Posts Tagged With: negative filter

Day 935: Circles

The cognitive distortion of Negative Filter — filtering out all positives, including hope — keeps the mind stuck in painful circles.

In my work as a group therapist, I witness those painfully negative circles of thought in others — over and over again, around and around.

Because of  criticism, self-doubt, and disappointment, I   — like any other human being — can get temporarily stuck in the painful circles of Negative Filter, too.

Yesterday morning, after reading about some particularly upsetting circles of injustice in the news, my mind got stuck in negative circles, again.

Then, on my walk to work, a tune I dearly love — First Circle by The Pat Metheny Group — circled through my ears and into my circulating mind.

(That live version of “First Circle” is circling beautifully here on YouTube. And don’t click the rectangular button in the middle of the screen, or you’ll have to circle back to listen to the rest of the music.)

That familiar, wonderful music was enough to nudge  my mind out of the painful, repetitive circles of Negative Filter.

I immediately noticed — and captured — the first circle I saw:


From then on, noticing non-negative circles helped me help others who were stuck in their own negative circles of thoughts and feelings.


  

That  circle — of group therapy hand-outs on the floor of my office — demonstrates what happens when a group therapist forgets to press the circular “collate” button on a new, rapidly circling copy machine.

The water in that circle-filled bottle helped sustain me through that circular ordeal.

After completing the circle of a 10-hour work day —  witnessing many people support each other in getting out of negative thinking circles — I noticed all these circles, too:





  
  
  
  


  



  
  
  
  

What circles are you noticing , now?

Circles of thanks to Pat Metheny, Lyle Mays, and the rest of the Pat Metheny Group, to all the people who sat around in circles of supportive group therapy yesterday, and to every circle I saw around the Fenway Park area of Boston and around my non-circular home. Also, special circular thanks to you — of course! — for circling your way here, today.

Categories: personal growth, photojournalism, Psychotherapy | Tags: , , , | 41 Comments

Day 603: What I missed

Last night, I missed a segment of the Emmy awards on TV. After I turned off the TV to spend some time with my son, Aaron, and my boyfriend, Michael,  a comedian I admire, Louis C.K., won an Emmy for best comedy writing.

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I found the photo, above, through Google images (which tells me it resides here) and chose it because I think it relates to my post, yesterday.

I found out, after the awards show was over, that Louis C.K., in his acceptance speech, had thanked another comedian I admire, Ron Lynch …

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… who has made multiple recent appearances in this here blog ( here, here, here, here, and here).

I was very glad to find out, through Ron’s Facebook Page,  that he had gotten that recognition last night. At the same time, I had this familiar and uncomfortable thought:

I missed out.

I had missed out on the chance to experience, with my son,  Louis C.K. giving credit to Ron.

Last night, as I tried to find out what exactly Louis C.K. had said about Ron, I kept thinking about What Might Have Been. I kept imagining what fun Aaron and I might have had, if we had heard that speech as it was happening.

Those thoughts didn’t feel great, I must say.  And these days, whenever I’m feeling that kind of psychological discomfort, I check out some usual suspects: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy’s line-up of cognitive distortions.

I shall now consult my handy-dandy list of cognitive distortions, to see who the culprits might have been.

Hmmm. It looks like I was experiencing more than one cognitive distortion last night, including:

Negative filtering (also known as “Disqualifying the positive”).
This is when we focus on the negative, and filter out all positive aspects of a situation.

Comparisons. We compare ourselves to others, with ourselves coming out short. For example, “I’m not as smart (or good, competent, good-looking, lovable, etc.) as that other person.”   Or, we compare ourselves to how we think we should be, or how we’ve been before. (Or, in this case, we compare reality to what we think would have been better.)

Shoulds. We have ironclad rules about the behaviors of ourselves and other people.  For example, “I really should exercise. I shouldn’t be so lazy.” (In this case, “I shouldn’t have turned off the TV.”)

Yep.  Those kinds of thoughts didn’t help, at all.

As I’m writing this, I’m still wondering what Louis C.K. said about Ron. There was no video of that missed moment available last night, but I wonder if that’s changed, this morning.

Aha! Here it is, on YouTube:

Wow!  In case you can’t watch that, Louis gave Ron credit for giving him his first shot as a comedian.

My association with that, in the moment, is a kind of cognitive distortion, too, namely …

Personalization

… because I can now imagine my son making a similar speech in the future (if he pursues comedy as a career).

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(this photo first appeared here, last week) 

Minds are funny things, aren’t they?  They wander everywhere: into the future, into the past, into What Might Have Been, etc.

Last night, when I was thinking about  “What I missed,”  I had some trouble sleeping, so I wrote the following, in preparation for today’s blog post:

The reality is that no matter what we’re doing, experiencing, paying attention to, focusing on … we have to be missing something. There’s just too much going on, out there, to take it all in.

