Friday, December 30, 2011

Year in Review?

There's something about the New Year that compels people to look back and take inventory of the year that's ending, cataloging the good, the bad, and the ugly. News specials offer a postmortem on the year's political and world events. Other programs remind us of all of the year's celebrity and media gossip. Closer to home, communities and families remember losses and achievements.

As individuals, we and our clients are likely to think back over personal losses and achievements, opportunities seized and missed, regrets and relief. Yet, somehow, saying goodbye to the year itself seems to make the grief and regrets more poignant than the successes. We should expect clients to revisit their losses, real and metaphorical, in one ways or another during the transition between years.

Yet, in spite of the almost-inevitable phenomenon of the year in review, we can work to keep the review from becoming a distortion - magnification, minimization, overgeneralizing, personalizing, and other cognitive distortions may all be applied to experiences from the year. Catastrophizing and fortune-telling may be used to then project negative events into the year to come. However, all of that runs counter to mindfulness (which is, by definition, focused on the present moment) and contentment. Cultivating awareness that an experience was just an experience - a discrete moment in life that need not define the rest of the year, the year to come, or the life in general - can help our clients (and ourselves) move forward unencumbered. 

I will close with these lyrics from the song Seasons of Love, from the musical Rent, which suggest a different mindset for the "year in review:"

How Do You Measure - Measure A Year? In Daylights - In Sunsets - In Midnights - In Cups Of Coffee - In Inches - In Miles - In Laughter - In Strife 

In - Five Hundred Twenty-Five Thousand Six Hundred Minutes. How Do You Measure A Year In The Life? 

In Truth That She Learned, Or In Times That He Cried, In Bridges He Burned, Or The Way That She Died?

How About Love? Measure In Love.

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