Every “holiday season poses a psychological conundrum”

Somewhere in my graduate school years I became acquainted with Albert Ellis. While I’d been herded into his sphere of thinking while in college, he’d not truly penetrated my thick skull. (By the way, my neurosurgeon did tell me, with his subtle version of a smile coyly tucked to one side, that I am thick headed.) During that second year of earning a masters one of our professors attempted to help us newbies realize how to apply a few of Ellis’s tactics.

Alex Nabaum

Years later, as I put those tactics to use in group therapy, I realized how deeply those thoughts I was after are embedded. For instance, both my male and female clients in the groups by court orders, uniformly credited others with their own problems. To a person, each one cycling through the groups I ran saw everyone else at fault. Those “victims” were the one’s who’d set them up.

A few of my court ordered clients honestly saw their faults but couldn’t own those. Most of those guys and I suspect all of the scant numbers of women going through the groups honestly didn’t see their errors. Dealing with people expressing things belonging out toward that extreme end of dysfunctions  gives insight. This acumen did require willingness to face into my own faults. Here is exactly what Oliver Burkeman suggested in “The Power of Negative Thinking.”

Like mine, your negative thoughts are not visible to everyone surrounding us, but those negative behaviours and words robustly stomping about among all of us are. Turning your eyes inward and searching out your own self-critical thoughts is one of the most difficult adventures you’ll ever take on. It is amazing how subtle each of us is in nixing ourselves.

Giving attention to our negative thoughts about everyone else is far simpler than doing the same for ourselves. “But,” some will contest, “I’m always throwing dung on everyone else but making sure I get all of my positive thoughts!”

No, you’re not being loving to yourself. I’d guess that close to 75% of the time those seemingly positive thoughts drawn out of our froth over things are only meant to make “us” look better. That’s nowhere close to positive thinking. More often than not those words only succeed at keeping our eyes off of what bothers us about ourselves.

It is what the likes of an Albert Ellis advocate that can change lilt in things like this. How about learning to look into our motivations in shaping those words and toward who we tend toss them? How many times was I polite to any of those clients, my kids, a peer using a subtly far below my awareness that pissed them off? You’ve done it to. You know those times when others stay upset with you over time and you just can’t see the problem.

Our shared mistake is in uniformly deciding to either completely trust in how we see ourselves or to not. Becoming willing to question ourselves through the eyes of others is critical. I’m not recommending that any of us completely trust in how others see us. Rather use what you catch sight of about yourself through many other people to flesh out how you see yourself. Put simply don’t trust in how you see yourself while not trusting in theirs’, either. Using all of those tidbits about you learn about yourself through everyone’s eyes.


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