Posts Tagged With: Personal

Day 144: “Emergency” messages

I’ve often blogged here about cognitive distortions,including mind-reading, fortune-telling, comparisons, and negative filter. (Here’s a list of all thirteen cognitive distortions.)

I’ve also been working on a list of antidotes or remedies, to help break the habit of cognitive distortions.

Here’s the antidote I wanted to focus on, today:

The “In Case of Emergency, Break Glass” Technique. Prepare for the possibility that when you are feeling at your worst, coping strategies and solutions might be difficult to remember. Write down a couple of things that might be helpful to remember when you are feeling bad, and put that in a special place. Also, consider telling somebody else about these “emergency messages,” so they can remind you.

I’ve got my own message I would like to remember, in case of emergency. When I’m feeling down, depressed, hopeless, discouraged, self-critical, or self doubting, I wish I could remember this:  I will come through the bad time, with gifts I can use.

However, I can never remember that message, when I’m down. Never!  It’s like a spell is cast, that affects my memory.  When I’m feeling hopeless or powerless — because of disappointment or shame — my  belief is some form of this:

I suck and/or life sucks.

That’s what cognitive distortions do, in a nutshell. They present Sucky-ness of Self and Existence,  as The Truth.

But, it’s not The Truth. It’s just a belief, a thought, a temporary state of mind.

Each time, though, when I descend into a State of Ultimate Sucky-ness,  I simply cannot remember anything else. My Emergency Message is beyond me.

So, in order to try my “In Case of Emergency, Break Glass” antidote, I’ve been scoping out a special place to place my helpful Message to Self.

About a month ago, I got this box, with a hidden compartment. I thought I’d place my message there.


However, since I so easily lose sight of the message, I decided I needed a receptacle that was a lot less subtle.

So on my vacation, I bought this:


That’s a lot harder to miss.

I’ve printed out this version of The Message:

When you are feeling, hopeless, powerless, selfish, foolish, disappointed or otherwise bad about yourself and your situation, remember this:

You will come out of this. And you will have ideas about ways to move forward.

I’ve placed that message in the box:

photo (52)

Now my box, with message inside, is sitting on the mantle:


I hope I remember it’s there, the next time I need it.

I’ll keep you posted.

Thanks for reading, everybody. (And feel free to post what “emergency message” you might leave for yourself.)

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

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.


2.  Patience is a virtue.


3.  Honesty is the best policy.


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.)

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Day 124: Why I love the show “Dinner for Five”

Because it’s a group, people! (And I love groups.)

Dinner for Five is a television program in which actor/filmmaker Jon Favreau (SwingersMadeIron Man) and a revolving guest list of celebrities eat, drink and talk about life on and off the set and swap stories about projects past and present.


Here’s an episode, available — at this writing — on YouTube:

What I especially love about this particular group meeting:

(1)  They negotiate the group “contract” (rules and assumptions) at the beginning (no interrupting?  foul language?)

(2) One of the members (Dom DeLuise), immediately tests the established boundaries — using “foul language” — and that’s the end of that.

(3) All the members have known each other for many, many years.

(4)  Because every member is in the same age group, they naturally get snarky about people outside that group (younger actors).

(5) Charles Nelson Reilly feels safe enough (for lots of reasons, I’m sure) to express some difficult feelings (anger and — perhaps — fear) (again, towards young actors).

(6) The group facilitator (Jon Favreau) does a great job leaving room for people to just talk.

(7) The late Charles Durning (a World War 2 hero)  and the rest of the group deal with traumatic memories with care and sensitivity for each other.

(8) The friendship, love, and respect that is evident among the members.

(9) Charles Nelson Reilly does a great goodbye, for the group.

(10) Pretty much  everything else.

In writing this post, I discovered that all the episodes of “Dinner for Five” are available NOW on a YouTube Channel.  (Watching episodes I haven’t seen yet: another wonderful thing I can do on my vacation.)  Yay!

Thanks for reading, everybody.

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Day 116: I just rewrote yesterday’s blog post

When  I write a blog post on Thursdays (like yesterday’s),  I get a little more space and time to write — an extra hour or two — before I go into work in the morning.    Then, my Thursdays are crazy/busy, and I get home quite late at night,  so I don’t have time to rewrite or even reread the long post I’ve written in the morning.

