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“MY WHOLE HOUSE IS GREAT!!!!!!!!!!!” vs “MY WHOLE APARTMENT IS CRAP!!!!!”

July 12, 2011

FOR A LAUGH, AND SOME FUN, WATCH THE FOLLOWING VIDEOS IN THIS ORDER:

WHAT HAPPENED?? FROM OMNIPOTENCE TO DEGRADATION, FROM DELIGHT TO DISGUST, musings by Dr. Anat

I don’t have a particular message or idea that I want to convey in reference to these two videos. I just knew that both of those videos, viewed together, struck a chord. I couldn’t resist posting them here, and then letting my stream of consciousness guide me.

The intensity of the positive outlook in the first one is shocking, delightful and entertaining. It’s funny that it stands out as unusual that anyone, even a little girl, might feel so ecstatic about everything in her life. (Despite the childish, you might say naive, overly idealistic outlook of the first video,) I found myself wishing that my child, my patients, my loved ones could also have the experience of appreciating everything in their lives to this degree.

The second video, which is a dramatic commentary on the first, struck closer to home. Even though this one was only an actor’s spoof on the first video, it felt so real to me- it better represented the inner thoughts of the patients that I treat. The mirror experience for many women, particularly women who have body image and eating issues, can be harrowing to the point of triggering a deluge of negative evaluations of self and other. Even though this video makes you laugh, you can imagine that when a person hates everything in her life, she is truly suffering.

Some patients wonder about positive visualization/affirmation/thinking as a technique to improve mood and self-worth. I have many thoughts on this strategy, and sometimes believe that many people use it as yet another way to deny their feelings (-I’ll post thoughts on this in another blog). However, in certain cases, I believe that positive thinking can be VERY powerful! Often people forget to appreciate everything they have in their lives. People tend to magnify their problems and focus on those. They engage in a host of what some therapists call cognitive distortions. Here are some examples of distortions that people typically engage in:

1) Catastrophizing- Focusing on worst case scenario for a given situation

2) Minimizing/Magnifying- minimizing the importance of positive traits or events, and magnifying negative ones

3) Overgeneralizations- Reaching a general conclusion based on an isolated incident. (i.e. after one bad haircut, concluding that all my haircuts are bad. Doing poorly on one exam, and concluding that I’m a generally bad student)

Ceratinly, the 20 year old Jessica of the second video is guilty of these cognitive distortions. Are you guilty of these kinds of distortions as well?

It’s important to identify problems, and then try to solve them. However, overemphasis on the negative is itself a distortion of reality. Let’s not forget to attend to and express gratitude for what is working- let’s notice some good things too.

In terms of body image and self image, it can be invaluable to point out the positives! Body IMAGE has more to do with how you IMAGINE your body than how it actually is. Thinking positive thoughts about yourself, and how good you look can make you feel better. When a woman has positive thoughts about herself, and feels confident, she radiates that- her body movement, gestures, smile all reflect that confidence. If she’s focused on all her worst qualities all of the time, the varicose veins, the cellulite, the large arms, she will appear less magnetic and beautiful.

In conclusion, perhaps a good dose of positive affirmations in front of the mirror, a la Jessica style (of the first video!) might go a long way to improve your self worth? I don’t know!!!- that might be a bit of a stretch for some of you who are feeling rather down. Alternatively, maybe it’s just enough to watch the first video and marvel at this young girl’s self-acceptance and aspire to it, making a little room for that attitude to slowly creep into your life. Why not? you deserve it, or don’t you think so?

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