Posts Tagged With: opinion

Day 152: Weighty Matters

Oh, brother. (Oh, sister, too.)

This topic does feel like a weight — on my shoulders and in my gut.

And the topic is …. weight.  How much we weigh.

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Arrrghhhh!

This is SUCH a loaded topic.

There are so many aspects to it.

Body image.

Self worth.

Health.

Societal messages.

The value of women.

The value of human beings.

Stereotypes and prejudices.

Nutrition.

Food addiction.

Family dynamics.

Advertising.

Food-related politics and policies.

National, cultural, and historical differences in attitudes towards food and weight.

Etc. etc. etc.

(You may want to add to that list, depending upon your experience with this topic.)

Here’s my major point, this morning.  All these different thoughts — small and large — floating around in my brain, are inspired by something so trivial … that feels so huge to me:

I weigh more, today, than I ever have in my life.

And it’s difficult for me to feel as valuable and “okay,” once having noticed that.

Which makes me mad, especially since  I’ve worked with so many people, over the years, about cultivating self-esteem divorced from appearance, including weight.

So I’m taking the first step, right now, of naming my observation, my confusion, and my reactions.

That’s the beginning of my process — of moving forward, wherever that takes me.

Thank you for reading and witnessing (wherever you are, with all this).

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Day 129: Clichés

This post is dedicated to people I’ve worked with in the past, whom I really appreciate.

The definition of cliché:

platitude: a trite or obvious remark

I’m hearing them differently lately.

Here are some I heard when I was growing up (and rolling my eyes):

1.  First things first.

Absolutely.

2.  Patience is a virtue.

Yes.

3.  Honesty is the best policy.

Indeed.

4.  The more the merrier.

(Pssst! That’s an invitation for you to add clichés that “ring true” for you.)

And, in conclusion (seemingly contradicting that last one):

5.  Quality, not quantity.

Thanks for reading. (Is that a cliché?)  (Nah.)

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Day 73: The Fear of Feeling “Too Good” — Part 2

Way back on Day  3 of this blog, I wrote this post  about the fear of feeling too good.

And, at the end of the post, I said I would write more the next day.

And then, I didn’t.

And that was useful, because I got to manage my guilt about making a promise and breaking it to you, my readers.

And I haven’t returned to the topic.

Yet.

Today’s the day!

And something that I’ve relearned — again! — is to have faith in my own process.  Or, as I wrote a few days ago,  in this post:

#17. Notice your resistance, letting go of judgment.

If you’re resisting doing something, assume that — on some level — that resistance makes sense. See if you can figure that out.  Even if you can’t, try to let go of judgment about the resistance.

Also resistance may mean that you don’t yet have what you need (data, support, completing something else first) in order to continue with your task.

I’m not going to write today about why I was resisting completing that task — of writing Part 2 of “The Fear of Feeling ‘Too Good,” even though that might be useful to explore.  That might be the post for another day.

Here’s what I want to say today about The Fear of Feeling ‘Too Good.”

At times in my life, I’m been afraid of feeling too good, because:

  • I’m afraid that I will be disappointed.
  • Other people in my life have been afraid of my feeling too good, for their own reasons (which I can only guess).
  • I’m afraid that if I feel too good, I will lose people.

I think those are the main punchlines, this morning.

I have a big day at work today, where I’m meeting with somebody where it will probably be helpful for me to feel very good about myself (even though I still believe there are some dangers in my feeling “too good.”)

Writing this post this morning helped me prepare for the meeting, which I’m actually looking forward to.

Before I leave, though, I would like to quote this poem by Marianne Williamson, which I have found very helpful.  (If it helps you to do so, feel free to substitute your own language for the word “God.”)

Our Deepest Fear
By Marianne Williamson
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness
That most frightens us.

We ask ourselves
Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.

Your playing small
Does not serve the world.
There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking
So that other people won’t feel insecure around you.

We are all meant to shine,
As children do.
We were born to make manifest
The glory of God that is within us.

It’s not just in some of us;
It’s in everyone.

And as we let our own light shine,
We unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we’re liberated from our own fear,
Our presence automatically liberates others.