Here are some critical/judgmental thoughts I had this morning, when I finally got a chance to re-read yesterday’s post:

Your blog posts on Thursdays are the worst!  Longer, more rambling, with no time to rewrite or even re-read!! That  is a recipe for DISASTER!  

Arrghh!  There are so many parts of this post that don’t make sense!  

Look at how you combined the universal with the personal, in such klutzy ways! And you talked about stuff that would gross out most readers, including how you’ve gotten endocarditis in the past!  Yikes!  What were you thinking?


What is the matter with you?  You had better rewrite this post, now, before you even think about writing today’s post.

Phew!  That was amazing … to write down those critical thoughts.  I find it painful, but helpful, to get them out of my head.

It helps to write them down, because then I can see the cognitive distortions that are going on.  I’m seeing Mind Reading, Catastrophizing, Labeling, and several more. (If you want, you can read this list of cognitive distortions and see if you recognize other ones in my judgmental thoughts, above.) (Even better, maybe you’ll recognize some of your own judgmental thoughts there, too.)

AND I am  so happy to report something that feels good and new this morning. 

I was able to stop the more toxic, painful  judgmental thoughts I was having — upon re-reading yesterday’s post — almost immediately, even before I started writing this post.


I was automatically, unconsciously using remedies to these thoughts, which I’ve been collecting (and sharing with others, here.). 

It’s so great that I was able to do that, without even thinking!

To repeat, yay!

I think I was able to do that, this morning, because I’m getting to do groups I love doing, at work, where we focus on reducing unhelpful thoughts (as well as other ways to cope and to heal). 

The very thing that prevented me from re-writing a better blog post yesterday — doing two groups yesterday, at work, including one in the evening — helped me let go of judgmental thoughts more quickly, this morning.

I think that is very, very cool.

After I let go of the shameful, toxic judgmental thoughts,  this morning, I did a very quick re-write of yesterday’s blog post, so I felt it was “good enough.”  For me, that means that even though the blog post was long and digressive, even though it combined the universal (I hope) and the personal, it still made enough sense, so that most readers  could probably follow it and get something out of it.

I was able to do that quickly enough to turn my attention to writing todays’ blog post.

Now,  I believe that I will be able to meet my priorities this morning, which are as follows:

(1) Take care of my son, well enough, so that he has what he needs to get to school on time.

(2) (TIE with #1, above)  Take care of myself, well enough, by (a)  doing # 1, above, (b) writing a good enough blog post in the morning before I go to work (which has been helping sustain me, through some difficult times), (c) getting the food and preparation I need,  and (d) leaving early enough so that I’m not rushing, with anxiety, to work.

(3)  Get to work, sustained well enough, so I can do work I feel passionately about, which includes helping people heal and move on with their lives.

I think I’ve written previous blog posts here about several issues I’ve alluded to in that above list, including (1) setting priorities as a way not to be overwhelmed and (2) how it’s important to focus on your own needs, as a way to be more available to others.

But you know what?  My son’s alarm just went off, and I want to check in with him. So I’m not going to take the time, right now, to look for the links to these previous blog posts.   So you’re on your own with that. If you’re interested in finding more about those things, they are here in my blog, in previous posts.

And who knows?  Maybe I’ll get some time, soon, to re-read this post and make this one even better, too — including inserting helpful links to previous things I’ve written.

But for now, dear reader, I believe this post is good enough to publish.

And I have complete faith in you, to figure out what your needs are and to get what you need, in order to change and grow– which may or may not include what I offer you, here.

Thanks, this morning, for reading my good enough post(s).

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Day 107: Has the external world changed? I haven’t.

Who knows if that title makes any sense, at all.

I am trying to figure out whether the external world has changed, that much, because of the bombings at the Boston Marathon, two days ago. It feels like it has, but that doesn’t mean that it has.

As I and others try to make meaning of this — so we can go on with our lives — I’m experiencing a debate about how safe it is out there.

On the one hand:

The world feels scarier.  Things are getting worse. It’s less safe than before. I am not going to go out into crowded places again.  I will avoid these kinds of public celebrations, since the people who are supposed to protect us didn’t do enough to prevent this from happening.

On the other hand:

Boston feels scarier, but this sort of thing happens, somewhere, a certain amount of the time. It just hasn’t happened this close to home before. If we change how we act because of fear, the people who do these kinds of things have won. 

This is how I’m seeing that “debate,” right now:

It’s the negotiating we do, as we move through life, trying to figure out how safe we are: How much we should venture out, away from what feels safer.