Yes, it’s a given that we will miss things, even if we try our best not to.

And I don’t want to miss expressing this:  the things we miss aren’t actually more important than the things we catch (even though they can feel that way).

Does it help to acknowledge important things you’ve missed out on?

I actually don’t know if this is going to help, but I would like to list some things I’ve missed out on, in my life.

Here we go …

  1. A “normal” childhood.
  2. A magna cum laude, which I deserved, from my undergraduate university (a story which I will tell, in some future post).

Hmmm. That’s a pretty short list I just put together, there.

That actually surprises me, because I’m sure there are lots of misses missing from that list. For example,  I didn’t include “a boyfriend during junior high and/or high school” in that list of misses.

Actually, I could even remove #1 from that list because, really … WHO has a normal childhood?  What the hell IS a normal childhood? Coming up with a definition for THAT would be hit-or-miss. And pretty meaningless.

So I’m going to rewrite that list, like so:

Things I’ve Missed

  1. Louis C.K.’s acceptance speech at the 2014 Emmys, which included a shout-out to Ron Lynch and
  2. a Magna Cum Laude, which I deserved, from my undergraduate college.

Actually, now that I think of it … what good would that Magna Cum Laude have done me?  It probably would NOT have changed a thing.  Who cares? It’s not like that’s something I would carry around in my wallet or put on my mantle piece. And even if I did, who would want to see it?

Okay, so now the list is …

Things I’ve Missed

  1. Louis C.K.’s acceptance speech at the 2014 Emmy’s which included a shout-out to Ron Lynch.

And I can probably watch that speech on YouTube, within the next couple of days.

Looks like at least one of my thoughts, last night, was correct.

Anything else I’ve missed, in this post?  Well, if I were paying attention to what I wrote here, the answer might be:

Of course I missed something, but that’s okay.

And I still have time, before I publish this, to include something that feels “missing” to me: a new photo I’ve taken recently. Let’s see if I have anything on my iPhone that applies to today’s topic.

Hmmm. I’m not sure. But here are some new photos I’ve taken since I’ve returned home to Boston, after five fun-filled days at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe:

IMG_8332 IMG_8340  IMG_8345 IMG_8347  IMG_8350 IMG_8351

Does it seem like I’m missing anything?

Thanks to Aaron, Michael, Louis C.K., Ron Lynch, and you — of course! — for everything you missed AND everything you got here, today.

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

Day 286: Duck Test

According to Wikipedia,

The duck test is a humorous term for a form of inductive reasoning. This is its usual expression:

If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.

The test implies that a person can identify an unknown subject by observing that subject’s habitual characteristics. It is sometimes used to counter abstruse arguments that something is not what it appears to be.

This morning, I was remembering somebody quoting the Duck Test, many moons ago.

It was a facilitator at a two-day Opening the Heart  workshop, which  was attended by around 70 people. (That’s a large group, people.)

He was describing, to us all,  the final exercise of the weekend.

I remember that guy.  He was a gentle-looking fellow, with a beard.

Because I struggle with detailed visual memory, I’ll turn to my old standby, Google Images, for some help in describing him.

This is the first person that came up, for “gentle looking fellow with a beard”:

Image*

Really.

Anyway, the facilitator at the workshop (who actually DID look a little like that guy, above),  explained how the exercise would work.  He told us that we would form two large circles, half of the people on the outside and half the people on the inside.

Like this:

Image**

 

As the circles of people moved, stopped, moved and stopped again, we gave and received authentic feedback with each other.

I remember the facilitator making these two important points, regarding the feedback we would hear:

  1. What other people say to you, about you, usually has to do with THEM.
  2. However, if you hear the same things over and over again, that’s probably about YOU.

And that’s when he quoted the Duck Test.

I remember, having this thought, in response: ‘He’s gently and effectively giving guidance about how to hear negative feedback.”

What I didn’t consider, back then:  His guidance applied to positive feedback, too.

As I’ve confessed before, I (like many other people I’ve met) can struggle with believing positive feedback, no matter how many times I hear it.

I could expound, at this point, about the first Cognitive Distortion on this list:

  1. Negative filtering (also known as “Disqualifying the positive”).
    This is when we focus on the negative, and filter out all positive aspects of a situation.  For example, you get a good review at work with one critical comment, and the criticism becomes the focus, with the positive feedback fading or forgotten. You dismiss positives by explaining them away — for example, responding to a compliment with the thought, “They were just being nice.”

 

However, I’d rather end by returning to the duck test:

If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.

I’d rather end that way, especially since my reply to this (old standby) question

“If you could be any animal in the world, what would it be?”***

is this:

Image

Really.

