The telltale emotions that signal you may have fallen into an externalizing trap are anger and frustration. The next time you feel angry and frustrated when confronted with a stressful situation, say the following to yourself: Okay, I am blaming other people or circumstances for this problem right now, and that could be true. But what's one thing that I did to contribute to this problem and one thing I can do about it right now? Again, broader perspective means you are free to see the problem from all angles and have more resources to solve it. Because even though we may have different problems, the feelings these problems create are pretty much the same, and, uh, the feeling that he's going around carrying the same burden all the time -- well, thinking about it made me feel much closer to him. Miss West: That's better said. That's what I was trying to say. Therapist: You feel closer to him not because of a similarity of problem but because of a similarity of feeling. Mr Helm: By and large, I think that has been typical of the whole group. Each of us has been able to express our feelings, and the others have accepted it. There are also similarities between individual and group therapy on the level of technique. These may be summarized here and illustrated at greater length later. As in individual therapy, techniques are important as media for expressing the attitudes described above. They grow out of these attitudes and are an expression of them, but they are also whittled down and shaped to usefulness by accumulated experience in therapeutic relationships. For decades, I took that to heart. I've studied feminist theory. I've explored gender academically and through psychotherapy, as a professional and as a client. I've questioned whether it was a difficult childhood that caused me to reject the title of woman so I wouldn't have to feel I've failed as a woman. Or whether I was just looking for access to male privilege. I have even explored the question of whether my short stature--I'm 5 feet tall--makes me excessively needy for attention!

The answer I always come back to--one that rises up from within me--is that gender identity is intrinsic and deeply felt, going well beyond choice or adjustment or history or biology. I simply don't experience myself as a woman. Nor do I understand myself as man. That is why I feel most comfortable as genderqueer, a category that defies definition. You put the locus of control back into your realm and from there can take effective action. BUT IT REALLY IS THEIR FAULT! A teenager who takes an unsanctioned joyride in your car, the colleague who didn't get you the materials in time to complete your project, or the inconsiderate driver who cuts you off on the highway do, indeed, bear responsibility in the situation. But if that's where the story begins and ends for you, then you're stuck with the problem--and with the frustration and anger. Sometimes anger is warranted, and we don't necessarily need to let it go. But externalizing (and personalizing) is a lot like a broken watch: two times a day you might be right, but most of the time, you'll be wrong in your assessment--or, at the very least, incomplete in your understanding of the causes of the problem and, hence, of its numerous possible solutions. ESCAPE A MAXIMIZING AND MINIMIZING TRAP Remember, maximizing and minimizing color your outlook, so all you can see is the negative in a situation. Talk about a trap! For those of you who tend to maximize and minimize, we have a simple strategy. Essentially, what the therapist attempts to do is to reconstruct the perceptual field of the individual at the moment of expression, and to communicate this understanding with skill and sensitivity. The various terms that have been used to describe the kinds of statements that the therapist makes in individual therapy -- such as clarification of feeling, reflection of feeling, restatement of content, simple acceptance, structuring, and so on -- are appropriate to the group situation as well, and there are other similarities that should be mentioned in passing. The concern with diagnosis is minimal, interpretation is not relied on as a therapeutic instrument, insight is not considered to be an essential change-agent in the process of learning, transference attitudes are handled just like all other affect-laden expressions, and the most effective predictor of possible gain from the therapy is considered to be the experience itself. These are the similarities. And There Are Differences Group therapy has identifiable characteristics not found in the counseling relationship when only two persons are involved.

One of the most important of these distinctive characteristics lies in the fact that the group situation brings into focus the adequacy of interpersonal relationships and provides an immediate opportunity for discovering new and more satisfying ways of relating to people. It seems increasingly clear that the discrepancies in the perception of self, which are the source of the discomfort that brings a person to therapy, are products largely of the experiences the individual has had with a relatively few persons who have been important in his life. When these experiences are very hurtful, the individual will hold himself together by adopting a pattern of problem-solving which is stiff and constricted and not too efficient, but which leaves him with some sense of control in his life and enables him to stave off complete disorganization, a frightening and ever-imminent prospect. He is tremendously in need of some experience which will enable him to come closer to others, and discover thereby those denied aspects of himself which are important in his relationship with other people. In this gray area, I feel less confined by false expectations, less erased and freer to be myself. It's not uncommon for my declaration of being genderqueer to be met with eye rolls. Particularly if you are cisgender, never having experienced this kind of misalignment yourself, you may find it hard to believe I'm not a woman. It's common for those with identities centered in dominant culture (who are straight or white,+ for example) to consider their own experiences universal and be unaware of others' very different experiences. This is an example of cisgender entitlement, in which people privilege their own perceptions and interpretations of other people's genders over the way those people understand themselves. Entitlement can cause people to scoff at identities like trans or genderqueer and to pathologize those who claim those labels. It includes many diverse ways in which gender identity is experienced. Unacknowledged entitlement runs rampant in all categories of dominant identities. Consider white people who declare they are color-blind, for example. When you break down the language--color-blind = People of Color, we don't see you--it no longer seems so virtuous. It may sound a little hokey as you read it, but we have proof that it works. At the end of the day today, write down three good things that happened to you from the time you woke up until now. They don't have to be earth-shattering events; Tomorrow, right after you rub the sleep from your eyes, before you make breakfast, check e-mail, go to the gym, or do anything else, read those three things. That's all; At the end of tomorrow, do the same thing.

