Posts Tagged With: reality testing

Day 1467: Why should anybody care about me?

Yesterday, I heard somebody ask

Why should anybody care about me?

I then witnessed several people caring enough to try to answer that question.

Have you ever asked

Why should anybody care about me?

I have, many years ago.

When people ask

Why should anybody care about me?

they are also asking “Why should I care about myself?” and “Why should anybody care about me when people who should have cared about me didn’t?”

Why should anybody care about my photos from yesterday?

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Why should anybody care about my blog?  Whatever the reason,  I’m so grateful you care, it makes me want to sing this song.

 

Categories: group therapy, personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , | 35 Comments

Day 889: This is Real

This is real. I saw this real sign yesterday at Simmons College in Boston, during a group therapy conference titled “Getting Real: Vulnerability and Effective Group Leadership.”

During the real group therapy conference, these were real:

  • My first real workshop for fellow real group therapists — about the real groups I really do four times a week —  went real, real well.
  • I really confronted somebody about a really critical comment made to me years ago that really made my self confidence reel — and that encounter went real, real well.
  • Real people, all during the group therapy conference, were real — really showing and acknowledging all the real human feelings, including sadness, anger, shame, fear, and joy.

These were also real, yesterday:

    

                  

This is real: I don’t care what that Sweet Scoops  carton really says. Winter is NOT really the real season now, in Boston.

This is real: As I’m really writing this real post, I’m wearing a kind-of-blue, real hair extension.


Is this real hair extension real blue, kind of blue, or real teal? And what is the real reason I’ve felt like wearing really brightly colored real hair extensions, really recently? And will I  feel real and/or nervous tomorrow night at an audition when I ask the real musical question “Green finch and linnet bird, nightingale, blackbird, why is it you sing?”

I really learned this at the Getting Real group therapy conference:  it’s really helpful to ask real questions and give real answers about real feelings, even if those feelings are uncomfortable or kind of blue.

This is a real musical segue: Kind of Blue by the real Miles Davis (and featuring the real  John Coltrane, the real Bill Evans, and other real jazz giants) has really been my favorite album for over 45 real years.

This is a real 50th anniversary tribute to that real masterpiece, with real feelings:

Do you have any real feelings or real questions about anything in this post? This is real: I welcome all of them.

Real thanks to Simmons College, to all attending the Northeastern Society of Group Psychotherapy annual conference, to people open to repairing past experiences, to those who sing on steps or elsewhere, to Harriet Beecher Ashworth  (for her sewing), to super markets and super hair extensions, to Stephen Sondheim (for asking the real musical question about caged birds singing), to Miles Davis, to John Coltrane, to Bill Evans, to Paul Chambers, to Cannonball Adderley,  to Jimmy Cobb, and to you — of course! — for making this real, today.

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

Day 613: I don’t know what I look like

When I was driving into work yesterday, the traffic was awful.  It was okay, though, because I knew my first patient had cancelled. I don’t know what I looked like, behind the steering wheel of my car, but I assume I didn’t look scared about being late.

As I dealt with what looked like the last of a long series of multiple detours and cars battling it out for survival of the fastest, the Talking Heads tune  “Life During Wartime” came on the radio.

Here’s the version I heard yesterday:

(YouTube video found here)

I don’t know what Talking Heads looked like while they were singing the studio version of that song, but here’s a live performance version* of that song:

(YouTube video found here)

Yesterday, when I heard the line “I’ve changed my hairstyle so many times, I don’t know what I look like,” I wondered … could that be my next blog post title?

I haven’t changed my hairstyle that much lately (although I’ve been considering it), so only the second part of that line made the title, today.

Why did I choose that title — instead of another one that looked different — today?

Because I don’t know what I look like (and I hope I am not the only one who feels that way).

I think it’s difficult to tell what we look like. We are on the inside looking out, as everybody else is on the outside looking at those parts of us we can’t ever really see.

As Robert Burns said, in his poem “To a Louse

O wad some Pow’r the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!

(Or, in the current vernacular:

And would some Power the small gift give us
To see ourselves as others see us!)

(as quoted in Wikipedia)

While we can’t know what the louse in Robert Burns’s poem looked like, I will tell you that I’ve been quoting Mr. Burns elsewhere (sometimes, it looks like, erroneously):

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Och.  I’m glad Robbie Burns — the Bard of Scotland — cannot see how I mangled part of his famous poem “To a Mouse.”

