Monthly Archives: May 2009


by SHELLEY BRUCARIn the Breeze

“IN THE BREEZE” fiber art by Shelley Brucar


Let’s further explore negative thinking.  Did you come up with some examples of automatic (negative) reactions to events in your life?  If you have not had a chance to think about this, do it now.  What events/circumstances provoke negative, and often irrational, thought patterns for you?  Is it -the flashing lights in your rearview mirror?  – the phone call from an aging parent?  -criticism/feedback from someone at work or from a friend?  -the end to a relationship?  -a “funny” look or comment from a friend or coworker?

Here are some very common, and very distorted, thought patterns that are counterproductive because they make us feel bad and stressed-out.  And these thought patterns are not necessary because if examined, you can find fallacies in all of them.

1.  ALL-OR-NOTHING THINKING:  Everything is good or bad, black or white; there is no middle ground.  You’re either perfect or worthless, and any small problem escalates to gigantic proportions.  For example, “Susie doesn’t agree with me; she must hate me.”

2. OVER-GENERALIZATION:  Reaching a general conclusion based on a single event.  For example:  “I forgot to get gas yesterday; now I’ll be late; the whole day is ruined.”

3. CATASTROPHIZING:  Magnifying the severity of events; expecting disaster.  For example:  “If I don’t get this job, my career is over.” or “Nothing good ever happens to me.”

4. PERSONALIZATION:  Thinking everything others do or say is a reaction to you.  For example:  “Susie hasn’t called yet today; she must be mad at me.”

5. BLAMING:  Holding others responsible for your problems.  For example: “If s/he wouln’t nag so much, I would be happier.”

6. DISCOUNTING WHAT IS POSITIVE: No matter what you do, it’s never enough.  “Yes I got a good grade/performance review, but it could have been better.”

7. LABELING: Identifying yourself with negative labels.  “I’m stupid/incompetent/a failure.”

8. SHOULDS: Strict rules about how you, and others, should behave.  “I should always be available when a friend, parent, spouse, child, etc. needs me.” or “I should have more patience.”

Look at the events in your life that you named at the beginning of this post.  What negative/distorted thinking patterns are at work?

Now look for the fallacies in this distorted thinking.  Ask yourself, where is the evidence that this is true?

To be continued…


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Filed under Art Stuff, Reframe, Stress



Because art is my own best stress management tool, I share this:

Registration for the 2009-10 workshops of the North Suburban Needle Arts Guild, lovingly selected by Tracy and Shelley, is now open to the public.  Info available on the “Needle Arts Workshops” page of this blog and on the NSNG website.

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Filed under Art Stuff



Check out this post from Zen Habits blog for some great ways to increase your energy and reduce your stress:

and some energizing photos from Wayne Brucar, taken at the Racine Zoo:

Wayne Racine2

Wayne Racine3a

Wayne Racine6

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Filed under Refocus, Relax



Remember the 3-Legged Stool?

3-Legged Stool

There it is again.  We’ve talked alot about the first leg, Relaxation – and we’ll come back to that repeatedly.  Today, I want to introduce the 2nd leg, COGNITIVE RESTRUCTURING or REFRAMING.  And this is truly just an introduction; it will take many posts to explore Negative Thinking and many more to give you the tools to learn how to REFRAME.  So stay with me.

Here’s the basic information you need, borrowed from Rational-Emotive Theory.  Being a visual person, I like to use a diagram to show how this works:


EVENT:  Something happens; maybe your boss wants to meet with you. 

BELIEFS, FEELINGS, THOUGHTS:  You have an immediate reaction based on your beliefs of what that means.  This automatic reaction is usually negative because, for reasons unknown, most of us focus more on negative than positive (the first problem!).  So maybe you’re thinking your boss didn’t like your last report and wants to tell you why.  And the negative/distorted thinking may include thoughts about how unfair it is, how worthless, stupid or incompetent you are, and self-pity about why all the bad things happen to you.

Very often, our negative thoughts escalate way out of control.  So by the time the meeting occurs, you may already be thinking you’re going to be fired, and you and your family will be homeless and hungry – all because of your unworthiness.  Okay, may it’s not that bad, but chances are, you’re not walking into the meeting thinking, “This must be about that raise I asked for and so richly deserve!”

CONSEQUENCES:  All the negative thinking has emotional consequences.  You may walk into the meeting feeling depressed, angry, or even hostile.  The adrenaline is flowing freely, and you are STRESSED – before you even know what it’s all about.

So – you may have no control over the “event” that results in all this distorted and irrational thinking.  However, you do have control over your reaction; this is where you can intervene.  All the negative thinking can be REFRAMED into positive thinking.

In the example used here, instead of telling yourself that your boss must be unhappy with your last report, you could be telling yourself that s/he really liked the report and wants to tell you why.  Or maybe there were problems with the report that just need to be fixed – no big deal.  And surely no cause for intense angst. 

Or maybe you are getting a raise!


Photos by Wayne BrucarFocus-Branch

Photographic example of Reframing – In the first photo, the focus is on the water.  In the second photo, the focus is on the branch, leaving the water slightly out-of-focus.  In the same way the photographer chooses his/her focus, we can choose to focus on the negative or on the positive.

For now, think about some instances where negative/irrational thinking affects you emotionally.  We all do this every day. 

In future posts, we will continue to explore the phenomenon of negative thought patterns and talk about tools for changing the negative to positive.

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Filed under Art Stuff, Refocus, Reframe



Going back to kids, I found a list I wrote once about what kids do better than adults.  If we take our cues from kids about some things, we can improve the quality of our lives.  Watch people waiting in a line, for example.  How many adults are fidgety and impatient, worrying about how much time they are wasting and how much they have to do?  How many kids are making up games, dancing around, and generally having fun?

So here’s my list of what kids do better:

1.  Have fun

2.  Forget time

3.  Laugh

4.  Get over things

5.  Give another chance

6.  Relax

7.  Focus on what they are doing

8.  Enjoy what they are doing

9.  Go with the flow

10.  Take risks

11.  Imagine

12.  Let it go

13.  Forget the rules – Color outside the lines

14.  Think outside the box

screen3aNewly screened piece of cloth giving me inspiration.  Sometimes a piece of fabric that I have dyed/screened/painted without any preconceived plan results in a flash of creativity.

What awakens your creative spirit?

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Filed under Art Stuff, Reframe, Relax