Write down three more good things that happened to you that day, adding them to that same list. The next morning, read those six things. Do this exercise for ten days, and by the end, you'll have thirty good things written. You will very quickly find that by seeking out the good, you will have recalibrated your mind to become more attuned to the positive. Some severely disturbed people may find the group situation too threatening and require individual therapy. But for those who can take the first steps in opening themselves to others and allowing others to get closer to them, the experience is likely to be profoundly healing. The relatively normal person who is less himself because of continued perceived pressures may gain even more from the group experience. People in our culture are likely to be isolated. Eric Fromm, in a sociological analysis of personality, has forcefully described the aloneness of modern man and the rootless quality of his life. Even the casual observer can verify Fromm's findings by regarding the facility that people develop in keeping others away from them. Physical proximity is forced upon people and is even sought out, but considerable skill is developed to prevent intimacy of selves. Mechanical entertainment is welcomed as an instrument to obliterate the last possible chance of simple relatedness to others. But this isolation so eagerly sought is a poor mess of pottage, and man knows it with a sure wisdom. No better evidence can be found than in the response that people often make to group therapy, where the expectation is that people will come closer to one another. People of Color, meanwhile, know that white people do see them differently, as other, and have no choice but to live in a racialized reality. No one wants to have conversations in which others suggest we don't exist, let alone matter. Yet, I find myself arguing again and again in discussions and interviews, for the very fact of my existence, the reality of my daily life, while being shot down by people who have not only not lived my experience but also lack the humility to acknowledge as much. Projecting their biases onto me, they say to get over myself. They never consider that the problem lies in their limited worldview, not in me. Scientific ideas change over time, and if you are caught in the old worldview that sex and gender are binary categories--or that you can know someone's sex or gender by looking at them--it's time to update your education.

It is now standardly accepted among those who study these issues that neither sex nor gender are binary--and this is not just cultural, but biological. Both sex and gender are social constructs, and the relationship between an individual's sex and gender is complex. The best way to navigate the complexities of knowing others' gender identity is to lighten up on your ideas about categorizing people and recognize the authority of each individual to define their own gender. For those who have a hard time accepting genderqueer as an identity, there's an easy rule of thumb I'd like to suggest, which can be applied across the range of marginalized identities: We recommend doing this for ten days initially, and repeating it whenever you feel yourself being pulled back into habitual negative thinking. ESCAPE A MIND READING TRAP Gigi, thirty-one, was harboring a decent amount of resentment toward her husband regarding her not getting enough alone time amidst their busy family schedule. Eventually--and unsurprisingly--she lashed out one day and fumed, This is ridiculous. All I want is to be able to go to yoga on Saturday mornings . Gigi's husband looked at her incredulously. He literally had no idea what she was talking about. In fact, he actually expected her to be at yoga on Saturday mornings and figured she just chose to blow it off. He didn't want to seem like he was bugging her if she had fallen off the fitness wagon, so he stayed quiet. The heat of the argument quickly dissipated when they saw the needless morass of misunderstanding that their mind reading had created. The opportunity is welcomed and made the most of. As one girl expressed it: I also recognize now, whereas I was unable before, that security along economic lines does not necessarily lead to emotional satisfaction. It is with the latter that I am now concerned, and from my present vantage point, it seems that I will have to find these feelings of security, certainty, acceptance, and affection among friends, men, women, or both. For me, this is a big change in attitude because I have always fought against building up such affectional ties outside of the family, and, actually, refused to admit their necessity for a satisfying and rich life. The risk always seemed too great;