I don’t know what it looks like I’m doing in this post, but I better get back to the topic, fast.

So … can we see ourselves as others see us? Do we want to?

As I had many thoughts about perception, yesterday morning, I wondered what people were seeing as I passed by them.

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I suppose I could ask the wonderful people in those last two photographs (Julia, Alex, Kevin, Erin, and others at the Starbucks I frequent at work) what they saw. Yes, I could use the antidote of Reality Testing, a very effective cure for the cognitive distortion of Mind Reading.

I wonder what Julia, Alex, Kevin, Erin, or the baristas whose names I do not know would say, if I DID ask them? I’ll let you know, if I get up the courage to ask the question.

Finally, as a fan and a student of stand-up comedy, I shall allow the late Joan Rivers to have some last words:

“I wish I had a twin, so I could know what I’d look like without plastic surgery.”

Thanks to Talking Heads, to Joan Rivers, to all the talking and non-talking heads I looked at yesterday, and to you — of course! — for looking at this, today.


* I don’t know if you want to look at a third version of “Life During Wartime,” but here’s the Stop Making Sense performance I looked at, with wonder, during the 1980’s:

(look at the YouTube video here)

Does anybody have any questions?

Categories: inspiration, personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 29 Comments

Day 558: Nothing Personal

Here’s a  cognitive distortion that came up several times last week, in therapy groups and elsewhere:

Personalization.

You see yourself as the cause of some negative event for which you are not primarily responsible, and you conclude that what happened was your fault or reflects your inadequacy.  Personalization distorts other people’s reactions into a direct, personal response to you.  For example, if somebody seems upset, you immediately assume it was because of something you said or did.

In Thursday evening’s group, we were discussing this distortion antidote:

Use Helpful Reminders.  Use helpful phrases to challenge habitual distortions. For example, for mind-reading or fortune telling, remind yourself “I’m not psychic.” Make a list of other phrases that help you, such as “I am doing the best I can,” “One step at a time,” etc. Consider sticking these reminders where you can see them.

One of the group participants said he’s put up this helpful reminder, where he works:

It’s not personal. It’s just business.

and he’s looked at that, thousands of times.

Personally, I too find it helpful to remember, over and over again, that most things are NOT personal.  It also helps me to realize that human beings are built to take things personally.   So, it takes constant practice to think,  when other people do (or NOT do) things,  that it’s

nothing personal.

If you’re wondering if something IS personal, there’s always this antidote, too:

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

 

Yesterday, as I was walking to work, thinking about what I had learned during the week, this old friend of a tune showed up in my earphones:

(found here on YouTube)

I made note of the title — “Nothing Personal” — and considered it blog-worthy.

Here‘s the Wikipedia entry for the old, familiar, and beloved album …

download (31)

… where that song lives.

As I listened to “Nothing Personal,” I thought about all the personal time I’ve spent, enjoying the music of the amazing jazz players on that album:

Michael Brecker

Jack DeJohnette

Charlie Haden

Kenny Kirkland

Pat Metheny

Whenever I listen to Michael Brecker play, I feel a tinge of sadness, because of the too-soon loss of that

quiet, gentle musician widely regarded as the most influential tenor saxophonist since John Coltrane

— Charles J Gan (Associate Press), quoted on Wikipedia

As I was driving home last night, I heard the news that Charlie Haden, also on that album, and

one of the most influential bassists in the history of jazz

— Nat Chinen (New York Times)

had died that day.

 

While this post may have started with “Nothing Personal,” it’s turned into something quite personal.

My small tribute to some who are missing, and still live on.

(“NIghtfall” with Charlie Haden,  Michael Brecker, and Brad Mehldau, found here on YouTube)

Thanks to giant Charlie Haden, to gentle Michael Brecker, to group therapy (of all kinds), to  every talented human being (alive or gone) who contributed to this post,  and to you, personally, for participating here, today.

Categories: inspiration, Nostalgia, personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , | 24 Comments

Day 411: Captured

Reasons for the title of the post?  At least two, to begin with:

  1. While in Boquete, Panama, I’ve been trying to maintain a balance between (a) just being in the moment  and (b) capturing my experience on camera.
  2. My first day here at our hotel in Boquete, Los Establos, I encountered three parrots on the grounds, and my fear was that they had been captured in the wild, and were being kept prisoner. The second day, I got up the courage to ask about the parrots, and found that the story was just what I would have hoped for,  including the rescue of three baby parrots, still together, who can fly free, and who choose to return to their home.

