Category Archives: Reframe

Tools for cognitive restructuring

Thought for the Day


Here’s a quote from Jeanne Beck’s blog:

“Now we are going to make a new-way path. So you take a shovel, you take a ground-haker, you take a hairpin and you start digging. And you dig in all directions: up and down, in and out, right and left. Not in a straight line. Nothing natural or interesting goes in a straight line. As a matter of fact, it is the quickest way to the wrong place. And don’t pretend you know where you are going. Because if you know where you are going, that means you’ve been there, and you are going to end up exactly where you came from.” —Sherry Ruth Anderson, The Feminine Face of God

And it reminds me of a favorite quote of mine, and unfortunately I do not know the author:

“When you plant a new seed in the soil, the first thing that comes up is not the new shoot.  the first thing that comes up is a little dirt.”

Going forward and embracing change…

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The most often-visited posts on my blog so far are the three on Reframing for Negative Thinking (May 15, May 27 and June 19, 2009).  I have always believed that these tools really work, and I hope they are working for you!  Just wanted to share that the first article in today’s NY Times Latest News was about a new program for the military to teach troops REFRAMING in order to help prevent/cope with Post Traumatic Stress, Depression and Anxiety.

And here are 2 new pieces just finished for “Midwest Meditations”, a Fiber Artists Coalition exhibit which will start at the Bloomingdale Park District Museum, July – August, 2010.  Fabric for both pieces is dyed, over-dyed, screened and discharged.

Turtle Crossing ITurtle Crossing I.  Fiber Art by Shelley Brucar

Turtle Crossing IITurtle Crossing II.  Fiber Art by Shelley Brucar

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Filed under Art Stuff, Coping, discharge dyeing, Fiber Art, hand-dyeing, Reframe, thermofax screens



In my May 15 post, I explained the concept of REFRAMING.  Then in the May 27 post, I listed and explained some typical “irrational” thought patterns that result in negative thinking.  Today’s post is an exercise to help you: 1. define what causes YOUR negative thinking, and 2. brainstorm ideas for reframing negative thoughts into positive thoughts in order to reduce stress and behave in a more productive manner.

Silver Birchfiber art by Shelley Brucar

First an explanation:  The thoughts floating around in your head are known as SELF TALK.  I’m not implying that your are actually talking to yourself – although some of us do this too!  But we all have automatic thoughts going through our heads all day long, which usually do not even enter our awareness.  These are often old tapes playing from childhood about how we “should” feel and act.  These thoughts may have been useful at one time (or not), but they are probably no longer useful to you, and may be counterproductive in terms of how you “want” to feel and behave.  These thoughts are knee-jerk reactions to daily events which influence your behavior, often negatively.  The good news is, this is where you can intervene.  You can REFRAME your negative self talk into positive self talk, thereby altering your behavior and the consequences of your behavior.

Compare these photos.  CHOOSE YOUR FOCUS IN ANY SITUATION.  Choose what works for you.


Focus2photos by Shelley Brucar

Here is an 8-question exercise to help you identify and change your negative self talk and examples of negative self talk that could occur for a new artist (ask me how I know):

1.  TRIGGERS – Identify what specific events result in negative self talk.  Example:  I did not get juried into a show.

2.  FEELINGS – What are the feelings that occur in response to trigger named above?  Example: Sadness

3.  THOUGHTS/SELF TALK – What are the tapes playing in your head, what are you telling yourself about this event?  Example: My art is not good enough; maybe I should give it up.

4.  BEHAVIOR – What is your behavior, how do you react to this event?  Example: I refuse to enter other shows.

5.  CONSEQUENCES – What are the consequences resulting from your behavior?     Example: My work is not being exhibited and therefore, is not being seen.


6.  NEW SELF TALK – Name some positive ways to think about the same event.    Example: Maybe the pieces I submitted were not right or did not fit in for that show.

7.  NEW BEHAVIOR – How might your behavior change based on this new “self talk?”   Example: I will submit entries to other shows.

8. NEW CONSEQUENCES – What would likely be the consequences of your new behavior?  Example: I will be juried into some shows and exhibits, my work will be seen and will sell.

You can go through these 8 steps for any and all events that typically causes a negative and unproductive response for you.  Identifying your “self talk” is important because this is where you can intervene and make changes; this is where you have control.

Remember the serenity prayer:  TAKE CONTROL where you can and let go when you do not have control.  And by the way, here’s another version of the serenity prayer: 

“Grant me the Serenity to accept the people I cannot change, the Courage to change the one I can, and the Wisdom to know it’s me!”


Filed under Art Stuff, Coping, Reframe, Stress



If you like talking to automated systems, please press or say 1.

If you would like to hear a directory of names from the local phone book, please press or say 2.

If you would like to talk to a human who may or may not be able to help you, please press or say 3.  The wait is approximately 3 hours and 45 minutes because we get so many calls about our products not working.

If you would like to speak with a human who will understand your frustration but will still not be able to help you, please press or say 4.

If you would like to speak with a human who will not be reading off a set script, please press or say 5.  Then hang up because we do not offer this option.

If you would like to jump through the phone line and strangle someone, please press or say 6.

If you would like to talk with a supervisor, please press or say 7.  Nothing will happen because supervisors cannot be found.

If you would really like to manage your stress, please press or say 8.  Then hang up immediately and go for a walk.

If you would like to be transferred to a different, but equally unhelpful menu, please press or say 9.

If you are seriously considering giving it all up and becoming Amish, please press or say… oh sorry, we’re out of numbers.

This probably sounds familiar to anyone who has ever phoned just about any company, agency, institution, etc. in our current, advanced technological society.  If by some chance you do get to speak with a human, you can explain that the phone on your account – along with internet and tv – are all not working.  The person at the other end of the line will inevitably ask you if the phone on your account is a good call-back number in case you get disconnected.  Take at least 3 deep breaths and explain that the number you are currently calling from – which actually works – would probably be a better call-back number in case you get disconnected, which by the way, is going to happen fairly soon if that person keeps asking questions like that one.

At the end of any conversation, the voice at the other end of the phone will ask you if s/he can help you with anything else (obviously part of the script).  This wording, “anything ELSE”,  implies that you have already been helped with something.  And you may also be asked how you would rate the service you have received.  They do not want to hear that the “service” you received is quite possibly the worst you can remember in your lifetime.

Swirling Leavesso far “Untitled” by Shelley Brucar – hand-dyed fabric, machine stitching, stretched over canvas.

So yes, in the last 24 hours, I have had the lovely opportunity to deal with three different automated phone systems.  For 2 out of 3, service, or lack thereof, was absolutely appalling.  The voice in my head was telling me I was going to have a stroke if this kept up.  Then the mail came, and I got the (“normal”) results of my “almost annual” mammogram.  I immediately realized that if those results had not been “normal”, all this other stuff would not have the gigantic importance that I had allowed it.  In fact, it would not have mattered at all.  So I went for a walk/run to the gym, worked out, and walked home.  And look at this – up and running again, at least for the moment.

The switch from “I think I’m going to have a stroke.” to “I am so grateful to be healthy.”  – THAT is what I call Perspective.  THAT is what I call REFRAMING!

If you enjoyed reading this post, please click “forward” and share with anyone you choose.

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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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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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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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