Thanks for reading.

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Day 68: Barriers to Connection

This post is dedicated to my wonderful cousin, Lani, because the number 68 is very special to her.

Connection is super important to me.  And, while I only truly know my own experience, I’ve gotta believe that connection is also very important to most of you reading this.  (Data supporting this assumption:  If connecting with other people and their ideas was NOT important to you, why would you be reading this?)

I think a lot about connection — because of the work I do as a psychotherapist and because it makes life worthwhile for me.

Therefore, I also think a lot about the barriers to connection. What gets in the way of human beings connecting better with each other?

I will now make a list of possible candidates.

Barriers to Connection I Have Known

by Ann Koplow

Barrier #1.  My own insecurities.

This is probably the biggest barrier to my connecting in a more authentic, uncomplicated, and effective way to other people.  As a matter of fact, this might be a very short list. And a very short blog post.

Let’s see, do I have more to say about this?

Well, I could list my insecurities, which get in the way of connecting with other people.

Here are some of them:

  1. I’m not smart enough.  There are so many things that other people know that I don’t.
  2. I’m too smart, in some weird way, and people don’t understand what I’m trying to tell them.
  3. I’m just weird, because of my unique set of past experiences, so people don’t understand what I’m trying to tell them.

Okay.  Is there anything else I want to tell you about this, today, dear reader?

I guess not.

It looks like a beautiful day outside.  I’m going out there, people!

Thanks for reading.

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Day 44: The Daily Blog

It’s 7 PM on Day 44 of the Year of Blogging Daily, and I have no idea what my topic is going to be. And I’m hungry. I want to have dinner soon, but I want to write this post before dinner.  My big plans for after dinner? Watching some TV shows I DVR-ed while I was on my trip, which I’m REALLY looking forward to.

So I’d like to write a blog post, now.  But about what?

I’ve had  ideas for topics, popping up throughout the day, including:

  1. Writing thank-you notes.
  2. How to give yourself a great 60th birthday party.
  3. Tips on traveling by yourself
  4. Decisions, decisions
  5. The 30-minute Blog
  6. Irritating things

That last topic is an indication that I’m hungry.

I’m very much in touch — right now — with the reality that writing a daily blog does present this danger: that posting might turn into something that I SHOULD be doing.  (If you want to read a previous post about SHOULDs, it’s right here.)

Writing a daily post might turn into a source of stress,  another obligation.  And an INESCAPABLE one. Oh, no!  I just finished a post less than 24 hours ago,  and NOW I HAVE TO DO ANOTHER ONE!  Eeeeeeek!

If there’s something you need to do every day, I guess freaking out like that is always a possibility. But I think there ARE ways to let go of that stress.

For example, you can always — in the moment — get a sense of what might help you complete your task, balancing different priorities.

Sometimes, it really helps to name what those priorities are.

In this case, my priorities are:

  1. Eat dinner.

That’s it.

Okay, that completes today’s post. Thanks for reading!

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Day 20: It’s not All That (or All Anything)

I’ve started several different blog posts today, unsure about what topic I wanted to pursue. I think this topic might be “it”, though.  That is, I think this post is going to make it to “The Show”  today, rather than being delegated to the Farm Team — the Drafts bin.

This Post with Good Prospects has to do with another cognitive distortion, another “psychological epidemic” of unhelpful thinking.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy calls this distortion “All-or-Nothing Thinking” (or “Black-and-White Thinking”)

Here’s a description,  from a hand-out I use on cognitive distortions:

All-or-Nothing Thinking (also known as “Black-and-White Thinking”)

With this distortion, things seem either all good or all bad, people are either perfect or failures, something new will either fix everything or be worthless. There is no middle ground; we place people and situations in “either/or” categories, with no shades of gray, or allowing for complexities.  Watch out for absolute words like “always”, “never,” “totally,” etc. as indications of this kind of distortion.

Boy, a lot of people have a reaction when THIS ONE comes up.  As a matter of fact, people often say this (all-or-nothing) response:

I do that ALL THE TIME.