I can hear those parrots right now, as I’m typing these words. Here are some of my earlier attempts to capture them:

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I’ve already asked the owner of Los Establos, Irina, if I can get a closer look at the parrots, later today, so I’m assuming the parrots will show up in tomorrow’s blog post, too … but who knows?

The rest of today’s post will include images (and thoughts) that have captured me very recently (for the most part, yesterday).

Yesterday morning, Rolando Cossu, a tour guide for Beyond Adventure Tours1, took four of us — Peggy, me, and a couple from Texas also staying at Los Establos — on a “Panoramic Tour.”  We were happy when Rolando deviated from the usual four-hour car tour and took us on a trail into the rain forest/cloud forest/jungle/national park/whatever-the-hell-the-right-name is for where he took us.

But why focus on the correct name of where Rolando took us on an adventure?  I don’t want to be captured by Pesky Perfectionism. I want to show you what Rolando showed us ….

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I took that photo, above, on a brief stop, as Rolando was driving us around the vicinity of Boquete, up further into the mountains.

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This shot is taken from the car. Rolando showed us that castle, which some British guy in the 1960’s began building  and never finished (if my memory serves me correctly). Rolando said the property has been left abandoned since then, because people think it’s haunted. We found out something about Rolando’s bravery, at that point, because he said, “I’ve been there. I don’t think it’s haunted.”  Here’s another view of the castle:

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More beauty, from the car:

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Then, Rolando brought us to a hiking trail, and we spent a lot of time, walking, listening, and watching for what was all around is.  This was one of the first things I noticed, by the side of the trail:

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Actually, right before I noticed that, I had seen somebody standing, on one of the rocks, in the middle of the brook to the left. I don’t have a shot of that, but just imagine my previous photo, with a slight figure standing, unmoving, on one of the rocks.  I was forming some sort of speculation as to what he was doing there, which was then replaced by attempts to make meaning of the hanging bottles. Rolando explained that these bottles were a new, on-going creation of the figure we had just seen. He said, “He is embarrassed. That’s why he is standing there.”  I immediately projected my own experience as a creator of pieces seen by the public, thinking: “He’s an artist. He’s not sure what people will think. He’s modest. He’s shy. ”

But letting go of THAT line of mind-reading, I moved towards the much-more-interesting possibility of meeting the artist. I walked down to the edge of the brook, and somehow communicated to him that I wanted to know more about his creation. He left the rock, came up to join us, and stood by his work:

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He was okay with my taking those photos. As Rolando translated,  I found out his name — Eliaser — and told him I thought his work was beautiful. I didn’t ask him about his intention or vision (I think I tend not to go there, with artists), but I am grateful he joined us for this part of our adventure.

Onward and upward!

Rolando had this magical book, that showed and described all the creatures we might see, on our walk:

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A lot of visitors to this area are birdwatchers, and the local Holy Grail — the bird of all birds is … the Quetzal!

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I did NOT take that photo, people. It’s from the Wikipedia page I found when I searched for “quetzal bird Panama.” I assume that’s the bird we were looking for yesterday, although I’m not sure.  We looked for the Quetzal (among other things), with Rolando’s able and unhurried assistance.

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And Rolando found a Quetzal for us!  We spent some unhurried time watching it, with binoculars that he provided.  I believe this is where we found it, although I’m honestly not sure (since I was captured by focusing on the beautiful Quetzal).

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I am often captured by my assumptions about my own limitations, and I see myself as “not good” at birdwatching, using binoculars, following directions, and seeing what somebody else wants me to see.  For most of the time that the others seemed to be “getting it,” I felt like an outsider, as I had trouble capturing the Quetzal within my view. Mostly, I saw this:

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… despairing of seeing more, despite the nearness of the Bird of Birds, which the others all saw, with excitement.  However, I took a breath, lost my investment in the outcome, had faith in myself and my instructor, and …

… I captured the Quetzal in  Rolando’s binoculars, right as it took wing and flew away!   That was beyond an adventure, for sure.

Here’s more of what we saw, as we ascended further and higher along the trail.

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I noticed Rolando stopping and inspecting this flower:

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When I asked him about it, he said, “I’ve never seen this flower before.”  I appreciated that he let me know that, and I took a close-up of it:

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We walked for quite a while, always uphill. And I became captured by old memories, from having lived all my life with an unusual heart, of not being able to keep up with people, especially on inclines.  And I was captured by negative associations with this, including assumptions that the other people accompanying me, that day, were impatient and waiting for me to catch up.  And I was disappointed with how out of breath I felt, yesterday. So I stopped, paused, took a breath, recognized how my present was affected by my past, and tried to be in the moment, letting go of assumptions.

