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?

Gratitude

Gratitude opens your heart and carries the urge to give back. It however has an evil twin: indebtedness. Indebtedness pays back bregrudgingly, as part of the economy of favours. In contrast, gratitude gives back freely and creatively.

And gratitude doesn`t play by the rules. It`s not the etiquette we teach our kids. Too often, I find myself prodding my kids with “What do you say?” when they`re silent upon receiving a gift or a kindness. When they push out a monotone “Thanks”, they`re only being polite, not grateful.

Barbara Frederikson, Positivity

On Past Injuries II

Quite a while ago, I wrote about reacting to past injuries, and even though I know them so well, I was failing to name examples.

Ever since I wrote this blog, however, I started to pay attention, and I can now not only add examples but, much more importantly, discovered that I could heal from some.

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The first situation where I realised that I was reacting to past injuries was my fierce hatred of Country music. It was the kind of music my dad liked (apart from a few other, for me equally unacceptable, genres), and he plaid it particularly often and particularly loud because he knew it grated on me. Long car journeys in particular – anything I could not get away from. And when I complained, he laughed and turned the volume up. It was a power trip, and maybe a punishment to his teenager slagging his music, and it got me to hate it to this day (where it probably would have remained a simple dislike otherwise).

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Another example where I`m reacting to past injuries is my own birthday. I had 8 until I overheard my mum saying that she hated my birthdays with all the gifts, cakes, parties, children, grannies and merrymaking. I had 4 more (which I had ceased to enjoy) until my parents decided that I was too old, and that was fine with me.

Even when I was an adult and able to throw my own parties, I never did – there were half hearted gift exchanges with family, because it was the only way to for them to retain their own righ to receive, and that was it.

A couple of years ago, I turned 40, and I decided to celebrate it. At that point, I felt blessed with very many great people in my life, but only few of them had actually met. It was mainly meant to be an opportunity to bring the mall together – and I had such a ball!! And I celebrated the next, which was much smaller but an equally beautiful day, and when it came round again just recently, I got properly excited about it because people actually made a”deal” about it – mainly new ones, who didn`t know I disliked my birthday, and some others thought I had changed my mind. And I discovered that I probably did – after skipping 28 of them because of what my parents said and did when I was a child…

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Another really important thing is perfume, and how it can remind me of the particular good or sad times when I was wearing it. I`ve been known to give perfumes away just because I couldn`t stand the memories I kept associating with the smell. (But this works vice versa, too – I know which one to wear if I want to wear confident or sexy or fresh or happy.)

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And then there are two… really silly things – the ones which actually inspired me to pick up this blog again.

I`m still too embarrassed to mention either in a public blog, but someone had hurt me very much, twice, with things which for others are probably absolute trivia.

One instance involved a particular brand of cosmetics. I was not using the brand myself at the time, but I was given them as a gift later and had to pass this on, as I was unable to use it without flashbacks (yeah, that`s probably the right word – I`m not just thinking of the injury, I`m having proper flashbacks which bring me so down that others actually comment on my low mood). The fact that I recently bought myself not one, but two, lipsticks from this make, shows me that I`m really and truely over the person who injured me. It`s one of those products which tingle on my lips and remind me that I have it on, and it`s nothing but a great feeling.

The other one involves a food. It was used to neglect, be stubborn towards and commit an act of absolute cruelty against me, or at least so I saw it at the time. I could no longer enjoy this kind of food. It had no taste whatsoever, just injury, fat and calories. Adn a whole 2 1/2 years later, there comes someone else and turns the whole thing round. Whatever happened back then, that person did the polar opposite. I feel healed, and I will never ever eat this kind of food again without this particular happy memory, which totally erased the other one (although the memory is still there, it no longer hurts).

And maybe that`s the secret. Rather than avoiding the triggers, re-expose myself in a pleasant situation and simply replace those memories with something upbeat.

I`ve got a candidate for that on my shoe shelf. Horrible memory, which I cannot summarise adequately in a three liner (I just tried). I never wore them again after that night. They are of cream suede, and they still bear the black marks of a drunk man`s shoes where he kicked them about in a night club.

I should wear them next week. I should plan a whole outfit around them and make them feel and look absolutely amazing – and then remember them for that…

Lifestyle Month: on Body Image

I can relate such a lot to this brilliant post! I, too, was a chubby child, teenager and young adult. I managed to lose and regain this extra weight several times, but in my own eyes, I was never thin enough (even when I stopped menstruating).

