Posts Tagged With: shoulds

Day 191: Compliments

Sometimes, when I wake up in the morning, this is the question on my mind:

What should I blog about today?

Mind you, this is a different use of the word “should” than the self-bullying, cognitive-distortion-y  SHOULD.  (See here for one post on that unhelpful kind of “should”, and see here for a complete list of those pesky cognitive distortions.)

Actually, here’s a more accurate — and more civil-sounding — translation of that Thought Upon Arising:

What might I blog about today?

After I ask myself that question, my thoughts roam about, to and fro, here and there, into the future and into the past, inside the room and outside into the universe — as our human thoughts do (unless we are practicing being more in the moment).

And eventually, my mind comes to rest on a topic, like a butterfly choosing one flower in the midst of a meadow.


I want to mention a few things at this point:

  1. I had a lot more luck finding a pictorial representation for today’s butterfly simile than I did for yesterday’s, which involved lobster sauce,
  2. I apologize to my friend, Megan, who is a little phobic about butterflies, and
  3. The butterfly is, again, a great metaphor for the Mind of Ann, which likes to flit around (as, for example, within this list).

So, without further ado, the flower/topic du jour, for Day 191 in the Year of Living Non-Judgmentally, is ….

Compliments! (Not a big surprise, I guess, if you still remembered the title.)

Some reasons why my mind lit upon this particular topic, this morning:

  1. In a therapy group I did at work yesterday, that was the topic the group eventually chose to work on.
  2. My experience — within myself and observing others — is this: people have complicated reactions to compliments and compliments are sometimes difficult to accept.
  3. Many new, lovely readers discovered my blog yesterday and wrote complimentary comments.
  4. I am approaching my second-year anniversary at work , which means it’s time for my annual review, and last year’s review was quite complimentary, which had a big effect on me.

What else would I like to write about this topic, before I end this post for the day?

Here are some things that stand out for me, right now, about compliments (including some things people said yesterday, in the group):

Fears about compliments include the following:

People are just being nice.

If people really knew me, they would change their mind.

Compliments can feel like pressure, as if there are now expectations for my behavior, which I’m not sure I can always satisfy.

If I believe and accept these compliments, I will become conceited and act inappropriately.

Other thoughts about compliments I’ve heard (from myself and others) include:

I LOVE them!!!

I don’t know what to say, and I often discount, dismiss, or deflect them.

I wish I got more of them, from the people who really matter.

It’s weird to get them now, when I didn’t hear them at all when I was growing up.

In conclusion, I’m going to quote something somebody said at group yesterday:

Compliments make me anxious, but that’s not a bad thing.

One more thing!  If you don’t know what to say in response to a compliment, here’s a no-fail, two-word solution:

Thank you.*


* for reading today, etc.

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

Day 188: Remembering, forgetting, and being hurt

I am helping to plan a High School Reunion, which is happening, in two weeks,  on an “off year.” (Meaning, an anniversary which is not a multiple of 5.)

Yesterday, I was talking to a classmate on the phone, whom I hadn’t spoken to for many years.

She asked me, “Is your mother still alive?”

I said that, no, both my parents had passed away.

She said, “Oh, I’m sorry.  When did your mother pass?”

And I said, “Wait.  I can never remember that. Hold on ….”

And my mind did that squirming-like-a-toad thing it does, when I can’t remember something I should know.

I said, “Geesh.  I don’t know why that happens to me.  I always have to think about it. Now, I know my father passed away in 1997, my son was born in 1998, and ….”

The year of my mother’s death still wasn’t coming to me, and I panicked a little, because I was thinking, “You should be able to think of that!  What is the matter with you?”

I explained, (assuming that my classmate most likely thought this memory lapse of mine was very weird), “There were so many things going on at that time: I got a big promotion, we moved to a different town …”

Then, I gave an estimate, “It was about 5 or 6 years ago, I think,” still feeling some shame about the not-remembering.

Now, as I’m writing this, in peace and contemplation, I should be able to figure out that date, pretty easily.