However, when I started moving again, and I found Peggy and Rolando, further up the trail, the old assumptions came rushing back, as strong as the brook by our trail. Those assumptions were:

  • Roland and Peggy had been waiting for me.
  • They had some impatience about that.
  • My pace and other behaviors were somehow weird and unacceptable, because they were different from what “normal” people do.

But I am old and wise enough to check out these assumptions, as soon as I can, these days. So when I joined up with Peggy, I told her I was feeling out of breath, disappointed with my endurance, and told her about my old memories of lagging behind “more normal” people, regarding physical exertion. And I knew I could trust Peggy, because we’ve known each other for about 35 years.  And as I knew, Peggy was accepting, kind, and logical, and helped me “reality test.” That is, she told me something I already knew: this was a leisurely hike with a guide who adjusted easily to the needs and wants of those in his care.

So I cried a little, with Peggy, and was no longer captured by those old memories, assumptions, and feelings of being “different” and “not as good.”

Onward and upward!

Rolando pointed out many interesting facts about about the beautiful surroundings on the way. He also allowed space for us to wander, at will, by ourselves.  I kept my own pace, and felt out of breath, for sure, but no longer captured by the doubts and self-judgment from before.  After a lot of time meandering among the beauty all around us, I came around a corner and saw Rolando and the others looking up, into the trees. Another Quetzal? I wondered.  Then Rolando said something that like “Ocelot” to me and I got REALLY excited. To see a big cat , un-captured, in the wild would be BEYOND adventure, to me.

However, I was incorrect. There are Jaguars in Panama and those were the creatures I was most longing to see. Hence my mental leap, to “Ocelot” when given half a chance. However, what Rolando really was saying was …..

… Sloth.  There was a sloth, hanging free, in the trees. With my lack of practice, I, again, was slower than the others in spotting it. But I did.  And Rolando kindly took my camera, and captured it for me:

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Thanks, Rolando, for your photographic skill. And thanks to the sloth, for showing me that slowness is also beautiful.

Rolando showed us many other interesting and beautiful things, in the four hours we spent with him, including these sights …

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… as well as a delicious fresh strawberry slushie-type thing, which I was too captured by, to stop, for even a moment, to capture on camera.

After Rolando returned us to the hotel, I spent the afternoon wandering the grounds, taking photos. You have already seen, above, the pictures I took of the three parrots. Here are some more photos from yesterday afternoon:

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So what feels left unfinished before I publish this post?

  1. To make sure there aren’t any gross errors in this post, like including the same exact image twice.  Check!
  2. To tell you one more thing, about Rolando and the local fauna.

As I may have alluded to in my blog posts, one of my favorite animals is the Capybara. If you look at this previous post,  “Day 276: Radical Acceptance,”  you’ll see some evidence of that, people. (The capybara is the creature that — to me, has always looked exactly like a giant guinea pig, sharing the sofa with a regular guinea pig.) 2

Anyway, at one point when Rolando was consulting his magic book of local creatures, I spotted the capybara. I said, “ARE THERE CAPYBARAS AROUND HERE?”  I don’t think I actually yelled, but I was beyond excited. I asked if I could see one, and Rolando said, “Yes … in a zoo?” which I thought was funny, since that’s exactly where I’ve seen them, so far in my life. He did tell me more about the Capybaras, how they were shy and only came out at night (although Rolando has seen Un-captured Capybaras at times, living in the same local environment).

So even though it’s very unlikely that I will see an un-captured Capybara before I return home, in two days, it helps to know they’re out there, very close to me, right now.

Okay!

My heartfelt thanks to Peggy,  Rolando, Eliaser, Irina,  artists everywhere, all creatures captured AND un-captured, and to you — of course! — for reading today.


1 I really like that title, “Beyond Adventure Tours.”  It reminds me of “To infinity …. and beyond!” from Toy Story. Whatever “beyond adventure” IS … it has to be pretty darn exciting.

2 If that description didn’t make you check out a link to a previous post, I give up.

Categories: inspiration, personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 43 Comments

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:

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(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 147: Labeling

The Cognitive Distortion Du Jour, dear readers, for this blog post is …..


Labeling.

Here’s the definition of Labeling (from the list of distortions I’ve posted, here).

