on Cognitive Distortions and Hint Giving

A couple of years ago, I had a course of psychotherapy. After lostcountofhowmany let downs, disappointments, losses and betrayals I wasn`t coping at all with life in general and becoming increasingly paranoid, always expecting the worst. Never mind the stigma – I`ll be forever grateful that I chose therapy instead of medication (or alcohol, for that matter).

I learnt loads about cognitive distortions (great link – check it out!!) and how to deal with them, and while I, of course, was able to practice this particularly well under the supervision of my therapist, I continued to apply my new skills after the sessions had finished.

One which is particularly relevant to me is reading too much into (interpersonal) things, then behaving as if my assumptions were true and thus creating a negative outcome that`s caused by my reaction rather than the initial situation. While I`m still tending to try too hard to make sense of other people`s behaviour, I`m now also able to pull myself back sometimes.

There was one particular situation where I had to work extremely hard at behaving not only as if my negative assumptions weren`t true but also as if I did not have them. In the end however, it turned out that what I was thinking had indeed been true on this occasion. Someone was throwing me (albeit weak and non-committal) hints, and I behaved as if I did not understand them, carrying on causing drama because I refused to see the signs.

“So did your therapy not cover that?” asked my husband later. “how to recover from the disappointment of a real problem? How to deal with things when, by applying her techniques, you actually made it worse? For life isn`t always a bed of roses, and you cannot always influence other people!”

No, she never covered that. And I don`t think the problem was so much my own behaviour, but my (former) friend`s evasiveness. To most Brits, giving hints only seems kinder than being upfront (also to oneself, as you save yourself the discussion) about bad news, but you have to be clear that the hints are understood, or at least be clearer when asked.

Could I have influenced the situation? No. I`d have saved myself a lot of embarrassment (and maybe preserved a friendship that obviously wasn`t what I thought it was) if I had acted upon the hints, but I`d also forever have asked myself: And what if the assumption I was acting on was not true after all?

I just Sold my First Photograph!!

imageimageYes – indeed: about a year or so after I started to really get into my photography (and sporadically publish them in various places online), someone has now paid money to get a license for my … smartphone photo of jellybeans…

Right now, I`m feeling really proud and accomplished, and I don`t care that I`m only getting a tiny cut, but the sheer fact that someone just paid at least £50.oo for my photo, my creativity, my… artwork, feels just amazing!!


I remember the story of that picture well.

I took it during my first face-to-face tutorial with the Open University, which took place in a hotel near Haymarket Train Station in Edinburgh last February. On our tables were, besides pen, paper and water, jelly beans. The young latecomer who sat beside me laughed as, before even eating a single one of them, I grabbed my smartphone (a Samsung Galaxy S 6 Edge) and photographed them from all angles. That`s when she decided she needed to get to know me, because she likes wacky people. We ended up going to the bus together, and on the journey home, I applied various filters to the best pic and uploaded it to both Instagram and EyeEm.

It was in May when I got an automated email from EyeEm saying that the photo had been selected for their Premium Collection, to be put up for sale on Getty Images. At the time, me and another friend were researching opportunities for selling photos online, and I found that most of those rather “big” sites have rather strict guidelines regarding quality. I never found mine on their site, and then forgot about it, although looked again a few months later, and it was there, beside two photos of my Siamese cat. (In fact, I had 8 pictures altogether selected for Premium Collection, but only those three published).

Anyway, on Tuesday, I got an email saying I sold it!!

The same night, I went to the birthday party of my wonderful Greek friend Mary, who sat beside me when I took the photograph! And she remembers it well, as it was the day we met and the reason she wanted to get to know me.

Aw, I`m happy, and dying to know who bought it and what for…

Lifestyle Month: the Facebook spring clean

Albeit with trembling fingers (always – as fully aware there`ll be no way bback!), I had a look through my friends list again this morning and deleted a few people.

While I`m not one to un-friend people after a disagreement, etc, I periodically do a “spring clean”, which somehow feels less personal – I delete people I no longer interact with. (Most of us seem to agree those days that “friend” is not a good term for a facebook contact, and I suppose it does raise our inhibitions to delete, as how can it not be personal to “un-friend” someone?)