Here goes:  When my mother died, my son was going into 5th grade. He is now going into 10th grade. So it was 5 years ago that my mother passed away.  It was 2008.

Now, 2008 should also be an easy year to remember, because she was 90 years old at her death, and I completely remember the year of her birth: 1918.

I can’t forget the year of both my parents’ birth. That year is right there, in the top of my mind.

I think 1918 would be quite easy for me to remember, no matter what. Also, that Very Important Year of 1918 also got mentioned — a lot — in my home as I was growing up because of this:



Boy, those Red Sox just couldn’t win (The World Series), for most of my life (and for most of the lives of most of the Red Sox fans in the world).

I confess this, too:  I have to pause and think about the year that Very Infamous Streak got broken. I THINK it was 2005.  I’ll go check (on Google) ….

Nope. I was wrong. It was 2004.

Now, Red Sox fans will probably think that’s incredible, that I couldn’t remember the year.  (And I was a big Red Sox fan, for many years.)

I have trouble with numbers. I guess. Maybe because they are details, shmetails. Maybe because I EXPECT to have trouble with numbers.

I’m not sure.  All I know is that certain dates escape me.

For example, I remember, once, I got my mother’s birthday wrong.  Her birthday was April 22. And I forgot it. For some reason, that year, I thought it was the 23rd.

And I remember the hurt look on her face.

Here’s her face without a hurt look on it (which is how she usually looked):


(That’s a photo of my parents, copied on regular paper, that’s on the side of my refrigerator.)

I didn’t like hurting my mother,  but sometimes I did.

I still have a really strong reaction to hurting people. I can get very upset and worried if I think I’ve hurt — or might hurt —  somebody else’s feelings.

Being afraid of hurting somebody else’s feelings can paralyze me, sometimes. Make me afraid to act. Make me regret my actions, to an excessive degree. I can magnify the hurt I might cause and minimize other things.  (See here, if you want to read about the cognitive distortion of Magnifying/Minimizing) (and two other distortions relating to this post — Shoulds and Mind Reading.)

This is what I sometimes tell people in the therapy groups that I do, when I see that very human (and often quite beautiful, but painful) fear of hurting somebody else:

 Other people are not as fragile as you fear.  

Other people have said useful things to me about that Fear of Hurting Others, such as this:

 If we are connected and we care, we will inevitably hurt and be hurt.

That’s not an “official” quote, so I just went a-googlin’ (using “hurt quotes”) to find something similar.

And I found some interesting things:

“Of course I get hurt.” — Jackie Chan

Also, keeping with the Baseball Theme, here are two quotes that came up by Satchel Paige:

“Work like you don’t need the money. Love like you’ve never been hurt. Dance like nobody’s watching.”

“Airplanes may kill you. But they ain’t likely to hurt you.”

That last quote is helpful for me, right now, for another reason:  I’ll be flying in August, with my son, to London.  Flying is something else — besides hurting other people’s feelings — that I can get anxious about.

And here’s another number I have trouble remembering — not just the year, but the date of my mother’s passing. I had to look that up, just now, too.

August 12, 2008.

I’ll be in England — or Scotland — on the 5th anniversary of that date, with my son.

(Note that I have trouble remembering the exact dates of that trip,  too!  Geesh.)

Here’s how I’m going to wrap-up this post today.  Here’s what feels left unsaid, right now:

On August 11, 2008, my mother told people, while I was asleep, that she wanted to tell me something.  “I have something I need to tell Ann, ” she said.   I was with my mother for some times while she was dying, but I was not there for that. Or for the moment of her passing.

And I don’t know what she wanted to tell me.  Sometimes I wonder about it.  What was it? Was it something she wanted to warn me about?  (She worried about things, sometimes.) A feeling she wanted to express?  Did it have something to do with forgiveness? Something about hurt? Or maybe about love?

I just don’t know.  And it’s difficult not to mind-read, about what she wanted to say.