13. Labeling or Name-calling.

We generate negative global judgments based on little evidence. Instead of accepting errors as inevitable, we attach an unhealthy label to ourselves or others. For example, you make a mistake and call yourself a “loser,” a “failure”, or an “idiot.” Labels are not only self-defeating, they are irrational, simplistic, and untrue. Human beings are complex and fallible, and in truth cannot be reduced to a label. Consider this: we all breathe, but would it make sense to refer to ourselves as “Breathers”?

This is a misery-causing distortion that I see all the time– in the people I treat (as a therapist), in the people I love, and (of course) in myself.

Here’s a way to challenge labeling (from this list of “antidotes”):

Examine the Evidence. Instead of assuming your negative thought is true, look at the evidence. For example, if you think “I never do anything right,” list some things you do well.

Let’s see if I can use this, to challenge a label I’ve applied to myself.

Here are labels I use — names I call myself — when I make a mistake.

Stupid. Idiot.

Let me examine the evidence.

I do have some evidence to challenge that, for sure. Actually, when I said to my bf a couple of weeks ago, “You know … maybe I am a smart person,” he replied, “Ann, if you, of all people, aren’t sure about that, I don’t know what else to say to you.”

He was referring to some pretty convincing data: That is, I did well in school. And I went to a really prestigious college.

And I’ve been trying to gather more evidence to challenge those judgmental, critical labels. For example, people sometimes use the word “smart” and “wise” when they describe me. A couple of weeks ago, I found out that a person I think is really smart calls me “brilliant” when talking about me. (This amazed me, but I took it in.)

I’m examining the evidence and it looks good.

You know what, though? All that evidence, no matter how good, doesn’t matter when I’m feeling depressed or, sometimes, just when I make a mistake. Then, the evidence … Poof! …  disappears.

I’m “brilliant” enough, during those times, to make the case that I’m stupid, an idiot, or simply not smart enough, with “reasoning” like this:

I used to be smart when I was a younger, but I’m not smart any more.

I’m a “book” kind of smart. That doesn’t help me survive in this world.

I got into that prestigious college mostly because the admissions people knew about my heart condition and hospitalizations, and because my cardiologist’s family had some “pull.”

If I was smart, I would feel smart!

How can I call myself smart when I see people all around me who are smarter?

People seem to talk to me like I’m stupid, a lot of the time.

Look at all the friggin’ mistakes I make, every day!

Arrrghhh!

Well, I’m working on letting go of those kinds of thoughts, people.

Here are more “antidotes” that help with that, from my handy-dandy list:

List the positives. To deal with the tendency to focus on the negative, make lists of good things that are happening, good things about yourself, and things that you are accomplishing (even little things). Focus on what you ARE doing, rather than on what you’re NOT doing.

Challenge Labels. If you label yourself negatively, such as “a fool” or “a loser,” remind yourself that such absolute terms are subjective and meaningless, and that human beings are too complex to be reduced that simplistically. Also, consider the possibility that somebody else may have given you that idea about yourself, and that they were wrong.

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.

Okay, people, thanks for staying with me, so far. At this point, I’m going to take a break for a walk (it’s a beautiful day — Memorial Day, here in the Northeast U.S.).

Intermission (for a walk on a beautiful day).

I’m baaaaack! And I want to finish this post up pretty quickly, so I can visit for a little while with my downstairs neighbor, Karen. (I’m very lucky she lives here.)

I thought about this post, on my walk. And I noticed that I was …. challenging labels.

For example, in the past, if I had to label what kind of photographer I am, I would probably have said, “an okay one.” I probably wouldn’t have used the word “good.” Why not? Usually, I’m very aware of all the reasons why I’m not good photographer (e.g., I often get my thumb in the picture, I’ve never been trained, I was “terrible” at art classes in school, and, in general, my natural talents seem to land more in the area of sound than sight).

However, last week, my friend Krystal posted this comment on Facebook, in response to one of my Provincetown photos.

“Ann! You are a great photographer!”

What? “GREAT ….. photographer?”

Even though that label was new and unexpected, I let that new evidence in. That is, somebody I respect thinks I’m a great photographer! Yippeee!

And that helped me feel even happier today as I took these photos, during my walk.

Challenging Labels, on a Memorial Day Walk

A short photo essay, by Ann

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That’s a baby rabbit, people … in the morning! I almost walked by it. It was very small and very still.

