Writing exercise (strictly optional! :)

Anitra Again (anitra@speakeasy.org)
Fri, 26 Dec 1997 21:58:15 -0800 (PST)

This was altogether too good, and too appropriate to recent
discussions, to share it just with the StreetWrites list.  

Anyone who wants to, have at this exercise, compliments of Mike Barker
from the Writers workshop list.  I think it's an excellent development
device for skills in dialogue about our beliefs.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Subject: EXERCISE: Do I really believe that?

Okay... here's today's game.

First, pick one of the following statements (down there a ways, you
can't miss them, there are 35 of them.)

The easy way?  Pick a number from one to seven.  Got it?  Now pick a
number from one to five.  Got that?  Multiply them together (yes, you
can use a calculator...and the answer is?)  Look down the list and pick
out your statement.

(the slightly harder way?  read through the list and pick one that you
know seems obvious to you, but other people seem to ignore or not
understand often.)

Next do a little exploration.  Write down your statement in the form
that you would ordinarily think of it in (i.e., make it YOUR
statement).  Then underneath, write these two questions: "If that
weren't true, why would it upset me?  What would it mean to me?"
Think about that, and sum up the automatic response that you would
make to that challenge.  Write down that new statement, and ask
yourself again: "If that weren't true, why would it upset me?  What
would it mean to me?"  Keep going for three to five steps, or more if
you want to.

Then look at the assumptions that are contained in your chain of
statements.  Look for all-or-nothing thinking, overgeneralizations,
mental filters that only show you one part, disqualification of the
positive, jumps to conclusions based on mindreading and predictions of
disasters, magnifications or minimizations, emotional reasoning,
should's and shouldn't and musty musts, labeling and mislabeling, and
personalizations that may be threaded into your statements.

Ask yourself three questions: (from p. 289)

"1.  Is it to my advantage to maintain this particular belief?
 2.  Is this belief really true and valid?
 3.  What specific steps can I take that will allow me to rid myself of
attitudes that are self-defeating and unrealistic, and substitute others
that are more objective and more self-enhancing?"

Consider the various possible stances towards this belief that are
possible, and why different people may have different views of the

And then "play out" the story.  Whether in a poem, story, or other
format, show us the possibilities.  Maybe your heroine believes that her
value depends on how others think about her, and someone on the football
team is spreading nasty rumors about her?

Or perhaps you want to re-create the tale of Sisyphus, building on the
struggle to make everyone happy all the time, and being crushed time
after time by that stone?  A rhyming we will go, a rhythm taps our toe,
hi-ho-the merry o, a poem for to blow?  (okay, I'll stop there, but you
don't have to...)

[that was probably too fast.  First, pick a statement and explore your
own thinking about it.  Second, take that thinking and package it as a
story, poem, essay, or something else.  I.e., take the general statement
and show us one or more scenes with someone trying to apply that
abstraction, to make it concrete and real in their life.  The
conflict(s) can come from alternate positions, or just from the normal
difficulties of trying to apply such a general statement...]

>From Feeling Good by David D. Burns, M.D., ISBN 0-380-71803-0

(p. 272 ff)

1. Criticism will obviously upset the person who receives the criticism.
2. It is best to give up my own interests in order to please other
3. I need other people's approval in order to be happy.
4. If someone important to me expects me to do something, than I really
should do it.
5.  My value as a person depends greatly on what others think of me.

6.  I cannot find happiness without being loved by another person.
7.  If others dislike you, you are bound to be less happy.
8.  If people whom I care about reject me, it means there is something
wrong with me.
9.  If a person I love does not love me, it means I am unloveable.
10. Being isolated from others is bound to lead to unhappiness.

11. If I am to be a worthwhile person, I must be truly outstanding in at
least one major respect.
12. I must be a useful, productive, creative person or life has no
13. People who have good ideas are more worthy than those who do not.
14. If I do not do as well as other people, it means I am inferior.
15.  If I fail at my work, then I am a failure as a person.

16.  If you cannot do something well, there is little point in doing it
at all.
17.  It is shameful for a person to display his weaknesses.
18.  A person should try to be the best at everything he undertakes.
19.  I should be upset if I make a mistake.
20.  If I don't set the highest standards for myself, I am likely to end
up a second-rate person.

21.  If I strongly believe I deserve something, I have reason to expect
that I should get it.
22.  It is necessary to become frustrated if you find obstacles to
getting what you want.
23.  If I put other people's needs before my own, they should help me
when I need something from them.
24.  If I am a good husband (or wife), then my spouse is bound to love
25.  If I do nice things for someone, I can anticipate that they will
respect me and treat me just as well as I treat them.

26.  I should assume responsibility for how people feel and behave if
they are close to me.
27.  If I criticize the way someone does something and they become angry
or depressed, this means I have upset them.
28.  To be a good, worthwhile, moral person, I must try to help everyone
who needs it.
29.  If a child is having emotional or behavioral difficulties, this
shows that the child's parents have failed in some important respect.
30.  I should be able to please everybody.

31.  I cannot expect to control how I feel when something bad happens.
32.  There is no point in trying to change upsetting emotions because
they are a valid and inevitable part of daily living.
33.  My moods are primarily created by factors that are largely beyond
my control, such as the past, or body chemistry, or hormone cycles, or
biorhythms, or chance, or fate.
34.  My happiness is largely dependent on what happens to me.
35.  People who have the marks of success (good looks, social status,
wealth, or fame) are bound to be happier than those who do not.

These are the clusters:

1.  Approval (1-5)  do you measure your self-esteem based on how people
react to you and what they think of you?

2.  Love (6-10) do you base your worth on whether or not you are loved?

3.  Achievement (11-15) do you base your worth and satisfation on your
external productivity or your internal creativity?

4.  Perfectionism (16-20)  do you demand perfection or simply
meaningful, flexible standards?

5.  Entitlement (21-25)  do you feel entitled to things or do you
negotiate for them?

6.  Omnipotence (26-30)  do you see yourself as the center of your
universe and hold yourself responsible for much of what happens?

7.  Autonomy (31-35)  do you believe that your potential for joy and
self-esteem comes from outside or do you know that you are the creator
of your own thoughts, attitudes, and feelings?

Note that (p. 269) "...there is no 'right' or 'wrong' answer to any
statement.  To decide whether a given attitude is typical of your own
philosophy, recall how you look at things _most of the time_."

(In the book, he suggests rating yourself somewhere in Agree Strongly,
Agree Slightly, Neutral, Disagree Slightly, and Disagree Very Much.
Then use -2 for Agree Strongly to +2 for Disagree Very Much and add up
the totals for each cluster.  (p. 284) "...a positive score represents
an area where you are psychologically _strong_.  A negative score
represents an area where you're emotionally _vulnerable_."  And there is
a section on interpreting the scores...)

and today's burning question--when you play mental games, where do you
bounce the ball?

[end forward]

~~ Anitra
http://www.speakeasy.org/~anitra/projects.html for a full list of websites
and webrings because if I list them all here, you will be SO mad at me ...