Here’s what helps me to remember, right now:

What we miss seems more important, sometimes, than what we get.

And it’s not.  It’s all important.

Thanks for reading today.

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 22 Comments

Day 187: On awards, chain-letters, and doing the next right thing

Two people nominated me for an award, yesterday, here on  WordPress.  It was the same award, too.


This was especially amazing  timing, since I recently wrote about getting applause and recognition (see here for a post about that and, as usual, other things, too).

Many thanks to (1) Christian and his blog Five Quick Minutes and (2) Hue and her blog Thehuepoint for nominating me.

I follow both of their blogs and have already learned valuable things from reading them. So the nominations are even more meaningful to me.

However, I am not sure, right now, about the Next Right Thing To Do.

The Next Right Thing (which I first blogged about many moons ago, here) (and again, here) is our best attempt to make a good choice, based on our values and our understanding of the situation.

It’s very different from The Right Thing To Do, at least in my mind.

When I get caught up in The Right Thing To Do (which implies that everything else is The WRONG thing to do), I get anxious, and go into All-Or-Nothing Thinking and other cognitive distortions.  In other words, I focus on my mistakes (which are inevitable, because I’m human), imagine worst-case-scenarios, and think about all the ways I might hurt or bother somebody else.

For example, here are my anxious thoughts about The Right Thing To Do, regarding getting the award here:

Eeeek! What’s the right thing to do?  I’ve noticed that some people here don’t accept awards. I like geting the recognition, but I personally feel uncomfortable about the chain-letter-aspect of these awards — that I’m supposed to pass them on to other people.  I don’t like chain letters! However, I’m really grateful that people I respect and whose blogs I’ve read and enjoyed have nominated me.  WHAT TO DO?  I see lots of chances of hurting other people’s feelings and/or bothering them!  Eeeeek!

(pant, pant, pant)

Yikes. These kind of worry thoughts can be quite exhausting.

When I think about The Next Right Thing To Do, that feels like a kinder, gentler way.

The Next Right Thing To Do is just one next step.  If the step doesn’t have results I like, I can take another next step.

When I think about the Next Right Thing To Do, I realize that I’m doing the best that I can, and that is good enough for now.

I realize that I will do my best to be true to my values and also consider the feelings of others.

I realize that balancing my needs and values with my concerns about others can be tricky, complicated, and confusing, but that’s life. And I’m not alone in dealing with those things!

So here’s a To Do List of some Next Right Things To Do, for me, in response to getting those awards:

  1. Express authentic gratitude for getting the awards from bloggers I appreciate. (check!)
  2. Name some thoughts and feelings about the experience. (check!)
  3. Lose the chain-letter aspect of the award, which I feel some personal discomfort about, and just list a dozen other blogs I read and have truly appreciated here. (And I’m going to let the bloggers speak for themselves.)

Toemail.  “Pictures of toes, pictures of feet, making the world a better place, one foot at a time.  We are Quillan and Angela and we created this blog in 2010 after deciding it might be fun to do a mail-in photo blog based on the name toemail, after one of us made a typographical error which resulted in that word. We look forward to hearing from you!”

White Trinity. “Being a first-time mom was probably the root cause behind creation of my blog, White Trinity.  Having my baby boy, has led me to realize that I have a lot to learn on this parenthood journey and that I have much to cherish and be thankful for in my life experiences. “

Wholeheartedness. “Thoughts on courage, compassion and connection…”

stuff i tell my sister.  “Who do you call or text with everyday “stuff” that occurs? Your sister, your mom, your best friend? That’s what this blog is about, “stuff I tell my sister”… Great books, photos, music, new ideas, product reviews, exercise and health info, rants & raves and random life thoughts. (from an Oklahoma gal to you♥”

Philosopher Mouse of the Hedge. “Simple observations, analysis, and common sense comments.  Having spent an adventurous life with business, traveling, research, and reading wide, Phil, the Philosopher Mouse of the Hedge, has returned to a sunny spot that is more than adequate for entertaining, and reflecting – and, as an added plus, only a short walk to the marina and sweeping sunsets. Phil is known for astute observations, insightful analysis, and common sense comments of city, field, and that odd species: humans.”

