward to returning to work for many reasons, including seeing this in my office.

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Yes, that’s a magic wand, for making wishes (when wishes might be helpful).

Here are my three wishes, for today:

  1.  I wish that I can be in the moment, as best I can.
  2. I wish that I can accept where I am.
  3. I wish that everything that people have ever said about how if one shares a wish it won’t come true is …. rubbish.***

Okay!  Time for a wishing sound (and feel free to join in with your own wishes for today):

Thanks to Jojikiba (for the YouTube sound effect), to The Princess Spinning Light Up Wand, to wishers everywhere, and to you, for reading today.


*  See the Rumi poem “Guest House”, which is at the end of this post.

** Come to think of it, look at that Rumi poem again.

*** I thought of many possible words for what I wanted to express here, and settled on one I enjoyed hearing during our recent time in the UK.

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

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