It’s natural to want to protect ourselves.  But how much do we need to do that?

Sometimes I say this to people, who have told me horrifying, trust-mangling stories of things that have happened to them,  “It’s amazing you ever leave home.  How do you do that?”

We figure out how to do that — to venture out there —  to a greater and lesser extent, every day.

Sometimes when we go out there, it feels like the “wrong” thing to do.  Too risky,  Maybe even  foolish, counter-intuitive, the opposite of self-preservation.

Sometimes when we stay in our homes, it feels like the “wrong” thing to do. Phobic. Cowardly. Crazy.

How can we be “smart” about this, and  do the right thing?

What the hell is the “right thing”, anyway?  And if we can’t figure out what the right thing is — when it comes to survival, for cripe’s sake — what the hell should we do?

There’s so much evidence for why any decision we make about safety is “wrong.”  There are so many arguments for both sides of the debate.

I notice that some people I know are more careful than I am about self-protection. They scan the environment for danger, more than I do.

They’ll point out when my shoelaces are untied. They’ll tell me to watch out for cars when I’m crossing the street.

When they do that, I sometimes have a negative reaction. I wonder: Am I taking good enough care of myself?  Do they think I’m not capable of doing that for myself?

Today, I’m thinking that some people are more careful than others, in that regard.  They negotiate that question of how safe it is differently than I do.

That doesn’t mean I’m foolish, though. It just means I’ve made different decisions. It means that I have a different “style” regarding How to Keep It Safe Enough.

Some people, who know me, tell me I’m “fearless.”  I find that so ironic, because I’m scared so much of the time.

I’ve learned to calibrate and adjust for my own fear. That’s what I’ve done, dear reader.  I have learned, as I’ve grown and aged, that the world is not as scary as I fear it is.  Even if sometimes — like today — it feels a lot more scary than it usually does.

I’ve decided to look for what is Not Scary — out there and within other people.  That makes me happier.

It’s riskier, perhaps.  It’s not wrong. It works for me.

It might take me a while to get back to my “base line” — the way I usually negotiate risk and fear — after the images I’ve seen of people being hurt and  the changes that I see, as I look around at my beloved Boston.

But I’ll get there.

And so will you, every time the world seems scarier.  And you’ll do it, the way you always do, in the way that works for you.  But with more experience and wisdom, every time.

Thanks for reading.  Take care of yourself, the way you know how.

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

Day 97: Setting Priorities (starring The Oxygen Mask Metaphor)

When you have too much to do, setting priorities can be REALLY helpful.

That’s been true for me, especially lately.

Work has been stressful, overwhelming, wonderful, scary, depleting, energizing, and close-to-all-encompassing lately, because (1)  I really, really care about it, (2) there are a lot of changes going on, and (3) a lot of feelings from my past have been present for me lately.

Yes, I have been feeling overwhelmed. Big time.  To the extent that sometimes I just sit and stare into space, paralyzed by what to do next.  Actually, that’s one of the main ways I’m getting down-time these days, because there’s so much for me to do.

There’s always too much to do.

Can I get an “Amen” about that?  (Apparently not. I just googled “Amen sound effects” and couldn’t find anything quick enough. And THAT is not a priority for me, right now, so moving on ….)

On Friday, at work, I was looking ahead to the weekend and feeling overwhelmed about today, because there were many things I wanted to do, including:

  1. Going to the  birthday party of a friend from high school,  who was also my first “boyfriend” (we’re talking age 6 or 7 here), whom I recently reconnected with through MY birthday party,
  2. Going to a reception for a photography show my sister is in. (My sister is not a professional photographer, but she takes amazing pictures, and she submitted photos for the first time, and made the show!)
  3. Preparing more for this presentation I’m giving on Tuesday to a Room Full of Medical Residents, about (a) the groups I’m doing, (b) group therapy, in general, (c) how the medical staff and the social work staff can work effectively together, (d) how to be more present for patients, (e) how to take care of ourselves so we can be more present for patients, and (f) anything else I can figure out how to fit in to an hour, in a coherent way, that addresses people’s needs and interests but also moves My Personal Mission (Improving the Patient Experience in a Medical Setting) forward.
  4. Go for walks, listen to music, and do other down-time activities for myself, which are more sustaining than sitting paralyzed and staring into space.

You may, perhaps, notice certain pervasive themes in what I’ve written so far, including this:

I’m trying to do too much. (#3 above seems to imply that, doesn’t it?)