Stephen Liddell. “Feet on the ground, head in the stars. I am a writer and a traveller with a penchant for history and getting off the beaten track.”

The diaries of the happy loner. “I’m loner and what!!!”

Kitt Noir. “Lover of literature, cats, history, art, food, old movies, seasides and nature.”

Currents and Waves.  Stevehi, “happily retired,” says about himself, by way of introduction:

“Under Construction

That’s the state of things here , a work in progress albeit limited progress .
at times .
My interests for the purposes of this blog is poetry though I do stray sometimes to other things.
I feel I’m in this for the long haul now since my urges to hit delete blog button have passed for the most part . I’ll see how things go and let the words flow when they will.”

Animating your life.  “It’s all about becoming the people we are meant to be. Gently but continually stretching our comfort zones and finding our strengths and getting inner genius out. I’m writing this blog to explore and expand my own association between good art, art that moves us emotionally, and the life lessons we need to learn.”

Psychologist Mimi.   “I am a social marketing expert (or so I have been told by the powers that be) and a PhD social psychologist by training who works in the public health field trying to bring a little common sense to it all and thus, I make everyone call me Dr. Just kidding! I don’t care much for those type of people. I am a New Yorker, who has lived throughout the United States and abroad, but my New Yorker wit (AKA snark; bite) and sensibilities always stay with me. All the world is my television and life is a highway and I like to provide commentary on it. Cheers”

I knew this was going to happen: I am having some trouble deciding which blogs to name here. I am aware that I am leaving out many blogs that I enjoy.

Here are some things that are helping me to decide.

I  am not including blogs I listed when I accepted the previous award I got, here, or other blogs I’ve mentioned in previous posts.

I’m recognizing that I will have chances, in the future, to express appreciation to the bloggers I am leaving out today.

And I’m realizing that there is definitely one more blogger I HAVE to include here, in my list of appreciations:

Ron Scubadiver.  “I am a veteran scuba diver, based in Houston, Texas, with over 1,000 dives who does not take pictures underwater, and can’t offer a good explanation for that. This blog is curated to reflect my current interests and style, so old posts will see changes over time. Somebody must find it interesting, as this blog received over 1,000,000 views from more than 120 countries in a little more than two years.

Please take no offense if I do not respond to “chain letter” awards as they are outside the scope of this blog.

Although there are many landscapes and even some photos of wild animals, my real purpose is, as one of my photographer friends put it, “to capture the essence of what us humans are all about.””


Thanks to all the bloggers I acknowledged here. (As I say to anybody I include in these posts, please let me know if you want me to change anything I’ve included about you.) Thanks to all the bloggers I read, whom I have NOT included in today’s post.  And thanks to you, for reading today.

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

Day 142: The Heart is a Lonely Blogger (at 2 AM)

My writing a blog post in the middle of the night is not exactly novel (see here for my most recent early-morning musings).

Tonight, however, there are some new circumstances contributing to my being awake at 2 AM, including the very loud construction going on nightly in my town. Indeed, I just now recorded, on my iPhone, shocking evidence of the volume of these nocturnal improvements, but I can’t figure out how to drop that file into this post.

To help you join with me in this experience, here’s a canned version of construction noises, which I’ve used in a previous post:

That’s uncannily close to what I’m hearing, outside my window, right now.

As is my wont with these mid-night posts, I like to keep them short, because I have faith, or hope, that I might fall back asleep this night.

And actually, that reminds me of a subtitle I was considering for this post:  “Faith and Doubt”.

Because — in these wee hours of the morning, as I was having trouble sleeping — that’s where my thoughts have been going.  To faith and doubts about these blog posts: specifically, about how many people are reading.

I know I have written about these kinds of thoughts — How Many People Are Reading? — before (see here).

