071: Ask David — anger . . . great thinkers . . . narcissistic bosses . . . social media bullying . . . and more!

In today’s podcast, David and Fabrice address many thought-provoking questions submitted by listeners like you:

  • Jonny asked two questions: #1: What do I do if I am using the Five Secrets and I feel angry? If I use the Disarming Technique, isn’t there a danger that I might not express my own feelings? And isn’t this the same as your “Hidden Emotion” Model, where we don’t express our feelings due to excessive niceness?
  • Jonny #2: What great thinkers inspired your work when you were creating the Five Secrets of Effective Communication? Were you influenced by Martin Buber?
  • Pilar: How would you use the Five Secrets if you’re attacked in public by a narcissistic boss? Should you use the Disarming Technique? Won’t that make you look weak? should you only use the Five Secrets in one-on-one situations?
  • Harry: You mentioned that the technique of Self-Monitoring is rarely effective. Why is this?
  • JP: Are there books on CBT for children? Do you have assessment tests for teenagers and children?
  • Tom: How would you help young people who are being bullied in social media. Many of them commit suicide, and that probably only represents the tip of the iceberg.

We love your questions. Keep them coming!


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8 thoughts on “071: Ask David — anger . . . great thinkers . . . narcissistic bosses . . . social media bullying . . . and more!

  1. Thanks for the great insight about the number of negative thoughts not necessarily being an issue, but rather, whether or not one believes the negative thought. Trying to suppress a thought usually makes the thought stronger in my experience. I hope you can dedicate an episode to religious OCD/Scrupulosity. I’ve come across a lot of people on OCD message boards who fear they committed the “unpardonable sin” by blaspheming the Holy Spirit and that they will be condemned to Hell because of it. That thought can not be proven or disproven in this life so it is difficult to provide the sufferer with assurance.

    • Hi Rob, great question as usual. The therapeutic error is trying to “help” someone because you think s/he has a problem. Therapists have a great deal of trouble overcoming this codependent tendency, which is the cause of most therapeutic failure. The question for the patient, after a period of empathy, would be, “Is there something you’ve been talking about that you want help with? I’ve got some terrific tools, and would love to work with you to overcome your symptoms, but if I read you right, you’re not asking for help with the problems you’ve been describing? Am I reading you right?” Or something along those lines. And this “invitation step” (the beginning of Paradoxical Agenda Setting) can only be done if the patient gives you an “A” on empathy, and feels totally understood and accepted. If the patient says no, I am not asking for help with my scrupulosity, then you can ask if there’s anything else he or she wants help with. If, in contrast, he or she DOES want help with the scrupulosity, you can then have the patient fill our a Daily Mood Log, focusing on one moment he or she is upset, and wants help with, and then continue with Paradoxical Agenda Setting, including Positive Reframing, with the therapist always taking the voice of the patient’s resistance. Also I would ask, “what kind of help would you be looking for in today’s session? If something fabulous happens, a kind of miracle, what miracle would you be asking for?” If the patient asks for perfection, or a reversal of previous “sins,” I would explain that we are not offering that today in our cafe, only the blue plate special, so to speak. For example, would she or he want to feel relief, and have all the symptoms of guilt and shame and hopelessness disappear, given that he or she is, and will continue to be, flawed?
      I know this might be hard to grasp from an email, but that is the general direction. I never try to “help” someone who is resisting, as that always leads to more resistance and ultimately, therapeutic failure.
      Also, the Hidden Emotion model is crucial in the treatment of OCD, along with the Motivational, Cognitive, and Exposure Models.
      If this makes no sense now, don’t worry about it. In a role play, where one of us played the patient and the other played the therapist, it would be suddenly obvious. Maybe at some point I will be able to offer that, to give these Q and A exchanges better depth and greater clarity! I just love these resistance issues, especially as I now have such powerful tools for busting, or melting away, resistance, using innovative and exciting new TEAM-CBT methods.

  2. Hi David,

    Not sure you have already covered this. Did we cover how to use five secrets of communication with demanding people who frequently use FEAR to control others?Usually their demands are unreasonable and they just want things to happen their way without having empathy for others. When they try to control others by bullying or showing their anger, I think some of them maynot even be feeling angry but using it to manipulate others. Its quite stressful to deal with such individuals in professional as well as personal relationships, especially when the stakes are high like an important project or a sinking relationship.

    • Thanks Rajesh, I always appreciate your great questions! When it comes to Five Secrets, I find it far more useful to ask a specific questions. For example, what did the other person say to you, and what did you say next? Then I can give a far more meaningful answer. When these questions exist in the abstract, on a general level, there is just too much room for slippage! Things are rarely the way they are described, once you look at a specific moment in the conflict. For more on this, see my book, Feeling Good Together, or send me a specific example to comment on. All the best, david

  3. Thanks David for your prompt and valuable answer. I dont have any specific instance that I recall now. But, will make a note in future. I will refer the book you suggested. I have read all your books but, the only remaining is 10 days to self esteem. They have made me a better version of myself ☺. Going more on the question I asked. I have also noticed that when someone usually the person who has power over you makes unreasonable demands on us we possibly make ourselves Anxious or angry depending on the situation. In short this person can really push our buttons to feel these unhealthy feelings. Usually we don’t think straight while feeling these negative emotions. Can we still persist to apply the five secrets although we are under emotional turbulence or give the emotions a little vent out and then consciously choose for a healthy response. This can be difficult and our emotional vent out can have negative practical results. Sorry to be generic again. But, if you have any appropriate case you may discuss. Thank you again.

    • Thanks, Rajesh. When you find yourself getting upset in a conflict with another person, it can be very important to do a Daily Mood Log so you can pinpoint and challenge the thoughts that are upsetting you. In most cases, these thoughts will be distorted. Remember–another person’s statements could never affect you one way or the other. Only your negative thoughts can affect you.

      One reason (among many others) that relationship problems can be so challenging is that you have to manage two dialogues at the same time: the INNER dialogue (that’s where the DML can help a lot) and the OUTER dialogue (that’s where you use the Five Secrets of Effective Communication.) The techniques used in managing the inner and outer dialogues are radically different.


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