I was especially delighted and surprised, since we usually see rabbits at dusk. That’s because rabbits (and cats) are crepuscular — a “label” I first heard recently, thanks to my bf, which means “active at dusk and dawn.”

And I guess I must be smart, because I remembered the frggin’ word today, and how to spell it.

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I saw this tree when the song “Lush Life” was playing on my iPhone. I couldn’t capture how beautiful it was, but I tried, a couple of times.

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By the way, Krystal posted something else on Facebook, after she read my Provincetown blog post:

“Ann! You’re a great photojournalist!”

That was echoing in my head today, too, which helped me take these photos.

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I liked the balance of beauty, there. And here ….

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Okay. One last thing I noticed, on my walk, which helped me challenge another, old thought:

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“Purple and red do NOT look good together.”

That’s obviously not true.

And look what I’m wearing, right now:

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Purple and red look good together, even on me! (See here for more about that t-shirt.)

Thanks to my neighbor, Karen, for taking that last picture. I needed a little help from my friends, today, to do this blog post. Special thanks to Krystal.

Thanks to you, too, of course, for reading today.

Categories: personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Day 99: Importance and unimportance, continued

Three days ago, I wrote about the phrase

“We are neither as important or as unimportant as we fear.”

And I dedicated that post to my friend, Jeanette, because I THOUGHT it was her birthday that day.

And it wasn’t her birthday.

I had tried to be a detective, figure it out, and be sure about it. But I was a lousy detective.

Every year, I have trouble remembering Jeanette’s birthday. I know it’s in April, and I know it’s a single digit, but I am vague about the actual date.

And because I’ve known her for so long, and she is so important to me, I always think that I SHOULD know her birthday.

I’m afraid that she might misunderstand my not remembering. I fear that she might translate that into misunderstanding her importance to me.

I have that fear about other people too, because I can forget things about them. I tend to forget details about people’s lives. And I worry about how they might interpret that.

By the way, I panicked momentarily after I posted the erroneous birthday greeting. It was my worst fear coming true. Not only did I get her birthday gone, but, boy, did I make that mistake public! I felt terrible, beat myself up about my carelessness, and imagined Jeanette having all sorts of negative reactions.

That’s what the mind is for, apparently: imagining people you care about having all sorts of negative reactions to you.

However, I am glad to report this: I let go of those negative thoughts and fears REALLY QUICKLY. I mean, I’m talking five minutes. Then, I got in touch with the more probable story — that Jeanette would be okay — that she wouldn’t equate my mistaken birthday wish with her importance to me.

And I quickly used the antidote of Reality Testing. I called her. And she was laughing about it. She expressed all sorts of POSITIVE feelings about the post, not negative ones.

Before I end this, I wanted to write about another side of this issue of memory and importance.

Confession time!

When people forget details about my life or forget what I’ve told them, I can have a negative reaction to that. Not always, but especially if I’m feeling vulnerable, or thinking negative thoughts about myself. Then, people forgetting my birthday or other details about me can cause this thought to crop up:

I am not important to other people. If I was, they would remember things about me.

I also feel some shame about wanting to be more important to people — so that they do remember details about me.

But here’s the way I’m telling the story today. Every connection is important. I matter to other people. People matter to me. We affect each other.

And trying to figure out importance, based on details remembered, does not help.

Proof of that last sentence: I have trouble remembering Jeanette’s birthday, and she is very important to me.

However, I think, this might be the year — This Year of Living Non-Judgmentally — that I finally get her birthday into my head.

It’s 4/9!!

Happy Birthday, Jeanette.

And thanks for reading.

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

Day 67: Fears AND Antidotes!

Today, I still have fears that I might be ill with endocarditis.

I am not quite as paralyzed by fear as I was yesterday, when I wrote this blog post  before leaving home in the morning.

 (I am letting go of judgment, right now, of how confusing that post might have been, and about how I might have included Too Much Information.) (Poof! )

Better.

So even though I’m feeling more centered and calm today, I am still in the challenging and difficult position of waiting for the results of the test for endocarditis.

When I work with people in therapy, I point out to them what a difficult place this is to be: Not Knowing, while waiting for important results. How stressful it is being in a position where you have no control over an outcome which may have a major impact on your life.  (For example, waiting to hear if you’ve gotten into the school you want, waiting for the results of a biopsy, etc.)

I often forget to tell myself what I invite my clients to tell themselves: This is a very difficult place you are in. Therefore, be as kind to yourself as possible.

In groups I do, I hear this very common theme: we can see what works for other people, but it is hard to apply it to ourselves.