And while part of me believes that Readership Really Shouldn’t Matter …. nevertheless, these are the thoughts, that are occurring to me, on this topic, at 2:30 AM on Day 142.

On the one hand, I believe that plenty of people are reading.  I know that many people  — those I’ve met and those I haven’t — have subscribed to this blog.  And several people have told me they read this blog and enjoy it — which always warms my heart.  All this  — plus my experience, in groups, that, for every person who voices something, there are other, silent people who feel the same way —  gives me the faith that this blog is being seen and heard enough.

Also, I especially feel good when I put things out in the world just for the sake of expression, letting go completely of the result.

These kind of thoughts tell me that this blog is exactly where it is supposed to be — in terms of readership and everything else.

This reminds me of a sign we had in the large group room at the psychiatric day treatment program where I used to work:

You Are Exactly Where You are Supposed To Be.

A lot of people who saw that sign said they found  it very helpful, if difficult to believe at times.

I have found that sign — and concept — very helpful, too.

So helpful that I almost feel ready to end this post, just letting that concept in, again, tonight:

This blog is exactly where it is supposed to be.

Ahhhh.  That helps. And I do believe it.

My original plans for this Sleepless in Massachusetts post had included the other side of Faith: Doubt.  These doubts would have included the surprisingly low  numbers I see here on WordPress about daily readership.  I am puzzled by these numbers at times, because they don’t match other data, here at WordPress and elsewhere (data including readership maps, numbers of followers, etc.).

That Doubt-tinged Data — of Lower Than Expected Readership — usually doesn’t worry me. But — like everything else I see and perceive — those numbers stay in my mind, ready to surface (especially when I can’t sleep).

But for now, I am content to let go of those doubts and concerns.  I believe, right now, that

I (and everything I create, including this blog) is exactly where it’s supposed to be.

As a result — Poof!  All expectations, “shoulds,” and investments in outcomes — regarding this blog —  fade away.

Even while those construction noises don’t.

I am supremely grateful, in this moment, for your readership.  Goodnight and zzzzzzzzzzzz (snoring noises, for those of you who wonder).

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

Day 140: We cannot control other people

Duh.  Isn’t that obvious?  We can’t control what other people do — to themselves, to us, to the rest of the world.

However, we can be clear about how their actions affect us.

We can also let them know how we feel about it. And we can control what we do , in response to their actions.

This applies on a personal level.

Let’s say that an adult, whom I love, has a toothache. This person has had toothaches before and — for lots of reasons — has not gone to the dentist.

While I think it’s a great idea for that person to go to the dentist, it’s not my tooth. It’s not my pain.

The best I can do is this:  tell the person that it bothers me to see them in pain. Let them know I’m eager to talk about what might be getting in the way of them seeing the dentist.  Find out and offer information that might be helpful.

And then step back.

As they say, you can lead a horse to the dentist, but you can’t make it sit in the chair.

(Depending upon where you live, that previous sentence might make NO sense. If that applies to you, the original saying is “You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink.” See here for more about that English language proverb.) (I am not, at this writing, aware of any real proverbs involving dentists.)

That concludes today’s post, ladies and gentlemen.  Thank you, so much, for bringing yourself here.

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

Day 104: Things I know about groups

It’s time for a post that has a random collection of stuff I know!

This is my first attempt at a list — which I’ve often thought I should put together — of things that help people communicate more authentically in groups.

Because I am a group therapist (and I am giving presentations, these days, on the groups I’m doing), the focus of this list is from my perspective — a person who runs groups.  (However, I hope that you, dear reader,  might get something out of this, too.)