So it’s very important for me, these days, to Walk the Walk — and not just Talk the Talk — of the topic of this post.

It’s important for me to set priorities.

On Friday, I did just that, by  writing this down:

My priorities for this Sunday are:

(1) Me

(2) The photography show

(3)  The party.

That helped. By putting myself first, I was able to start figuring out ways to make Sunday work.

(By the way, I didn’t put the presentation on the list, because I have prepared enough, already.  I know I will do more, but it’s good enough already — and I can make it better, if I choose).

I find it difficult to even write or say “putting myself first” (much less do it!) because that sounds “selfish.” I may promote selfishness in my clients and my friends, but I have trouble doing that for myself. (See “The Double Standard Method”, here,  for a possible remedy for that.)

However, by making that list on Friday, I came up with a plan that is enabling me, today, to do everything I want to do, and still feel like I’m taking care of myself. (That plan involved setting limits and expectations, which you can read more about here and here.)

Ironically, if I hadn’t put myself first, I might have ended up doing less for the other people involved.  I would probably have stayed feeling overwhelmed. I may have felt some resentment about my wishes to “please” others.  I might have cancelled some of the activities.

I can find it challenging to balance my needs with other people’s needs.

And I get an “Amen!” from lots of other people about that.

Here’s a metaphor I like to use, in my work:

The Oxygen Mask Metaphor

When you’re on an airplane, about to take off, and the flight attendants are doing their little gig about What You Need To Know In Case of Emergency, and they come to the part about the mask dropping down ….

What do they say (besides “breathe normally” — hah!)?

They say, “Put your own mask first, even if you are sitting with a child.”

I think they say that, every time, not just because of liability, but because it’s so friggin’ counter-intuitive.  The urge, OF COURSE, would be to put the mask on the child first.

But, to be more effective for the child, in that urgent situation, the adult has to get oxygen first, in order to help the child.

The Moral of the Oxygen Mask Metaphor

We need to take care of our own needs, first, before we can be of use to anybody else.

Can I get an Amen about that, readers?

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

Day 94: What sticks, what doesn’t, and putting things in perspective

As I’m sure I’ve mentioned in previous posts, certain things we experience seem to stick more than others.

To put it simply: The negative sticks, more than the positive does.

To re-state that, with more detail: Negative thoughts, feelings,  people, memories, encounters, and words tend to take on more importance, become bigger, and hang on in the mind — more than positive thoughts, feelings, people, memories, encounters and words do.

That’s been my experience, and also the experience of most people I encounter.

In a previous post, which I wrote (when?  I can’t find it) (oh, well), I described a half-assed theory of mine about why that is, having to do with our ancient ancestors and survival.

Who knows, maybe that theory is more than half-assed. Maybe it’s three-quarters-assed.  No matter how fully assed my reasoning is, there are studies out there, I believe, that have similar conclusions, with real data.  I’m not going to look these up right now, though. I have to go to work, and this is The Year of Living Non-Judgmentally, not The Year of Backing Things Up With Empirical Data.

Therefore, in conclusion:

  1. The negative sticks
  2. The positive doesn’t
  3. #1 and #2 make it difficult to figure things out (“things” including what you want or need, people, yourself, TMOL) (The Meaning Of Life)
  4. Good luck with all that.

That last point may sound dismissive. It’s not.

With all the distortions, assumptions, outdated patterns, sticky negatives and non-sticky positives  that cloud our perspective, we can use all the help we get — whether it’s luck, support, letting go of judgment, re-thinking things, beginner’s mind, wisdom, other people’s perspectives, or our own ever-learning experience.

So good luck to you, dear reader, and to me, too!

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

Day 93: The Personal Bill of Rights

The original title for this post was “Things That Would Be Helpful to Me Remember Today.”  And I started to write a list.

And then I realized that a list already existed: “The Personal Bill of Rights.”  This is from a book,  “The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook” by Edmund Bourne.  (Believe me, you don’t have to be anxious or phobic to get something out of this book.)

I’ve used this list in group and individual therapy. I’ve seen people react strongly to it,  stating, “I am going to post this somewhere, so I can see it every day.”

I assumed that if I googled “Personal Bill of Rights” (without naming the book or the author), that this list would show up, several times, in many different places for many different reasons.

And it did.

