Corona Cast 3: Quieting Conflict / Boosting Love

My mother won’t follow my advice!

David and Rhonda are joined in today’s podcast by Alex Clarke, MD, a former student of David’s who is practicing TEAM therapy at the Feeling Good Institute in Mountain View, California, and by Zeina Halim, a TEAM therapist and student in David’s Tuesday Stanford psychotherapy training group.

In our last two podcasts (Corona Cast 1 and 2) (links) we focused on the impact of the corona crisis on internal feelings like depression, anxiety, panic, hopelessness, and so forth. In this week’s Corona Cast 3, we will switch our focus to the impact of the pandemic on personal relationships, using a real example. Zeina was concerned that her mother, aged 72, was not being sufficiently careful about social distancing. Zeina felt panicky because she feared her mother might get the virus and die.

However, Zeina’s mother is very self-reliant and independent, and didn’t take kindly to Zeina’s frequent reminders to do this or do that so as to be safe. They ended up arguing and feeling frustrated with each other.

Perhaps you’ve also run into problems with friends and loved ones because of the corona crisis. When people get confined into close quarters, under conditions of intense stress and uncertainty, clashes are almost inevitable.

When you’re angry with someone , you’ll nearly always be viewing the other person in a distorted way. For example, you may be telling yourself that s/he “should” not think, feel or behave the way he or she is thinking, feeling, or behaving. Of course, this is a classic other-directed “should statement.”

Or you may be telling yourself that the other person is being “stubborn” or “unreasonable” (Labeling; Mind-Reading). Or you may tell yourself that you’re right and the other person is wrong (All-or-Nothing Thinking; Blame). And in most cases, you’ll be telling yourself that the conflict is the other person’s fault and that you’re the innocent victim of his or her bad behavior (Blame.)

These are just a few of the cognitive distortions (link) that fuel conflict. But it’s these distorted thoughts, and NOT what the other person is thinking, feeling, or saying, that actually causes your negative feelings. You are making yourself angry–the other person is NOT causing your anger or frustration! You are creating these feelings. And the thoughts that trigger these feeling are wrong thoughts.

This can be a VERY hard pill to swallow. You, and not the person you’re mad at, are triggering your feelings of frustration and anger. In addition, the thoughts that upset you are not valid. They’re distorted, and just plain WRONG.

If you don’t like this message, you might want to stop reading! I get it! It is SO MUCH more rewarding to blame the other person!

In today’s podcast, we discuss and illustrate a sophisticated TEAM-CBT technique called “Forced Empathy” (link). Forced Empathy forces you see things from the perspective of someone you’re at odds with. It will ONLY be effective if you want a closer relationship with the person you’re at odds with. If you want to remain in battle–as most people do–then you’re welcome to do that. Go for it.

If, in contrast, you do want to feel closer and more loving, Forced Empathy can lead to a helpful shift in how you think about the person you’re angry with. When you suddenly see things through the eyes of the person you’re angry with, you may suddenly discover that your thoughts about the other person’s motives were not correct.

Alex and David describe how the technique works in a step-by-step way, and then illustrate it with a role-play between Zeina and her mother. This is a recreation of the technique they used live in the Stanford Tuesday group a couple weeks before the recording.

Forced Empathy proved to be extraordinarily helpful to Zeina, and brought tears to her eyes. Once she saw things from her mother’s perspective, the tone of their interactions suddenly softened, and the tension was replaced by feelings of love and acceptance.

Zeina was surprised to discover that, among other things, her mother, while not wanting to die, had no fear of death, but didn’t appreciate being constantly told what to do, or what not to do, and that she loved and admired Zeina tremendously.

Zeina also discovered that in the highly unlikely event that her mother did die, she would want to spend her last days or weeks with her Zeina, feeling close, and loving one another, instead of arguing.

Is this relevant to you and your friends and loved ones? In today’s podcast, we talk about how you can improve your relationships with friends and loved ones during these challenging times using the Five Secrets of Effective Communication.