No, they don’t.  They have other types of thoughts, too. It just SEEMS like it’s all the time. And there’s the basis of All-or-Nothing thinking.

There are shades of gray, even when we are only noticing the black and white.

The reason that All-or-Nothing thinking became The Alpha Topic today is this:   I realized that All-or-Nothing thinking was the subtext of every other topic I was considering. One of those other topics was Fears about Fragility — how we can worry about our own fragility, other people’s fragility, and the fragility of connections with others — and how this affects how we are with others.  And I realized there was some Black-and-White thinking involved there, too. I realized this had to do with All-or-Nothing thinking about people and connections    — that they are either Fragile OR Resilient, not allowing for variations and shades of gray.

Hmmmm. I’ll tell you what I’m wondering right now, dear reader.

I’m wondering if I’m being confusing. I’m wondering if I’ve lost you.

Hey! That relates to both topics, I think — black-and-white thinking and fears about the fragility of connection.

Now that I’ve noticed that, I’m going to try to challenge some possible distortions.  Want to come along?

Okay, so maybe my writing DID get more confusing above.   That doesn’t mean there’s an All-or-Nothing switch, changing this post from Coherent to Incoherent.

Or from Useful to Useless. There are degrees of usefulness, aren’t there?  This post — and every other blog post in the Great Blogosphere —  is neither Completely Useful nor Completely Useless. Different readers will take different things away, from whatever they read.

Communication, in general, is not All-or-Nothing.  No matter what the form of communication — in blogs, in person, in writing, in speech — there’s no perfect communication of meaning. (In order to attain that, we’d all have to be mind-readers.)   There are so many shades of gray there — so many shifting variations and levels of understanding and being understood.

And if I did “lose” you, dear reader, that was — most likely — momentarily. Connections — of understanding, between people — don’t have to be perfect. There’s room for variation, for shifting degrees of engagement and disengagement.

Okay!  Thanks for reading. Because even though this blog post wasn’t All Coherent or All Useful or All Anything, it is this:

All done.

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Day 18: If there’s something you need or want, just ask for it.

Note:  This here is another blog-ified version of a chapter I’ve been working on for a book.   My friend Jeanette really likes this, so this is dedicated to her.

Yes, indeed.  If there’s something you need or want, just ask for it.

If  you’re skeptical about this, I understand.  If I hadn’t encountered this lesson countless times so far in my life, I couldn’t be writing about it now. And believe me, unless I read this post over and over again, I’m pretty sure I’ll doubt it again in the future.

There are lots of reasons why it’s difficult to ask for what you want.  Here are two really common ones:

(1) You fear that that you won’t get what you ask for, and you’ll feel  much worse than if you hadn’t asked at all.

(2) You  believe that people will judge you and maybe even reject you for burdening them, or for being selfish or unreasonable.

Let’s look at these, one at a time.

(1) If you ask for what you want, sure, there’s no guarantee you’ll get it.  But here’s the good news: you WILL be able to deal with feeling lousy about it.  Don’t believe me? Think of all the times you’ve survived being disappointed before. And while sometimes we might feel that we’re filled up with disappointment, and one more “no” would damage or even kill us, it won’t.  And the more you’ll ask, the more you’ll get.

It’s the fear of the Power of that NO,  I think, that keeps us from asking.  Once we overcome that fear, and ask more, the odds will be good. You’ll actually get what you want,  some of the time (If not most of the time.) That huge payoff will make the few “no’s” totally worth it.  It’s a great business proposition. You’ll get fine return on your investments (ROI),  and ROI governs how most people take business risks.


(2) And as far as being judged by people,  remember this:  no matter who the person is that you’re asking, they’ve dealt with lots of people asking — a lot less reasonably — for a LOT more than what you’re asking for.  No matter how outrageous you think your request is, lots of people have outdone you.  I guarantee it. Think of the shameless requests you’ve witnessed in your life, for heaven’s sake. Your request will most likelly be somewhere in the middle of the reasonable-to-shameless request scale. Again, we’re talking excellent ROI here. More often than not,  you’re not going to be judged or going to be rejected even close to the way you fear.