Here it is:

Personal Bill of Rights

1. I have the right to ask for what I want.

2. I have the right to say no to requests or demands I can’t meet.

3. I have the right to express all of my feelings, positive or negative.

4. I have the right to change my mind.

5. I have the right to make mistakes and not have to be perfect.

6. I have the right to follow my own values and standards.

7. I have the right to say no to anything when I feel I am not ready, it is unsafe or it violates my values.

8. I have the right to determine my own priorities.

9. I have the right not to be responsible for others’ behavior, actions, feelings or prohlems

10. I have the right to expect honesty from others.

11. I have the right to be angry at someone I love.

12. I have the right to be uniquely myself.

13. I have the right to feel scared and say “I’m afraid.”

14. I have the right to say “I don’t know.”

15. I have the right not to give excuses or reasons for my behavior.

16. I have the right to make decisions based on my feelings.

17. I have the right to my own needs for personal space and time.

18. I have the right to be playful and frivolous.

19. I have the right to be healthier than those around me.

20. I have the right to be in a nonabusive environment.

21. I have the right to make friends and be comfortable around people.

22. I have the right to change and grow.

23. I have the right to have my needs and wants respected by others.

24. I have the right to be treated with dignity and respect.

25. I have the right to be happy.

Thanks to Edmund Bourne and thanks for reading today.

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Day 86: Dear Readers, Non-Readers, and Everybody In Between

I was trying to decide on a topic for my blog post today, and I was having a conversation about that with my bf. (BTW, I’m AAA  — Ambivalent About Abbreviations —  but I prefer “bf” to “boyfriend.”) In the course of that conversation, I asked him if he had been reading this blog lately.  He said he hadn’t read any posts recently.

And there are other people in my life who rarely read these posts.

I have to admit to you, dear reader, that who reads this blog, how frequently or infrequently, does have an effect on me.

I work on losing my investment in the outcome of readership.  And I can often do that.

BUT ….

At the same time (probably like other bloggers), I also have this fantasy of people waiting for every post and DEVOURING EVERY WORD.

And I do have some readers who actually come close to fulfilling that fantasy of mine. And I feel incredibly lucky and flattered about that.

But, here’s the deal.  The NOT reading feels more powerful — more important — than the reading.

The Negative sticks. It can seem more powerful than the positive.

During the first month of this Year of Blogging Daily, I considered writing a post titled “My Boyfriend Doesn’t Read My Blog.” I thought that was a catchy title. (And I was also wondering how long it would take him to see it.)

I didn’t write the post, though, because the title was … not true.  He does read it.  Sometimes he reads several days in a row.

But look at how I re-cast that  balanced story in my head, to accentuate the negative. I made it all-or-nothing:  “My boyfriend doesn’t read my blog.”

Because the negative is more powerful.

When people aren’t reading my blog posts,  here are some negative thoughts that can rush in:

They don’t like my writing!  If I was a better writer, they would be reading more frequently!

And if The Somebody Who Is Not Reading is somebody close to me,  those negative thoughts aren’t just rushing in, they’re carrying extra luggage:

The people who know me best don’t find me interesting.


If people really cared about me, they would want to read my blog.


Those negative thoughts all involve the cognitive distortion of mind reading.  So, to challenge that, I need to go to the experts on that experience — the experience of not always reading my blog.

Those people who are close to me tell the story differently. And when I let that story in (instead of my fear-based, self-judgmental story), I hear things like this:

Those posts are good, they’re well-written, but you know what?  I’d rather hear those thoughts from you in person.

I like that story better. I hope I can remember it (especially when those pesky, matched-luggage-carrying thoughts are trying to rush in).

Thanks for reading (whenever you do).

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

Day 85: You’ll figure it out

Here’s another helpful phrase I’ve been using lately.

You’ll figure it out.

I say it to myself, when I’m learning something new.

You’ll figure it out.

When I’m stuck in confusion.

You’ll figure it out.

When I’m anxious about making the “right” decision.

You’ll figure it out.

When I’m overwhelmed.

You’ll figure it out.

When I’m thinking about the future.

You’ll figure it out.

This phrase helps, because it reminds me that

  • everything is a process
  •  I may predict the future, but I can’t know it
  • I am doing the best I can, with what I have, in the moment
  • I am constantly learning
  • I will make mistakes
  • I have figured things out before
  • it’s important for me to lose my investment in the outcome.

I use this with other people, gently, if I think it fits where they are.

Try it, dear reader, if you think it might help you.

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , | 8 Comments

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