We emphasized one of the important take home messages in podcast 164 on “How to Help, and How NOT to Help.” Sometimes, people just want someone to care about them and listen, without having someone trying to help them or give them advice. Learning to do this can be incredibly freeing, but it’s not easy, because so many of us are addicted to “helping.”

If you want some additional help, check out David’s book, Feeling Good Together which you can purchase inexpensively on amazon.

Thanks for tuning in, and let us know what you thought about today’s program!

Until next time,

Rhonda, Alex, Zeina, and David

Dr. Alex Clarke specializes in TEAM-CBT, and can be reached at  Zeina Halim, MA, AMFT specializes in the treatment of TEAM-CBT executives wanting to boost performance, as well as anyone aged 16 or older struggling with depression or anxiety. She can be reached at She is supervised and employed by Matthew May, MD.

You can reach Dr. Burns at Dr. Rhonda Barovsky practices in Walnut Creek, California, and specializes in TEAM-CBT for depression, anxiety, and relationship problems. She can be reached at

Today’s featured photo of Zeina is courtesy of Nancy Mueller photograpy in Los Altos California.

If you like our jingle music and would like to support the composer Brett Van Donsel, you may download it here.

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Health care workers face incredibly challenging times, having to fight a potentially fatal epidemic without adequate supplies or protection. The TEAM therapy community is now offering free TEAM-CBT treatment for 100 health care workers in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties. For more information, please contact the Feeling Good Foundation.

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This is the cover of my new book, Feeling Great. It will be released in September of 2020, but you will soon be able to pre-order it on Amazon, possibly by the time you read this! 

Need Training or CE Credits?

Check Out these Awesome Upcoming Workshops!

The Cognitive Distortion Starter Kit:
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With Drs. David Burns and Jill Levitt

May 17, 2020 | 7 CE hours. $135 (online only)

TEAM-CBT includes more than 100 powerful techniques to change the distorted thoughts that trigger negative emotions. But what techniques should I select for my patient who feels depressed, anxious, or angry?

As you know, in my book, Feeling Good, I listed the ten most common cognitive distortions, like All-or-Nothing Thinking, Should Statements, Emotional Reasoning, and more, and you probably use that list all the time in your clinical work. But do you know which techniques work the best for each distortion?

Come to this workshop and find out! You’ll learn with tons of cool techniques you can use every day to boost your clinical effectiveness.

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Move rapidly if you want to come. We are already SOLD OUT in person, but there are still slots available online.

There will be many helpers from the Feeling Good Institute to assist and guide you in the small group exercises in person and online as well.  Our last workshop on resistance in February was our most highly rated ever! We hope to make this a terrific and fun learning experience for you, too!

Learn More & Register

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2-Day Clinical Master Class

Rapid Recovery from Anxiety Disorders–
GAD, Phobias, Panic Attacks, Social Anxiety,
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by David D. Burns, MD

June 4 – 5, 2020, Seattle, Washington

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The All-New Annual South San Francisco Intensive!

Enhanced Empathy Training

August 10 – 13, 2020

It’s Going to Be Awesome!

Videos, Live Demonstrations

Small Group Practice with

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and Chances for Personal Work and Healing

During this four-day intensive workshop you will learn:

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  • How to deal skillfully with people who refuse to open up and talk to you; won’t listen; are relentlessly critical, narcissistic or controlling; always have to be right; use, abuse, or exploit you; complain endlessly; are hostile, threatening or violent; as well as clients who are overwhelmed, hopeless and suicidal.
  • How to develop more loving relationships with the people you care about—as well as the ones you don’t.
  • Powerful new techniques to help clients who are struggling with conflicts with loved ones, friends, or colleagues.
  • How to deal with the inner chatter and powerful feelings that make it so difficult to deal with conflict when you feel angry or hurt.
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Learn More and Register

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Watch for the Awesome

December Evolution of Psychotherapy Conference

Anaheim, December 9 – 13, 2020

Sponsored by the Erikson Institute

It is always spectacular and I’ll be presenting, too!

Details TBA

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