Thanks to Opening the Heart,  ducks everywhere,  people who wear unusual hats,  givers and receivers of feedback, and to you, too, for reading today.


* From Reddit: Here’s me wearing a rejected kitty hat.

** From Google Images, again.

*** From Saturday Night Live: Father Guido Sarducci

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Day 239: Days when confused

I’ve been told that I tend to work towards the positive — hope, connection, possibilities, achievable next steps.

I also like to invite the other side of the positive — let’s call it “the negative,” for now. (I sometimes prefer other terms, like “the shadow” or “disowned feelings”) (including disappointment, which I wrote about here).

We can’t have the positive without the negative, right?

Light is meaningless without dark to help define it.

Up doesn’t exist as a concept without down.

We wouldn’t have the word “day” if not for night. (I suppose that’s arguable, but it sounds good, doesn’t it?)

Okay, I think I’ve made enough deep (if not completely air-tight) justifications to focus on less positive things in this blog today.

Throughout this year, I’ve written some posts about “accelerated learning,” focusing on valuable lessons I’ve been accumulating (including here, here, and here).

Today, I’d like to focus on things I don’t know. Things I can’t seem to figure out. Things that confuse me.

Ready?

Things That Confuse Me

by Ann

  1. How busy everybody seems to be (including me). This confuses me when I’m thinking that a lot of the busy work we’re doing isn’t (a) necessary, (b) helpful, (c) as important as we think it is, or (d) what we really want to be doing.
  2. Modern packaging. There are soooo many sealed products that I just can’t seem to get open without a swiss army knife or a team of experts on hand. (New occupation for the future: Personal Packaging Manipulation Consultant.)

For example:

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At this point in the blog post — rather than discussing endless examples of packages I am confused by and have trouble opening — I will go to the solution-oriented side, and share something I saw on-line this morning:

18 Everyday Products You’ve Been Using Wrong

Even though that title is using a “You Statement — rather than an “I-statement” — thus easily putting me on the defensive ….

… that title is absolutely correct. I have been using all of those things wrong, dammit!

But, on the other hand, look at all I learned today.

Thanks to geeksugar (for the photo and post about opening up clamshell packaging), BuzzFeed, friends on Facebook and elsewhere, and to you, of course, for reading today.

Categories: personal growth, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Day 212: Confidence

Yesterday, I had my second annual review at work.

Last year, my first review helped me, big time. My anxiety about being at work went waaaay down. I let go of self-doubt, self-criticism, and all sorts of cognitive distortions, like Comparisons, Mind Reading, and Negative Filter :

Negative filtering (also known as “Disqualifying the positive”).

This is when we focus on the negative, and filter out all positive aspects of a situation. For example, you get a good review at work with one critical comment, and the criticism becomes the focus, with the positive feedback fading or forgotten. You dismiss positives by explaining them away — for example, responding to a compliment with the thought, “They were just being nice.”

It’s interesting that the example of negative filtering, above, is a work review. And here’s the deal: my first review had no negative comments. Not one.

So I really let in all that positive feedback and compliments last year. And it made a huge difference.

Essentially, that first review was a healthy, mega-dose of Reality Testing:

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.

It was an antidote for my negative self-talk, fears, projections, and other unhelpful thoughts I was having about work.

This year’s review focused more on Ways I Could Improve. And there was a thing, or two, about that review which I could — if I chose — use as a negative filter. I could maximize the “negative” and minimize the huge number of positives that were there.

But I’m not. Instead, I am letting in all the amazing, positive comments I got, from people I respect, a lot.

And, again, it’s making a big difference.

I feel more alive, secure, and eager to go into work this morning. I feel confident that — no matter what challenges arise, no matter what mistakes I inevitably make — I will do a good enough job.

My passion and love for my work is unhindered, this morning, by any dread, guilt, or anxiety.

And nothing has changed, people, about my work situation.

The only thing that has changed is this: Today I know some beautiful details about how my work is appreciated.

Before I came to this job, I worked at a place where I also loved what I did. However, I received only a couple of formal reviews during the twelve years I was there. I still got positive feedback and encouragement from wonderful people, but I didn’t get that bracing mega-dose of appreciation…. until I left.

And those Goodbye Appreciations were, again, an incredible remedy for what ailed me.

Here is the point I want to make this morning:

Confidence helps.

While we may have fears of feeling too good (discussed here, here, and here), and while we might love and admire the quality of humility in others and in ourselves …

Confidence helps.

I know it helps me, in so many ways.

It helps me do a better job.

It helps reduce my anxiety.

It helps me express myself, more strongly.

It helps me feel more comfortable, exactly where I am.

And instead of feeling like I have to be a Kingpin to succeed, I feel more connected to my team:

Image

(Seen yesterday, as I walked away from a Good Day’s Work.)

