Writing Exercise 2: Increasing skills by exploring explanatory styles with a current situation that feels hard.

Based on the work of psychologist Martin E. P. Seligman. See Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life. New York: Vintage Books, 2006.



What happened or is happening?


What am I telling myself about this?


Is this about my whole life, or just one area? (are there areas of my life that are better)


Will this hard thing be happening forever, or is it temporary? (will things shift on their own, or is it possible for me to change it in some way)


Is this hard experience based on something fixed in me, or is it because of either external circumstances or something I can change in myself? (develop skills)




One thought on “Writing Exercise 2: Increasing skills by exploring explanatory styles with a current situation that feels hard.

  1. How did a child

    built from my energy, my blood, the best morsels
    shunted her way, turn frail, too weak

    too traumatized to work, eat without distress,
    walk without fear?

    Marble from Italy lined the kitchen
    but the oven burnt the feast
    and the guests turn away, empty.

    Who is to blame: no one.
    out of life times the torrent of pain
    runs deeper than genes

    and surfaces here, now, in her
    to be healed. As she is more than daughter
    I am more than mother

    and give her her own life
    to chart. I am no longer the mother
    rising in the dark to cook

    the few foods she could digest
    before going to school
    and coming home to collapse.

    I am no longer swimming with her
    in my arms across the wide
    dark river of illness.

    She learned to swim
    or must, away and apart
    older, taking on this pain

    to heal. Other children
    grew tall like redwoods,
    limbs wide, verdant, secure

    homes to music, birds
    welcoming the wind.
    I was haven for all,

    not failure. Will her pain
    go on forever? No, even pain
    that spans lifetimes vanishes

    before the eternal, surging
    forward to assert itself
    as joy and vitality, when the door

    is opened. We can smooth her way
    as she seeks healers who match her,
    struggles with pain that has dogged her

    here, turns to face it down.
    The best I can offer is my confidence
    she is doing exactly what her soul

    demands, and I offer my joy
    in admiration, and feed my own life
    as example: field, river, tree.

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