Things that Help People Communicate More Effectively (and More Authentically) In Groups

(and perhaps in any encounter with other people)

by Ann

  1. People know enough about what to expect from their experience in order to be present with less anxiety. This helpful knowledge includes each person’s role in the group, what is expected of them, and what might be coming next.
  2. People feel safe enough to disclose and share, which includes knowing that other people’s thoughts are not as dangerous as one might fear.
  3. Acknowledging and inviting all the different parts of each person  (including feelings and thoughts) (including the parts that are both accepted and disowned).
  4. Inviting what is shared and common among the group members (similar experiences, feelings, and thoughts).
  5. Acknowledgement of each person’s uniqueness — that they may feel alone and different at times. (This includes naming and validating this common thought, “I am the only one in this room who ……”)
  6. Link  # 5 above with #4, above, to focus on interpersonal connection. In other words, people are unique and may feel alone even while in the presence of others, but they are not alone with that, either!
  7. Inviting people’s needs.
  8. Leaving room for hope but also disappointment, because all personal needs will not be met during each encounter. (Group work is very much about balancing your needs with other people’s needs.)
  9. Leaving room for people to figure out how to continue the work beyond the group session,  including meeting those needs that weren’t met.
  10. Inviting everybody’s strengths and wisdom.

I focused on my needs  in writing this post today. I’m going to leave it with that emphasis, rather than work  much longer on this post, in order to make it more obviously useful to my readers.   I do want to finish this soon, and get out and enjoy the day.

But I do want to say this:

Blogging is another group interaction (at least it is, in my mind).  Considering that I focused more on my own needs in this post, I wonder how I did, in making this post effective for everybody who might read it? 

Oh, that reminds of something else I do in groups:

11.  Tell people there is no right or wrong way to do the group. Invite the concept of “good enough.”

I think I did a  good enough job balancing my needs  with your needs, today,  in this important personal interaction.

Oooops!   That reminds me of something else!

12.  Acknowledge the importance of the connection.

Okay, I’m done. For now.

Thanks for reading.

© 2013 Ann Koplow

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

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 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 92: What’s so scary?

This is what I want to write about, right now, because I felt scared today, and I’m still feeling it.

I thought it might be helpful to ask myself the question: “What’s so scary?” and see what happens.

Okay, let the questioning begin.

What’s so scary?

I’m glad you asked.   Here’s what so scary: I have to make several presentations, about the therapy groups that I’m doing, to several different audiences, starting next week.  I admit that I lost track of the time and — with kind of a shock —  realized today that it was just a week away.  A week!

What’s so scary about that?

I’m not really prepared.  I mean, I THOUGHT I was prepared. But now that it’s real, and I’m imagining doing the presentation, in front of people I don’t know, who I’m imagining as bored, judgmental, or even contemptuous —  I’m realizing that what I THOUGHT would be good enough, probably isn’t.

So, obviously, I should have been working on this presentation more before. Also, this is the beginning of an inexorable chain of presentations  — SEVEN in the next six weeks. PLUS, this is leading up to another, much bigger presentation I have to do in June to an audience that REALLY scares me.

What’s so scary about that?

Haven’t you been listening?  There is the chance for FAILURE here!  Plus, I could disappoint some people who are expecting me to be good.  So I’m feeling guilty about not doing more, before today. Plus, I’m feeling like a CONCEITED JERK for thinking that I had things all together, and didn’t need to prepare much for this.  What was I thinking, when I said I would do this? I should have known this would scare the sh*t out of me!  How am I ever going to be calm for the next two months??  This is the most stressful thing EVER.  And work can be stressful enough, already.  WHAT WAS I THINKING?  I should have known better.  That’s what I get, for thinking that I was in a confident and experienced enough place to be able to do this without FREAKING OUT.  I mean, look at me now!

So what’s so scary?



I guess my thoughts are scaring me, not the actual presentation.

There are an awful lot of cognitive distortions in those thoughts, which I can see, now that I’ve written them down. I  see shoulds, mind reading, catastrophizing, labeling, emotional reasoning, and there’s probably more.


Here’s what I’m thinking now.

I guess I don’t know how the presentation is going to turn out.

I guess I’m afraid of my own fear, in a way.

I guess imagining the audience being bored, judgmental, and/or contemptuous isn’t helping me right now.


I’m actually a lot less scared.  Amazing.