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Thanks to my teams at work, to people whose work includes dressing up like giant objects like teeth or bowling pins, to yearly reviews, and to you.

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Day 82: The Equal Time Rule

Years ago, I made up a “rule” for myself, to deal with my (human) tendency to focus on the negatives. If you’re like me in this way (and most people I meet seem to be), you automatically zero in on whatever isn’t “right” — possible sources of future trouble, critical comments, negative people, the “fly in the ointment,” mistakes, and so on.

As I’ve written in this blog before, this makes sense, purely from a survival standpoint. If there’s danger out there, it’s helpful for our bodies and minds to focus on that.  If everything else is idyllic and safe, but there’s a potentially dangerous creature strolling by, that’s going to get all of our (and our ancient ancestors’) attention.

But this survival instinct can screw us up. It can cause us to over-emphasize the negative while dismissing the positive — reducing our joy, interfering with connections to others, and promoting worry and regret.

Several Cognitive Distortions (listed here), relate to that, including:

Negative filtering (also known as “Disqualifying the positive”).
This is when we focus on the negative, and filter out all positive aspects of a situation.  For example, you get a good review at work with one critical comment, and the criticism becomes the focus, with the positive feedback fading or forgotten. You dismiss positives by explaining them away — for example, responding to a compliment with the thought, “They were just being nice.”

and

Magnifying or Minimizing.
We exaggerate the importance of some things (our mistakes, a critical reaction, somebody else’s achievements, things we haven’t done). Also, we inappropriately shrink the magnitude of  other things  (for example, our good qualities, compliments, what we have accomplished, or someone else’s imperfections).

and

Overgeneralization.
We come to a general conclusion based on a single incident or a single piece of evidence. If something bad happens only once, you expect it to happen over and over again. Example: seeing one incident of rejection as part of a never-ending pattern of defeat and failure.

 

So where’s the friggin’ rule, Ann?

 Yes, I started out this post promising a rule I made up, to help deal with overemphasizing the negative.  I put this rule in my list of  remedies  for cognitive distortions, and here it is:

The Equal Time Rule.  To be fair, why not balance out the time spent on negative thoughts with positive thoughts?  For example, if you spend a certain amount of time worrying or catastrophizing about something that then turns out okay, consider spending that much time feeling good about the outcome. Or, if you are focusing on a negative, critical person and worrying about how they might affect you, try to give equal time and power to a positive, supportive person.

Okay, time for an example!

Several posts this year have mentioned my dread of working on my income taxes (like here and here).

(I don’t know why I freak out, so much, about doing my taxes each year.  I have a lot of self-knowledge and insight, or so I’m told, but I still don’t understand THAT, which I could probably explore in a ridiculously long post and/or another year of therapy).  (But not now.)

Here is my yearly To Do List about taxes:

February 15. Start worrying about and dreading working on your taxes.Don’t actually do anything, but definitely beat yourself up about (1) procrastinating and (2) worrying so much about this, which is dopey and really getting old.   Make sure you compare yourself to other people who have (1) completed their taxes and/or (2) aren’t as weird as you about worrying about this.  Schedule a few weekends when you’re definitely going to work on this, but then don’t. Make sure to feel guilty about scheduling and then not following through.  Try not to tell people how weird you are about this, but if you do tell people, make sure to feel dopey about that.

March 15. Continue doing all of the above, but more frequently and intensely. Note the amount of time you’ve wasted feeling bad about this and ask yourself questions like, “Why do you do this every year?”  Decide that this year, you’ve gone further than you usually do in procrastinating;  feel  bad and somewhat panicky about that. Notice that the worrying about taxes is getting in the way of your anticipating the arrival of your favorite season — Spring! Feel REALLY bad about that.

The End of March:  Always get done what you need to, somehow.

(Note that I’ve left something out here:  my frequent uses of remedies and antidotes to help myself feel better during this process.) (Again, I’m overemphasizing the negative and minimizing the positive, in how I’m telling THIS story.)  (Eeeek!)

THE PUNCHLINE

This year, I did the above routine again — as usual,  starting around February 15.

AND, as usual,  I finished the routine this past week. That is,  I’m done with my preparation (and dread) about taxes for this year.

If I were to use my made-up Equal Time Rule, I would spend as much time and intensity feeling GOOD about completing my taxes as I did feeling bad about NOT doing them.  That means I would spend more than a month, from now on, feeling relieved and great.

Will I do it?  Nah. Not even close, people.

But I LOVE that idea.  And by having that rule, even if I don’t keep it, I invite myself to feel as good as I possibly can for as long as I can possibly can.

Because it’s only fair, right?

Thanks for reading.

 

© 2013  Ann Koplow      (for my Equal Time Rule)

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

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