It was only when I got big again that I could see what I had, and I would grieve every single time because I hadn`t appreciated it more. I promised myself that if I ever lost weight again I would believe the numbers (which we give so much importance to when we want them smaller!!) and enjoy my body. (Today, I`m actually convinced that that mindset of never being slim enough was part of my yoyo-dieting issue: Because I still saw myself as fat, I never stopped starving and, equally, had nothing to lose when I started binge eating again…)

Eventually, I managed to lose weight again, and I`ve kept it off for 6 years now. And I think that`s a lot about acceptance. I can now accept that I`m a good weight, and this motivates me to take care of it. Neither do I want to starve to lose more, so I no longer binge eat. I wish I had known this at 20, but I`m glad I`ve learnt it at all.

>> ” I do these things not because I hate my body and want to change it, but because I love it, and want to take care of it.”
– is just *beautiful* and *so right*!!! I think that`s the difference for me, too!

BLACK FRIDAY

a Re-Blog from last year. I just find it so crazy.

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As usual, my husband was watching the news yesterday when I came down for my morning coffee.

When I saw the pictures on the screen, along with frenetic screaming of men and women, I paused and watched in horror. People were punching and pushing each other, and then I saw something that looked like a big ball of people, fighting. There were a couple of policemen armed with shields, but they looked powerless.

My first thought was of another terror attack.

“No.” My husband turned round and then said slowly: “This is Black Friday!”

I just don`t comprehend it. Most people say they don`t think it`s a good idea, but when the day comes, they become… obsessed. At 8am I overheard a conversation on the bus about a woman who got up at 4am to get three Kindle Fires, and then she phoned her other half to ask if she should get one for Josh as well, since it was such a bargain. Our computer system at work crashed, and a colleague received a message about discounted computer games. She quickly took orders and passed it on to her relative who was there right now. And a substantial numbers of guests in the restaurant I visited at night took a table for four for just two people, so they`d have space for all those bags.

What is this? I don`t think it`s just about the bargain – there`s bargains all year now. Is it competition, excitement, or simply wanting to be part of something which everyone is talking about?

The Christmas Consumer Madness is certainly alive and thriving: somewhere in or around Edinburgh, a male called Josh will now get a Kindle he may not otherwise have had. If he has a sibling, this kid will now need to be found something of equal value, and of course, they cannot receive less next year. So they`ll get used to getting shitloads, and when they grow up to become the givers, it`ll come natural to be equally generous. Even if bargains stopped, and even if they couldn`t really afford it. Because it`ll be expected now.

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But last weekend, I had a chat which gave me hope. A close friend, who is wonderful but very different from myself in this department, said she wasn`t doing Christmas gifting any more and had already told everybody. She doesn`t want any  more stuff, she decided, and she feels her family don`t need it either. She much rather wants more breaks, so they`ll use the  money to book themselves into a nice hotel over a weekend when all the frenzy is over, and re-charge their batteries. Love the woman! Always did, but her… fondness of things was something I thought I`d never see change. But if she can (and all by herself, her husband swears he has nothing to do with it!!) maybe all hope is not lost.

Stay safe! 🙂

On Past Injuries

When I`m out and about, I`m listening to the “Thinking allowed“-Podcasts at the moment, and yesterday, I stumbled upon an episode about football and domestic violence. Apparently, there tends to be more domestic abuse when the perpetrator`s team has an unexpected (this seems important!) win or defeat, and women who escaped such a relationship say to this day, they cannot stand anything to do with football, even if they were once very fond of it themselves.

I always thought I was the only one who, once hurt with our around something, cannot face this something again without unpleasant memories intruding and spoiling what would otherwise be a pleasant experience, and I always felt childish and unreasonable for this.

It`s still a job in progress, and I often need to work really hard to disconnect say, Christmas from certain memories I have around it. Still, I often become what others think of as unduly upset about seemingly trivial matters.

After a longish phase of reading psychology and therapy, I now realise that me being upset is never about the incident itself but always about my feelings about it, and my feelings are still stuck in the past. While I cannot change the past and not always the current incident or situation in question either, I can always try to change my feelings, at least a little bit.

What helps is asking myself the following questions:

  1. Would I be as upset if there wasn`t a connection to past injuries? (other people, other places, etc)
  2. Could I imagine others (I have a small list of names I add here, ranging from people I admire to people who are most like me) becoming upset if they were in my situation? How would they feel and act?
  3. How would I feel if this had happened to someone else, and they were telling me they were as upset as I am? Would I be upset for them? What would I think, feel and say to them?

All these questions force me to take a step back and see that my feelings are really still about the past, and not the present incident. And while that`s not always enough to ease the pain, at least it prevents me from lashing out at people in the present who often have nothing to do with the past injury (or wouldn`t necessarily be aware of the connection).

Listening

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.