There are several (predominantly younger) people I`m connected to who have close to 1000 facebook “friends”, but we share very personal stuff there (not just what we post, but also whom we know, etc!) so I feel a facebook list should be dynamic. If I had 1000 friends, I would find it impossible to keep track of them, and I then may as well post everything publicly. This is how people end up coming back from their holiday finding their flat was burgled. Or get sacked for complaining about their boss, even though they`re not friends with anyone from work. Some people use lists and Restricted Profiles, but I never liked the idea.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, someone recently suggested this phenomenon of large and outdated friends lists as one of the core reasons for bragging (which is, btw, the most cited reason for un-friending). If we don`t have any more offline contact, this can be seductive, particularly if the ex or high school bully are reading.

Because I don`t want to offend (or seem offended), I chose my disconnection moment wisely – another reason why a general “spring clean” works best for me. Do I send a farewell message? Never. .It never seems appropriate. I wonder when they`ll even notice. I really only ever delete people who are, online and offline, already far, far away from me already.

Bye. Part of me is still sad when I click that button, as it is, sometimes at last, a honest, final and now also clearly communicated recognition that those relationships are really over and will not be resumed. They all used to be nice, otherwise, they wouldn`t have been there in the first place.

scared of the telephone

I used to be one of those teenagers who was constantly reprimanded for spending too much time on the telephone. At one point, my parents seriously considered getting me my own number and having me pay for it. (This was the Eighties!) When I was physically with my friends and didn`t need to phone them, we phoned other people, playing pranks. I used to do telephone marketing in foreign languages, and then, of course, I moved to another country and relied on the telephone to keep contact with my family.

Then email arrived and slowly but surely replaced the telephone. I found it less intrusive. Sometimes, I would spend an hour emailing back and forward with my sister, surfing other websites while doing so and munching away without her complaining about the noise. Then came messenger, and then facebook, and phone calls became less and less. Someone once said he didn`t like facebook because it dilutes personal contact by seemingly replacing it. Although I kind of agreed, I didn`t take the warning.

Last year, I was organising my own big birthday party. I never usually celebrate my birthday, but this was a big one, so everyone was invited via facebook. Unless they worked with me, in which case they received a group email.

And then people started to phone me about it and asked for me to phone them back when I wasn`t in. And I was scared. I dialed their numbers willing them not to be in, so I could leave a voicemail, which would then prompt them to leave a message on facebook. Although both were relatives, we never phoned each other, and we hardly saw each other either. It wasn`t necessary. We were all on facebook. I was surprised myself at how stressful I found the prospect of phoning them now; and how relieved when both conversations “went well”.

A few months ago, something happened at work. My colleague texted me on a Sunday before I came back from holiday, and I just couldn`t wait to speak to him, so I asked for permission to call. It felt weird talking to him actually two good colleagues from my own living room, as if we crossed a boundary. We drank from the same cup and spoke about our periods, but we never ever phoned each other outside work or work related nights out.

I wonder how I could allow this to happen. Being scared to telephone people I`m related and close to. And I honestly think social media has done this. If it wasn`t for facebook I would have seen or phoned those two relatives more often. If it wasn`t for texting, we would all phone each other to arrange nights out and would feel less awkward doing so on occasions when texts won`t do. And if we didn`t have email, I`d have those hour long phone conversations with my friends at home much more spontaneously and rather than schedule them just because we can. Phoning feels intrusive now, but it never used to. Smartphones meant to bring us closer together, but I really wonder whether they made us grow further apart instead.

I have one friend who always phones me rather than text or email, and she`s a self confessed technophobe. I sometimes phone her, too, just to prove to myself that I`m still brave enough to do so.

I wonder who`s still visiting friends and family without calling ahead? We don`t. But we used to all the time.


My contribution to Volunteers Appreciation Week: Cat sitters (re-blog)

Every time we go away I`m immensely grateful for my wonderful cat sitter.

This was not always the case. At first, my brother in law came to our house, topped up her food, emptied her tray and then left without speaking to leave alone petting our baby girl, for he doesn`t really like cats. Then my husband`s niece came, and she stayed with her for a few hours, watching the telly, eating her dinner, and not cleaning up after herself before she left. At least, our cats were well cared for, but unfortunately, the niece`s priorities changed when she had her own (human) baby.

Then my friend`s cat died, and for various reasons, she didn`t want another one. First, I looked at her blankly when she said “Bring her to me when you go away!” But then I did, and she`s been going to her house ever since. She sleeps in her bed, in the little dip between the two pillows just where she sleeps in ours, and she eats from her plate (which she`s not allowed at home!), and rather well, too! She no longer wails in the car, and when she arrives, she`ll jump straight onto the bed to groom herself – a sign of comfort in cats.