There are ways to ask for what you want that can improve your ROI even more, including being clear and direct.  But I think the most important factor is believing that you deserve to get what you’re asking for — that you’re worthy of getting your needs met.

And you are, dear reader.

© 2013 Ann Koplow

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Day 15: The Yearning to Connect

The yearning to connect is something that’s on my mind this morning for at least two reasons: (1) new types of groups I’ve been developing where I work and (2) this blog.

The new groups I’ve been offering are different in several ways from “conventional” ones.   Most therapy groups have the same people meeting each week and are either (1) short-term, with a specified amount of meetings (6 weeks, 10 weeks, etc.) or (2)  on-going, with no end point specified. People commit to attend every week, if possible.  People might leave the group and new people might join, but those comings and goings are rare and pretty controlled.

And there are lots of great reasons why therapy groups work so well this way, which I won’t go into in this post (but could, in future posts).   Because conventional therapy groups do such wonderful things and promote healing so effectively, however, conventional wisdom might suggest, or believe, that a group that does things very differently — like the ones I’ve been facilitating lately — might not work.

Here’s how these groups are different. People, once they are oriented  to the structure and guidelines of the group, can attend when and how often they choose.  If you were attending these groups, you would never know for sure who was going to be there when you showed up — you might know some people but other ones would probably be new .  And, you’d have control over when and how often you attend. You could come once a week, once a month, whenever you wanted. You could book  a space way ahead, decide to come spontaneously (if space was available), and cancel if you couldn’t make it.

So why do these groups work ?  That’s what I’m writing about in today’s blog.

I think it’s because people are hungry to connect in authentic ways to other people.  So, if  people feel safe enough, they will connect in some way —  even if it’s for a single session, with people they don’t know.

I constantly witness how healing it is for people — strangers! — to come together with some hope of presenting all of themselves (their strengths, vulnerabilities, histories, pain, triumphs) and to connect with each other.  People have remarkable abilities  to find common ground with each other, and to work together at moving forward.

It’s amazing.  And even in one session, where people might not know the other people, where they are — of course! — anxious about revealing themselves to others, helpful and wonderful things can happen.

As I said in my intro to this post, blogging was another reason that the yearning to connect was on my mind.

The way people use blogs, whether they are posting or commenting, sometimes reminds me of what I see in group therapy.  As I look at other people’s blogs,  I see people often choosing to bring different authentic parts of themselves here, to communicate with a hope to be understood, to connect, to relate, to learn, and to grow.

And, dear reader, I didn’t realize all those similarities until I was writing this blog today — listening again to my own yearning to connect.

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Day 14: The sounds of silence (and how we respond)

I’ve been thinking about silence lately.  Specifically, I’ve been thinking about how people react to silence – how it “speaks” to them (interesting word).

I’m thinking about how we can fill in silences with all sorts of thoughts and assumptions.

I’m not thinking about the silence that exists when we’re alone. I’m thinking about the silence in response to an attempt to connect.  That is, interpersonal silence.

As a group therapist, I’ve witnessed and observed lots of people’s reactions to interpersonal silence. In a group, there might be a lull, a stretch of time were nobody says anything.  Often, somebody will fill in that silence,  perhaps out of discomfort and anxiety.  Sometimes, the group therapist has to fight the feeling that the silence means that the group isn’t a “good” one. (This is something I’ve worked on, and now I actually like silences, because interesting things often come out of them.)

Often in a group, somebody will share something intimate, risky, or important, and nobody will say anything.  Or somebody might change the subject, almost immediately.

I’ve seen all sorts of people – in and out of therapy groups — react similarly when they say something that feels important and then don’t seem to get a response.  They may know, intellectually, that silence can mean many different things. They may know that the silence might indicate that people are thinking and even very much affected by what they’ve heard. They may know that silence might mean that people didn’t know what to say (or what they were expected to say).

Even so, speaking without a response often causes something really painful.

Shame.

And that’s not surprising, since humans react that way, almost from birth. It’s been said that infants are “hard-wired” to have a shame response, which is triggered when a baby actively tries to make eye contact with the mother (or other primary caregiver) and they get an inattentive or disinterested response. The baby’s response looks like adult shame – head drooping, eyes down-cast, face turned away.