But what if those thoughts come back between now and next week?  Or between now and June?

I’ll just ask myself,  What’s so scary?

Until it isn’t.

And if that doesn’t work, I’ll figure something else out.

Thanks for reading.

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

Day 88: Asking questions

I know I’ve written a previous post on how much I love asking questions and hearing answers.  I guess that’s a good quality for me to have, considering that I’ve ended up (after several career twists and turns) as a group and individual therapist.

Other people have noticed this quality of mine.   An old partner of mine used to quote a “Saturday Night Live” skit, in reference to me.  I can’t find it on YouTube, but here’s what I remember about it. A guy and a woman are out on a first date, and she is peppering him with questions.  At some point, he (I think it was Chevy Chase, so it’s  REALLY OLD SNL) says to her (trying to disguise some annoyance):

“You’re so ……. inquisitive.”

A Jackie Chan Digression 

In the 1990s, some friends and I  got into Jackie Chan’s Hong Kong movies. They are SO great, BTW, and very different from his American movies.

Here’s a YouTube link to an 80’s TV show, “Son of the Incredibly Strange Film Show,” with Jonathan Ross, centering on Jackie, which gives you some idea of what those movies are like:

Jonathan Ross show about Jackie Chan

My friends and I  REALLY enjoyed watching those movies.  I’m talking Obsession, for some of us.    And it was not easy to see these films, because Jackie was not famous in the U.S. then, and his films were not that available. (It was much less of an Instant Gratification Media World  in the 90’s.)   But the Brattle Cinema, in Cambridge


would periodically  run festivals of these amazing Hong Kong-made Jackie Chan films, like “Project A,” “Project A Part II,” “Police Story,”  “Police Story 2,” “City Hunter,” “Dragons Forever,”  “Drunken Master,” “Super Cop”, and more.

At my birthday party earlier this year, where people shared stories and memories, several of the stories were about how much fun people had going to these Brattle Cinema festivals. We remembered how each of us had Dragon Names, which we had chosen for ourselves.

I shall now briefly explain “Dragon Name”:

Jackie Chan’s Chinese name (his “stage name” essentially) is


where the first character means “adult” or “developing” or “mature” and the second character means “dragon.” (Bruce Lee’s Chinese Name was “Little Dragon.”)   So the members of this Jackie Chan-loving group of mine chose Dragon Names for themselves, which included  (1)  A descriptive adjective + (2)  The word “Dragon.”

The Point of The Jackie Chan Digression

My dragon name was “The Inquisitive Dragon.”

So, inquisitiveness — asking questions —  is definitely a quality of mine. This is observed by others and valued by me.

However, some questions are easier for me to ask than others.

What are the easier ones?  Questions that reflect my curiosity and interest in other people.

Which questions are harder to ask?

  • Questions where there is a “power differential.”  For example, asking management at work for something. Or, when I’m a patient, asking doctors questions, which are sometimes challenging. (I’ve worked really hard at the latter, my whole life, and I’m pretty good at it.) (I hear that from my doctors, actually.)
  • Questions where I might hurt somebody’s feelings.
  • Questions where I am asking for something I need.
  • Questions where I am revealing that I don’t know something.

That last one in the list is rather ironic, isn’t it?  Because what would be a better reason than to ask a question, than to learn something you don’t know?

However, I have to say that I do see other people, around me, hesitating to ask questions, perhaps for fear that it will reveal something They Think They Should Know Already.

I can only speak for myself. And I do know that I sometimes hesitate to ask questions out of fear — the fear of being seen as ignorant, stupid,or  not listening.

Before I end this post, I feel obliged to point out that those fears involve the Cognitive Distortions of Mind Reading,  Labeling, and Shoulds.

Why did I write this post today?

I realized there were some questions I was afraid to ask at work today. I need the answers, in order to do my job better.

I am now going out there, dear reader, and I’m going to Just Do It!  (Just like Jackie Chan says, many times, in that TV show.)

How about you?

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

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