“I'm so upset,” my client Myra exclaimed the other day. “I've been doing this whole dating app thing for almost five months now. Finally, I met a guy I actually liked: Paul. I mean, he has just about everything I'm looking for! But now it’s been four days since our last date, and I haven’t heard from him. What did I do wrong? How is this possible? He must not like me.
Why do none of the guys I like, like me back? I am never going to find my 'one'!"
Those of you on the dating scene can probably relate to this all-too-common thought train. Even if you're not currently dating, there are probably areas of your life where your anxieties run away with you. Is it your ability to get in shape? To find a career you love?
Here's the wacky thing about us humans: We take a simple event, like a potential mate not calling us for four days, and spin it around and around in our minds until it becomes a calamity. We assign meaning to something that, by itself, may not mean anything. The only thing we know for sure is that Myra’s date didn’t call. The rest is pure imagination. And we suffer. Tremendously.
There is a term for this type of imagination proposed by psychiatrist Dr. Aaron Beck and popularized by Dr. David Burns in 1980. The term is cognitive distortion. Understanding how you cognitively distort is key to breaking free of some of your most toxic mental traps.
By seeing these thoughts as distortions rather than reality, you can actually free yourself from them. It’s like how, as a kid, you realized that there really wasn’t a monster in the corner. It was just a shadow thrown by a doll on a pile of books. Once you realized what was causing the specter, you could rest peacefully.
Think about an unhappy moment in your life this past week. Got it? Now take a look at some of the most common distortions I see in my clients, and see if you can identify the one that affected you in the rough moment you had this past week.
You selectively see only the negative details of a situation while ignoring the positive ones. For example, Myra chose to focus on this one man not calling her as opposed to noticing all of the men who were paying attention to her. This “glass half-empty” distortion will leave you forever dissatisfied with your life, as you will be able to find negative elements in any situation.
You exaggerate the impact of one incident on yourself and your future. For example, Myra catastrophized that because Paul didn’t call her for four days, she would end up alone. It is highly unlikely that this one experience with Paul could have such a sweeping impact.
3. Jumping to conclusions about others
You assume that you know why someone did what they did. In this instance, Myra assumed that Paul didn’t call her because he didn’t like her. While that is certainly one possible explanation, there are others: that he was slammed with work or that he felt like he always initiated contact and wondered if she would. It usually pays to ask.
Ever heard the saying “The world does not revolve around you?” It sounds obvious, but we act like we don't believe it sometimes. Myra assumed that Paul didn’t call her back because of something she had done. When, in reality, it might not have had anything to do with her: He may have gotten back together with his ex or been busy taking care of his mother. While, yes, people do care about you, they are usually far more absorbed in their own lives.
5. Global labeling
Humans are programmed to put labels on things so we can navigate the world around us. This fruit is a strawberry. Earthquakes are dangerous. Sometimes, labeling can hinder you instead of helping you. For example, labels like “I am not good at networking” or “my brother is terrible at communicating” put both you and your brother in a box and make it less likely that you will get what you want. Is networking important to your career success? (Answer: Yes!) Then why would you want to label yourself as bad at it?
6. The fallacy of fairness
How often do you say things like, “It’s just not fair. I work harder than Joe, and yet he’s being promoted over me!” You feel wronged and angry. Yet there really is no law that suggests the world should be fair—especially by your admittedly self-centered definition of fairness. When you let go of that need for fairness, it gives you a chance to decide how to react to what is, instead of feeling wronged by what isn’t.
(via Mind, Body, Green)
""""One of the most mortifying moments I experienced in my theatrical career was when I was asked to bring the entirely African-American cast of a new musical we were workshopping, a new piece by an African-American librettist and composer, across the street to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and up into the plush boardroom so they could perform a song or two for the board of directors. I wanted to say something, but I didn't. For one thing, it would take an invaluable 45 minutes to an hour out of the creative team's limited time together. But... every year we had to do the same old song and dance for the board to remind them that yes, we did do new plays and musicals, so yes, it was sometimes a good idea to expose the board to new voices, to the vibrancy of an exciting work in progress.
You all know where this is going, don't you? I led the team in. The talent in that team! The writer/composer himself and the cast, lauded veterans of the stage and the most promising members of the next generation of acting giants. And there was our board. White, as white as can be, white white white white. And very comfortable. They'd just been served lunch, I believe. My theater spared no expense in pleasing our board and catering to their demands (oh my god, I'm feeling such rage right now! I'm pretty sure we had a staff member who was mostly dedicated to help our richest board members get house seats to shows on Broadway and the West End. But I digress...)
The only black face in the audience seated at the conference table? The only person of color? The head of our education department, of course. My heart went out to her.
The cast sang a song from the show. They did it. And they brought it. Because they were and are professionals. And the very pillars of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion reverberated down to the parking lot. It was breathtaking.
And I had just been complicit in the remaking of a scene for the millionth time: black bodies and voices entertaining white audiences, an institution raising money on the backs and voices of black bodies.
I was too mortified to apologize to our writer and to our cast, none of whom, I should add, expressed even an iota of discomfort. They were professionals, and they shone. And come to think of it, they'd probably all become accustomed to this scene. "It's just how theater works," they might have thought with a shrug of their shoulders. Or maybe they seethed inside, for the millionth time, when all they were trying to do is workshop a new musical.
Well, I apologize sincerely now to our writer and those actors. I wish I had had the courage to put my foot down. It is not how theater should work.
I quit the American theater on Valentine's Day 2016, so I've been out more than four years now. And honestly I don't plan to return, which is why I can write with such candor.
The heart of the problem, my friends, is with the non-profit structure, which is capitalism on steroids. Who are the bosses ultimately in an American institutional theater? The board of directors. Who are the board of directors? For the most part, those members of the community not with the strongest attachment to the art form but those with the deepest pockets. Often they're really not members of the community. They often just drop in. They are sometimes mere tourists.
It's no wonder that that board meeting was held in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. The theater, like most American theaters, had built its board of directors on the old opera model: You get the richest folks together, offer them galas and house seats and receptions and private recitals and showings (for which artists often don't get paid extra, mind you), you pamper them and make them feel more special and entitled than they already do, and then they'll write you big checks to support the kind of art they like, the kind of art they can bring their kids and grandkids to. AND they--not the artists, not the community--get to hire the institution's leadership.
It is a rotten model. Rotten to the core. How can any artistic institution claim to be working for and in the community with that model?
It's got to be torn down. It's got to be reinvented. And I have no idea what the next model will be. I really don't. And no, honestly I don't think government is the solution frankly. Some of the most bloated, self-satisfied, decadent theater I've ever seen was in Germany, where it was almost fully government-funded. Lots of bells and whistles and provocations and completely soul-dead.
I see amazing and galvanizing lists of demands recently being made and posted by theater artists of color. These are vital demands. But they don't address the central issue. As long as the ultimate bosses of an artistic institution remain the community's deepest pockets, nothing will change. Nothing. You'll be putting band-aids on a gaping wound. Sorry, but it's true.
So please figure something else out. Maybe for a few years you just avoid the institutions. You've already started. In the pandemic, so many of you are making amazing art without an institution. Find those who truly adore your work and ask them to fund it. Screw non-profit. Form a corporation and value your art art-making as a resource that profits you, your viewers/audience and your community. I have no idea.
But please don't return to a new version of the old. After the virus, after he's out of office, after police reform and nationwide conversations about race, after, after, after, begin something new. I can't wait to see what it is!”
Words: Pier Carlo Talenti
Video: Griffin Matthews
April Yvette Thompson