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She sees me and does a double take. If the two of us are heading into the same bathroom, clearly, one of us is getting it wrong. She looks for the signage, confirming that she really did see a stick figure with a skirt. Yes, she is in the right place. Take meQuilibrium member Beth, forty-nine, for example. When her son strikes out on the ball field, she immediately worries he won't be chosen for the team. That feeling may or may not be warranted; Believing that it does is emotional reasoning. I was giving a presentation, and one of the attendees was staring out the window. I immediately thought, `Oh no, I must not have prepared enough to make this engaging. I immediately personalized while my colleague externalized. For all we know, the offender was stressed because he had a dentist appointment. Emotional reasoning is a circular trap, because it keeps the emotion in place. This applies to whatever emotion you're experiencing. Even in the first session quoted above we find members very open with each other, sensing somehow the support that was even then present, and that would grow as the meetings continued. Kay was able to talk about a hurt that she had kept to herself for two years. Jane revealed herself to the other women present, a risk she had not dared take before, according to her diary notes of the meetings. Mary, Laura, and Betty tentatively described a source of their unhappiness. Only Anne was dubious and uncertain, remaining quiet for this session and several more until she was confident of the support of the group, then describing the fears and torturing dreams she had, and perhaps in the end gaining more than anyone else in the group. The reader will surely want to ask how one can be certain that attitudes of confidence and respect will pervade a group, a question that points up one of the differences between individual and group therapy.

In the single client-therapist relationship, these crucial attitudes can usually be assured, for the entire training of the therapist has stressed the importance of these principles and his momentary concentration is directed toward communicating them to his client. But in the group others are present, and they are not likely at first to be able to express such feelings. They are too bound up within themselves, and they are probably little aware of the importance of much else beyond a need to find relief from their own distress. This difficulty is something of a paradox in group therapy, being at once a source of weakness and of strength. Reassured, she takes a closer look at me. This time she reads me as a woman, deciding we're both in the right place. At the same time, it's clear to both of us that I've witnessed her confusion. Her thought process was displayed on her bewildered face. Now she's mortified and clearly worried that by first assuming I was not a woman, she's insulted me. She offers me an awkward, stumbling apology. Yes, the interaction hurt. But it wasn't her double take that made me feel bad. In fact, the exact opposite is true: I liked it. Typically, I code as woman to most people, and that's largely how I'm treated. In this particular circumstance, if you're angry, then that's your confirmation that your teenager violated your rights. If you feel guilty, you'll hold it as proof that you're to blame for the blowup between you. If you feel sad, it may trigger the belief that you're losing touch with your teenager or that your relationship just isn't as strong as you thought it was (the ideal/real gap). Take Action The good news is that for each thinking trap, there is a specific and actionable escape route to lead you back to serenity and sanity. Choose the one that feels the most germane to you;

While you may fall into all of the traps at one time or another, choosing the one (or at most two) that causes the greatest havoc in your life will yield you the biggest return without being too taxing. Remember, we take these mental shortcuts because our ninety cubic inches of brain space are overwhelmed, so it will only make things worse if you are scanning your thinking for all seven of these. Familiarize yourself with the escape route for your most common trap so that you're prepared the next time (today, perhaps? ESCAPE A PERSONALIZING TRAP If these important attitudes do not develop in a group, the undertaking is likely to be of little benefit, and the therapy a failure. If, however, they are nurtured by the therapist and reinforced by the affirmative feelings of the members of the group, they are likely to be significantly more effective in the group situation than in individual therapy. It is one thing to be understood and accepted by a therapist, it is a considerably more potent experience to be understood and accepted by several people who are also honestly sharing their feelings in a joint search for a more satisfying way of life. More than anything else, this is the something added that makes group therapy a qualitatively different experience from individual therapy. A characteristic of individual therapy that one would not expect to find in group therapy is the feeling of direction and singleness of purpose. The individual problems of six individuals could reasonably be expected to exert a centrifugal effect on the group. But in fact this does not seem to happen. In both content and feeling, groups grow to a remarkable cohesiveness that parallels the unity evident in individual therapy. For one thing, diverse as symptoms and situations are, there are only a few kinds of problems that people can have. Time and time again, the breakdown of interpersonal relations and the attendant feelings of self-worthlessness provide the content for group discussions. But my intrinsic sense of gender is not woman. I don't really relate to it, so when people see me and think woman, I feel erased. I don't feel seen for who I truly am. It was in that moment when she wasn't sure whether I was a woman that I felt truly seen. Almost as if she understood, for a fleeting moment, that I was not a woman. What hurt wasn't her confusion, it was her apology.

It said to me that not fitting into a category of woman, as I don't, is wrong and shameful. Implicitly, her apology for not seeing me as a woman meant that something is wrong with me and my body and the signals I send out. I'm genderqueer. Genderqueer, similar to the term non-binary, refers to a person who doesn't identify as either a man or a woman. Personalizers experience sadness, guilt, shame, and embarrassment. When these emotions surface, ask yourself the following: I must be blaming myself for this problem, and though in part that might be true, what else is going on here? What's one thing that someone else did--or that circumstances created--that contributed to this problem, and what's one thing I can do about that? This helps bring some much-needed balance to the situation and broadens your perspective. Three-quarters of getting out of a thinking trap is escaping the tunnel vision it creates, blocking options from your view. For example, meQuilibrium member Robin, thirty-eight, is a classic personalizer. If she texts a friend and doesn't get a response pronto, she starts to think that maybe her friend is upset with her. She becomes preoccupied, wondering if she has done something wrong or hurt her friend's feelings somehow. This leads her to feel sadness, shame, and guilt, which just further mucks up her day. But equipped with her newfound ability to escape the cloudy thinking caused by personalizing, Robin is able to come up with other possible causes, as well. But perhaps more important than similarity of content is the unity that comes from a sharing of feelings. In the excerpt below, two group members, differing by some twenty years in age and perceiving their problems to be quite different, come to an intimate understanding on the basis of feeling: Mr Helm: I thought that there was so much difference in our two ages that there might be a gap there. Somehow he closed the gap the other day. I feel that underneath we all have that same feeling. So many of our problems are all the same.

Therapist: I'm not sure, Mr Helm, that I understand just how you see that relationship. Mr Helm: Well, I had the feeling that somehow I couldn't quite understand the scope of his problem, and how much this problem really meant to him. Yet, as he spoke on Monday, I had the feeling of great empathy with him. Not so much that I have the same problem, but because I could see how another person feels carrying a burden like that round with you all the time. Being perceived as a girl, and then as a woman, has always made me feel alienated--from others and from myself--and no amount of feminist analysis or psychotherapy has helped me move beyond that. I know, of course, that there are many ways to do woman. That haircuts and clothing--even the category woman--are social constructs and that some women are more comfortable in so-called men's suits than clothing designed for women. That some women play football or can change the oil in a car. A woman doesn't have to present herself as uber-feminine, or feminine at all, to be a woman. For a long time, that's the argument I made to myself. Maybe I was just a different kind of woman, one that didn't adhere to femininity and the usual constructs? You might be thinking that, too, wondering, Why can't you just expand your definition of woman and take your place there? Understand that the culturally accepted definition is too limiting, but who you are is still woman? Believe me, I've thought about that. Perhaps her friend is just busy right now. Maybe her friend just has a different response rate to text messages and doesn't have the quick trigger that Robin has. Maybe she isn't near her phone. This new thinking puts her in a calmer place until her friend finds the time to respond, saving her needless angst that only adds to her stress. ESCAPE AN EXTERNALIZING TRAP As with personalizing, externalizing is easier to detect through our emotions than our thoughts.