That reminds me of the following antidote for unhelpful thinking:

The “Double-Standard” Method. Instead of judging yourself harshly, talk to yourself as compassionately as you might to a friend with a similar problem. Also, ask yourself, “How would I react if somebody else did this?”

That gives me an idea for the rest of this post for today.  I’d like to focus  on antidotes. And when I say “focus on”,  I mean “ramble about in that general direction until I get to the point I want to make.”

 I am now going to reframe some negative mind-reading I am doing,  assuming that you, my reader, might find my writing style annoying.  I am going to reframe that into this: “Maybe some people find my writing style … charming!”  Oooh!  That helped me feel better. I will now reframe again into a more balanced thought:  “Some people might find my writing style annoying. Some people might find my writing style charming. Enough people will find it understandable and worth reading.”

Better.

Yesterday, I did two groups at work, and  I was very focused on inviting people to look at The Positive.

Okay, time for a digression about a way I think about therapy.

Digression about How I Think About Therapy

 I think there is a duality about therapy.  I think it is important to leave room for people’s ambivalence — their experience of the positive AND the negative. I think it’s important to leave room for people’s hopes AND fears.  The light AND the dark.  The good in them AND the not-so-good in them.

I think it’s important for me to show my acceptance of exactly where they are AND have hope with them for what they want to change — in themselves and in their lives. And I work hard to invite people to do the same for themselves.

I think it’s important to invite both sides — the positive and negative. But I want to be careful to invite the negative, especially, because — if I focus too much on the positive —  people might not feel seen, with all their pain, shame, and fears about themselves and their lives.

Lots of clients/patients (I don’t like those labels, but I have yet to find a title I like for people I see)  tell me that others  in their lives don’t want to hear their “negatives” — their  depression, anger, despair, fear, or hopelessness.  The people I see at work often tell me they feel bad about  how other people in their lives react to their pain. This might make them not want to talk to other people. It can cause them to isolate.

And I understand how people who love my clients/patients — or who are otherwise connected to them — might not want to see my clients’ pain.  These people may feel exhausted, helpless, or incompetent about what to say.

I think that’s a big reason why people go into therapy, actually, because they are desperate to have the “negative” parts of themselves — their anger, hopelessness, fear, despair  stuck-ness, etc. — acknowledged, instead of avoided.

So human beings are both  positive and negative,   holding both hope and hopelessness — and they are ambivalent about many things.  By “ambivalent”, I mean that they have two conflicting feelings. For  example, someone might want change AND fear change at the same time.

End of Digression about Therapy in General

In the groups I did yesterday, I wanted to go more towards the positive  (while, at the same time, leaving some room for negative thoughts that were in the room, too).  But I remarked in myself that I really wanted to focus on antidotes yesterday.  I wanted to focus on hope, not on leaving as much room for people’s pain in the moment.

And I named that, in the moment, to the group members.

And I knew (although I didn’t name it) that my wish to go toward the positive was related to my fears about my own health.

And we focused on antidotes, during the group.

As I said in this blog post, I like to use props in therapy.  And two of my props are (1) The Bowl of Distortions and (2) The Bowl of Antidotes.

bowls

There they are — straight from my office to your screen!

What’s in The Bowl of Distortions?  Slips of paper containing the definitions of all 13 cognitive distortions.  The Bowl of Antidotes holds slips of paper containing descriptions of ways to challenge these (which I keep adding to).

Yesterday, because I really wanted to focus on the positive, I suggested that we use the Bowl of Antidotes. And each person in the group chose an antidote from the bowl,  and talked about it with the group  (including details about whether the person used that antidote, how they used it, whether it was useful, what got in the way of using it, how to use it more, and so on).

Here are some antidotes the group members chose from the bowl yesterday:

  • List the positives. To deal with the tendency to focus on the negative, make lists of good things that are happening, good things about yourself, and things that you are accomplishing (even little things). Focus on what you ARE doing, rather than on what you’re NOT doing.
  • The Semantic Method.  Substitute language that is less emotionally loaded and less judgmental.  For example, instead of telling yourself, “I should have known better,” you could say, “I didn’t know that.”
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis.  List the pros and cons of a negative thought (like “I always screw up”) or a behavior pattern (like isolating when you’re depressed). A simple version of this is to ask yourself, “Does this [thought or action] help me?”

Another antidote somebody picked from the bowl was “The Double Standard Method,” described earlier in this post. And this one came up, too, which the group discussed at length:

  • 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.