So when we try to connect with others and we don’t get a response within a certain amount of time, sometimes we’re going to feel bad about that. It’s natural to fill that silence in with all sorts of assumptions.

But feeling shame doesn’t necessarily mean that the situation is as bad as we fear. In Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, another common distortion is Emotional Thinking. Emotional Thinking is, in a nutshell, the following:

I feel it, therefore it’s true.

For example, “I feel hopeless, therefore there’s no hope” or “I feel inadequate, so therefore there must be something wrong with me” or “I feel shame, so therefore people must be rejecting me.”

I think it’s important to be aware of how hard-wired we are to feel shame when we reach out and don’t get a response, and to be open to other possibilities: that the other person is busy, for example.  I’m not saying we won’t get rejected sometimes, but maybe we’re not being rejected as often as we fear.

And it’s important to remember that even when we feel shame, we still matter.

I’ve heard guilt vs. shame defined this way:

Guilt is feeling like you’ve done something wrong.

Shame is feeling like YOU are wrong.

That’s such a painful difference, dear reader.

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Day 13: Focus on what you’re doing (rather than on what you’re not doing)

(Note:  This is another blog-gy adaptation of a chapter from a book I’ve been working on since August 2012. My friend, Lawry, who is a very smart, big-shot lawyer, tells me that I should put the following in my blog postings:  (c) Ann Koplow.  All rights reserved.  Except I have to figure out how to replace “(c)” with a copyright logo. That’s something I’m not doing right now, though.) 

No matter where I am, when it is, or what is going on, there is ALWAYS something I’m not doing.  No matter how many things I’m doing and taking care of, inevitably there are things I’m not attending to.

Unfortunately, What I’m Not Doing always seems more important than whatever I am doing and have done.  No matter how much I’ve accomplished during the day (or the week, month, my life), what I haven’t done seems … bigger.

What I’m not doing certainly gets more of my attention.  I need to constantly remind myself about what I am doing. Otherwise, I focus on — and judge myself for —  all those things I haven’t gotten around to yet.

 
And this all makes sense, I guess. Each day, we all need to make choices about what we pay attention to and accomplish. Once we accomplish something, we don’t need to worry about it any more. Once something is done, it tends to disappear — Poof!  out of our consciousness.

Yes, that makes sense.  Our brain wants to leave more room for what we need to do. (It’s more efficient for survival of the species, I would think.)

So we need to remind ourselves about what we’ve done.  And we need to notice how that natural focus — on What We’re Not Doing — can cause guilt, stress, and a sense of being overwhelmed.

Here’s an example of my incredible ability to be more aware of what I’m not doing than what I am doing:

For years, I’ve been wanting to write a book.  I didn’t know what the book would be, but I knew I wanted to tell and share some parts of my story.

But it took years before I figured out what I wanted the book to be, and I couldn’t start writing before then. During those years, I had a lot of negative thoughts about the fact that I wasn’t writing yet.  I tried to whip myself into shape with “shoulds,” like “You should just sit down every day and write for 15 minutes!”  And I wouldn’t.

However,  when I was ready to start writing, I did.  Yay!

I am actually writing those words you’re reading right now on a day that’s been really productive for me. It’s 12:45 on a Sunday, and I’ve been writing for hours, since 7:30 this morning.  And for the most part, that feels pretty good.  However, I’ve also been noticing  some nagging, increasingly unpleasant feelings.

The feelings are guilt.

And this is the thought I just identified:


It’s a beautiful day.  You should be out enjoying it.

Arrrghhhh!

These thoughts are just NOT going to stop, apparently.

Can you relate to this way of thinking? It’s what Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)  calls  “negative filtering” (and  I’m calling another Psychological Epidemic, because I see it all the time).

If so, try this:  Focus on things you are doing, give yourself credit, and try to make those things you do —  and have done — as big and important as all those things you’re not doing (no matter what your judgmental thoughts are telling you).

And, dear reader, something you ARE doing right now is reading my blog  — which is big and important to me.

© 2013 Ann Koplow

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