In short: the two love and adore each other. Christine loves us going on holiday, and she`s keen for us to bring Kitti early and pick her up a few days after we came back. When Kitti caught mice during one of her visits (one was proudly and infamously delivered to the bed at 6am on a Sunday morning!), we left her for another few weeks just until we were confident that they were all gone, and when more droppings were found, we moved her back in for another week. If Kitti ever goes for good in a planned way, I`d want my friend to be there as I feel she loves her just as much as I do, and the same goes for the cat.

I`m just so grateful I never need to have guilty feelings for going away. Last year, there was a bit of an emergency which forced Christine to move house for a few weeks, and her own friend (whom I never met) happily took my cat as well as her. I received a WhatsApp picture of them all watching the World Cup Final together in a strange living room.

The photo`s are funny. The ones below were sent one each day of the holiday we just had. I still think she took them all within a couple of hours and then just spaced them out when she sent them.


Saying No

A friend of mine has split from her partner. This was good, but left her with a few practical problems. She had, for example, ordered a new kitchen, and he had agreed to help dismantling and discarding of the old one. Unwilling to ask him this last favor or pay someone else, she (let`s call her Kirsty) asked a friend (Jenny), whose husband is a joiner and has a big enough van as well.

Jenny had previously said she`d help in any way she possibly could, but she is also notoriously unreliable. Unable to say no to anything or anyone, she always finds herself agreeing to commitments which she does not really want to do, and which she then has to get out of at the last minute, because her motivation never appears.

Kirsty knows this, stressed to Jenny how important this was and therefore relied on her not to let her down. Jenny passed her request to her husband, but, for unknown reasons, he declined. Still, Jenny went back to Kirsty and said of course, they`d help. Maybe, she was was hoping to talk him round, maybe she was hoping for Kirsty to understand hints… nobody knows (but Jenny).

Over the next few weeks, Kirsty sensed a change in attitude from Jenny – not looking her in the eye when they talked about the kitchen project, increasingly complaining about how busy she would be over the next few weeks. She even stopped texting her during X-factor to discuss the candidates and seemed short when Kirsty contacted her… It just did not feel right, but Kirsty refused to pursue other options. Surely, Jenny wouldn`t do that to her.

On the morning however, Jenny texted and said both her and her husband were down with sickness and diarrhoea and therefore had to cancel. The two haven`t spoken since. One feels betrayed and let down, the other victimised for falling ill.


The Girlfriend who Dumped Me…

Every so often, there are still things I want to tell her. Things I think would make her laugh or she`d be interested in or only she would understand. I usually WhatsApp her, but then I remember that we don`t talk any more, and I think I`ll put it on Facebook. Then I remember that she`ll have unfollowed me there, too, for she`s ignoring me ever since … we didn`t fall out about anything, actually. I then remember that this is not true, because she recently asked someone a question about something I posted. So she is reading, probably rather eagerly so. I`m just not supposed to know. But I can post it. No, I can`t. For she`ll know that it`s been posted for her and recognize that I`m still reaching out…


I met one of my friends for lunch the other day, and all over sudden, I had this situation again where I could hear her speaking to me, but I couldn`t understand a word she said. It was as if she was speaking a foreign language, and this happens to me regularly if someone speaks to me but hasn`t got my full attention. If my mind is elsewhere, or if people speak about something I don`t know anything about or am just not interested in (God, that sounds awful, but it`s the truth!) I switch off and just cannot switch back on again if it`s one of those lengthy monologues.

I can`t even tell you what it was about this time. I think it had something to do with Pakistan. Probably politics or television, as she`s really into those but I am not. Groups are fine as someone will always say something, and then there`ll be a discussion, but on my own, I have nothing to contribute, so it inevitably becomes a monologue – and I switch off. Someone else has a habit of speaking in excruciating detail about someone else`s children. For my husband, it`s his speedway – technical issues, rider injuries, league tables. Eventually, I`ll be asked a question, and then I`ll have to admit that I haven`t been paying attention.

Am I on my own in that I really cannot listen and process information if others are talking about things that are so irrelevant to me? It seems so abstract that it really seems like a foreign language. I`m yet to find a better description.