The members of the group really liked that one, and talked in detail about ways to put this one into effect.

Here’s two more antidotes, which we didn’t pick yesterday in the group, but which I’ve been trying to use a lot the last couple of days:

  • 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.
  • The So What? Technique. Consider that an anxiety-producing possibility (even the worst case scenario) might not be as bad as you fear. For example, “So what if this one person doesn’t like me? Not everybody is going to like me.” or “So what if I lose my cell phone? It’ll be an incredible hassle, but I’ll be able to deal with it.”

Antidotes can really help.

Thanks for reading.  As always, I would welcome any comments on any antidotes you find helpful.  And, I love collecting antidotes, so let me know if you have others you like in addition to the ones listed here.

© 2013 Ann Koplow

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

Day 21: I’m dealing with two old challenges today — illness and mistakes

If you noticed that yesterday’s blog post was a little more … how should I say it? discursive? rambling?  spacey? … than usual,  dear reader — I have an excuse.

I’m sick.

I don’t think I have The Flu. (I seem to be escaping that, thank goodness.)  I think it’s just a cold.  Two days ago on Saturday, the first day of the long weekend (of course), I came down with a sore throat and had a slight fever. And when I was writing yesterday morning, I was definitely feeling under the weather.

And because I was sick,  the following blog topic occurred to me:  how illness affects my sense of self worth.

Even when I’m a little bit ill, being sick affects how I feel about myself.

I’m not sure whether that’s common for people. I haven’t really checked that out in any real way with other people. In other words, I haven’t used the helpful skill — an “antidote” to the Cognitive Distortion of Mind-Reading — of Reality Testing.  To put it more simply, I haven’t asked other people, “When you are even slightly ill, does it affect your sense of self worth?”  I mean, I know that serious and chronic illness can definitely affect people’s sense of self-worth, but A COLD?

The reason I haven’t really checked that out  before is this:  I assume that I’m different from other people in how illness affects me, because I dealt with so much illness when I was a child.  So I just assume that I’m “weird” when it comes to that.

So I guess I’ll take this opportunity to do some Reality Testing, right here and right now.  That is, dear reader, feel free to leave me a comment on this post, answering these questions:  When you are ill, does it affect how you feel about yourself?  Does your self esteem — your sense of how worthy you are — get affected?  If so, how?

Well, I think that’s another first for me, in This Year of Blogging Daily — asking for a response from my readers, in a specific way.  I enjoyed asking, I have to say.

And it occurs to me, at this moment, to write this:  If this blog is more — how shall I say it? — discursive? rambling? spacey? — than usual (and I know it is) what do you want from me?  I’M SICK!

And it’s super early in the morning, too.

So, yes, it’s super early in the morning.   I woke up at 3:30 AM, a little while ago, and my throat was hurting.

And that leads me to the second “challenge” I named in the title of this blog.

Mistakes.

When I woke up at 3:30 AM, and realized that my throat felt worse, I believed that I had made a mistake yesterday.  And here were some thoughts that ensued:

Oh, no!  My throat feels worse!  I shouldn’t have gone outside yesterday for a walk!  What is the matter with you?  Even though you felt a lot better yesterday, you should have known better than to start doing things that early!  If you had stayed in bed all day yesterday, you would be feeling better now. You’ve probably screwed things up for this week, too. And you have so much to do at work and so many other things to take care of!

Wow.  That was actually kind of amazing to get those out of my head and into this post.  A little harrowing, actually, but helpful.

So, those are the kind of Judgmental Thoughts that can come up for me, when I believe that I’ve made a mistake.  And I know I’m not alone with THAT ONE.  I hear about people’s self-judgment when they believe they’ve made a mistake, a lot.  (And I’ll write about that more, in a future post, for sure.)

But here’s the good news:  After I woke up and started having the thoughts described above, I noticed them and said this to myself:

Okay!  You’re having judgmental thoughts because you think you’ve made a mistake.

And that helped a lot, dear reader, just to notice that and to Name It.

And I got out of bed, got some orange juice, grabbed my laptop, and decided to write a post.

And I did!

I think I can go back to sleep now.

One more thing.  I’m going to make a commitment to myself — and to you, dear reader — right now. Even though, at some point in the near future, I might have the thought  that I made a mistake by writing this post (instead of trying harder to fall back asleep),  I will do the following:

Notice it, name it, and let it go, dammit!

Thanks, dear reader.

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

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