When you reach the limits of what is expected of you, you come to same dilemma: to be yourself.
Paraphrased from a distant memory, Henry Miller's Tropic of Capricorn.
When you reach the limits of what is demanded of you, you reach the same dilemma, to be yourself, Henry Miller.
My sister is dying of brain cancer.
I am dying too, as are you, we just don’t know the date.
My dog is cute AF, and if this does not work out, someone will take us in.
I can coach my butt off. I may suck at other things, but at coaching, I am awesome-sauce..
Everything I have ever done has led me to this.
Because I can help you write. A lot. Without killing yourself. Fact.
Go big or go home. We are all going home.
Because I get to spend each and every day being part of the journeys of amazing people.
Come find out 🦄🦄🦄
However, if you have no access and if your condition is not serious enough to seek therapy or medication, or if you are hoping to grow and change in key areas, workbooks can be part of your self help toolbox.
Last spring, I actually had an assignment in my graduate cognitive therapy course in which students selected and worked through a CBT oriented workbook. In my course evaluations, seven or eight students highlighted that work as one of the most important things they did in their whole graduate social work program. Wow. I have also used these as supplements to my work with clients, suggesting they work though one of these in order to assist our work together.
Using these workbooks are a great way to work on your self talk--the topic of the last several of my blog posts. Some of these workbooks are related to specific conditions, while others are more general tools to help you with your mental health and resiliency. Try one, and let me know how they work.
In no particular order:
Yesterday, I asked you to engage in some reflection about the narratives that are negative and destructive to you. Today, I want you to think of the one narrative that is most vexing: the one that you most want to change.
Today, I want you to do three, five-minute free writes. During your sessions, I want you to think of how you can change that narrative to one that is TRUE and HELPFUL. True and helpful. No Polyanaish fantasies. If your narrative is about your writing being superficial and “not deep enough” (thank you very much doctoral advisor!), you are not going to believe a narrative in which you reauthor your story to be “ I am the most profound writer ever.” The truth might be that your writing is grounded enough in theory, experience, research, etc.,, that it will make a contribution to your profession but is not axis shifting work (nor is mine!). That is enough!
This is just an example--I want you to spend time writing some counter-narratives that you can buy into. These are going to give you the clues to important self-talk that you will need to repeat to yourself a few hundred times to believe.
It has been a while since I have given my readers an exercise. Here is one now!
What are some dominant narratives that interfere with your happiness, wellbeing, productivity, and/or being your best self? What stories do you tell yourself that get in your way?
Set your timer for five minutes and do a free write--write without thinking or judgment, based upon these questions. Do this a few times and see what you find. What you uncover can be an important part of
Yesterday was a hard day. I had the triple whammy of a lot of stiffness in both my “knees” (I have prosthetic devices, aka, knee replacements), a hard conversation with my terminally ill sister, and a painful, abusive conversation with a mentally ill relative. After I hung up with the call, I found myself saying out loud, FML (F#*K my life). FML is, cognitively, shorthand for my life sucks, things are awesome and terrible. I felt super down.
While it is normal to feel sad and feel grief, I immediately knew that I was exacerbating these normal and healthy human emotions with something “extra,”a constellation of irrational/unhelpful beliefs that I needed to challenge.
So, I engaged in Rich’s 5 step model of cognitive change: Contextual awareness, live/in the moment awareness, disruption, disputation (challenge) and then reprogramming (FYI, you now have had half of my graduate course on Cognitive Behavior Therapy).
Awareness-- I have been working on these skills for a long time, so understanding the nature of my beliefs comes fairly easily to me now. I was engaging in several problematic beliefs: Awfulizing (this is the worst thing ever, my life is F*##D), Should or demands (he should not talk to me this way, he should be different), minimizing the positives (only focusing on these events), fortune telling (this is the start of my knees going south), among others.
Disruption-- I pat myself on the head, and say, “shut up brain, I do not need to believe you. What you say is nor the truth--I will analyze you!” This separates me from the thoughts that are causing the darker, exaggerated feelings that I was struggling with (although, some of it, sadness and loss, is very healthy and appropriate).
Disputation-1) Of course he should be this way. This is how he always is, and if I am in contact with him, that is what he will do. What he said about my life means nothing--kind of like the Wa Wa Wa of how the adults speak in Charlie Brown episodes. If I don’t want to hear such things, I can not talk to him or hang up on him, but he is performing who he is, and this is all his destiny--none of my business.
2) How is my life crap? What is the evidence for this? My life is actually pretty amazing. I have amazing work, people who love me, tons of friends, great pets, am loving salsa dancing, love my uke playing, am mostly super fit and healthy, own an amazing home in a great place, etc ect. You are exaggerating things, Brain, and not paying attention to all the good things--no tan bueno.
3) Yes, it is super sad she is sick. Nothing irrational or wrong about the pain I feel. It is healthy--no disputation needed here. But to help me work through it, I reminded myself that I have been honored to be able to be part of my sister’s journey. I am thankful I have been able to be my best self with her.
Reprograming--basically, this will be the repetition of truths that come from my disputing or challenging, some of the above actually are more reprogram statements that serve as challenges.
Even after nearly 30 years of doing this work, I need to practice the tools that keep me well. I am thankful I have them.
David Burns has done some of the most important work helping translate cognitive therapy for lay audiences. He has also done great work on developing simple, user-friendly tools to help people learn to identify and transform their problematic or self-defeating self-talk. Here, I want to present a simple but powerful tool that I give to clients when we are trying to get them to understand the relationship between their beliefs and difficult feelings (anxiety and self downing, for example) or behavior (i.e. compulsively checking email instead of writing).
Here is David Burn’s Checklist of Cognitive Distortions. How do you use this, you may ask? Try this exercise. The next time you are experiencing a feeling/behavior in a way that keeps you from living how you wish, read the list. Ask yourself which distortions you resonate with. Chances are some of your patterns of thinking might be characterized by these. This provides a good place to start intervening (which we will explore in subsequent posts), and can also be found throughout this blog.