Rhonda begins by reading several brief heart-warming endorsements from listeners like you. We are grateful for all of your kind and thoughtful emails endorsing our efforts!
Announcement: My upcoming one-day workshop with Dr. Jill Levitt on the “Cognitive Distortion Starter Kit” on May 17, 2020 WILL happen. It will be exciting and entirely online so we hope you can join us from wherever you are. See the write-up below.
We are joined in today’s podcast by Michael Simpson, who was among the first to contract the Covid-19 virus in New York. Michael was the star of Feeling Good Podcast #169: More on Social Anxiety. The Case for Vulnerability.
I have repeatedly pointed out that our feelings do NOT result from what happens—but rather, from our thoughts about what’s happening. This idea goes back at least 2,000 years, to the teachings of Epictetus, but people still don’t “get it.” People still think that negative events can have a direct impact on how you feel. But that belief makes you the victim of forces beyond your control, because we cannot, for the most part, change what happens—there’s no way we can snap our fingers and make the Covid-19 virus disappear, but we CAN change the way we think about it.
I have also pointed out that the negative thoughts that upset us when we’re depressed and anxious will nearly always be distorted and illogical—remember, depression and anxiety are the world’s oldest cons!
But is this really true?
Michael explains that when he contracted the Covid-19 virus on March 12th, 2020, his first reaction was not fear, but excitement because he thought, “I’m getting it early, and when I recover, I’ll probably have some immunity.”
But he WAS fearful. Of being intubated? Of a long hospital stay? Of death? No! What were his negative thoughts? Michael was telling himself things like this:
People will shun me because I’ve got the virus.
- People won’t want to hang out with me any more.
- People will judge me as weak and unappealing.
- Women won’t be interested in me.
- My friends won’t want to talk to me.
These thoughts triggered powerful feelings of shame and anxiety. Can you see any of the familiar cognitive distortions in Michael’s thoughts? Here are a few of the ones I spotted:
- Mind-Reading: Thinking you know how others are thinking and feeling without any real evidence:
- Fortune-Telling: Making frightening predictions that aren’t based on any real evidence.
- Emotional-Reasoning: Reasoning from how you I feel. Michael feels anxious and ashamed, so he thinks others really will judge and reject him.
- Should Statements: Michael seems to be telling himself that he should be far better than he is to be loved, admired, and accepted by others.
- Self-Blame: Michael seems to be beating up on himself and telling himself that he’s not good enough.
Michael describes his decision to start posting his symptoms and insecurities on Instagram as a way of testing his fears, which he described as intense. To his surprise and relief, he received something like 150 responses that were overwhelmingly loving and supportive.
Michael was so excited by this feedback that he is thinking of starting his own podcast, where his guests will openly discuss vulnerable and personal topics. We look forward to that! I think it could be quite popular because so many people feel lonely and anxious due to hiding how they really feel, and putting up a false front to the world.
Michael also expands a bit on David’s concept of “fractal psychotherapy.” That’s the idea that all of our suffering results from one tiny pattern of irrationality that repeats itself over and over in many different situations, and ever single time you get upset—whether it’s depression, anxiety, anger—it will be that same fractal flaring up again. Michael said that his fractal is “others will judge me and leave me.”
Other fractals might be “I’m defective,” or “I’m not important,” or “I’m inferior to others.” The goal of therapy is to give you specific skills that you can use to blast your own fractal every time it’s causing problems for you.
On a future podcast, (May 25) we will, in fact, do live therapy with a professional woman you might recognize who had the belief that she wasn’t important. So stayed tuned!
Rhonda, Michael, and David
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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FREE TEAM THERAPY FOR HEALTHCARE WORKERS
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 Bay Area, California counties. For more information, please go to the website: Feelinggood.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 can now pre-order it on Amazon!
Need Training or CE Credits?
Check Out these Awesome Upcoming Workshops!
The Cognitive Distortion Starter Kit:
How to Crush Negative Thoughts
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.
This workshop will be live-streamed so you can join from anywhere in the world! There will be many expert online helpers to assist you with the small-group exercises.
Move rapidly if you want to come. 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
* * *
2-Day Clinical Master Class
Rapid Recovery from Anxiety Disorders–
GAD, Phobias, Panic Attacks, Social Anxiety,
OCD, PTSD and Health Anxiety
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
Personal Feedback and Mentoring,
and Chances for Personal Work and Healing
During this four-day intensive workshop you will learn:
- How to develop deeper and more meaningful relationships with challenging, difficult clients.
- 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.
- How to identify and modify the self-defeating beliefs that make us vulnerable to conflicts with others.
- How to identify and melt away the intense outcome and process resistance that make the treatment of relationship problems so challenging.
1. I was struck by thinking of anxiety as the result of hypnotising ourselves into believeing our fears. Can depression by thought of in a similar way, except that we hypnotise ourselves into believing our distorted thoughts about ourselves?
2. Can you do an episode about how to deal with unpleasant somatic situations, as Michael was experiencing during the recording, that suggest there might be some psychological distress but don’t seem to have thoughts associated with them?
Hi Derek, Another great couple of questions, thanks! Will add these to the next Ask David podcast, but the short story is yes, for sure: Both depression and anxiety can be thought of as states of self-hypnosis, or trances, so you believe messages you give yourself, negative thoughts, that are not true. I think one could add other positive and negative emotions to the list as well, including anger–believing the other person really IS wrong, bad, inferior, and so forth–as well as mania and narcissism, telling yourself that you really ARE a superior person, etc. This is a hugely important topic, and “emotional reasoning” fuels these trances: I FEEL worthless / inferior, so I must BE worthless / inferior, and so forth! David
Also, did you listen to yesterday’s podcast on somatic symptoms, another live session? d
Hi Dr.Burns first i want to deeply thank you for all the wonderful works that you did and provided people with such eye opening insight to not only they get ease from suffering but to even find love within themselves and share it in this world and ha specially me when i was hopeless and alone falled into moderate depression cause of struggling with anxiety and anhedonia (winch as what i experience its being numb to emotions and any pleasure even being numb to any sexual pleasure despite that i can function physically ) and found out about you;your books and the site and just like an angel you appeared to me cause im in a country that i guess attention to mental health is so poor despite that most of its people struggle with mental health at daily basis im at the beginning of your book and from now im deeply hopeful and Determined to work and devote this year to recovery and i decided after improving find my way to go into this filed and become a good one by myself (ha by the way there is no such thing as a self (: this is one of the your great things that got me after understanding it ) but despite all of the acceptance and focusing on specifics to patiently improve step by step the thinking that if my numb emotions never get better or somehow i damaged the brain get me in emptiness and crippling guilt sometimes despite that i know i can get into thought distortions by that but what if couldn’t enjoy things as before i did so i wanted to ask that from the experience that you had in dealing with many cases do you think how much is it likely possible that someone like me be able to feel emotions again and joy ? (and does therapy and changing thoughts and lifestyle itself help enough or i should take medication for it ) by the way i took ssri for 6months and after stopping it my panic attacks gone and didn’t experience any side effect both during using and after stopping medication so i dont think that the numbness be a side effect of medication or could it be ?? oh and here are some suggestion for your podcasts episodes
1-an episode about anhodnia and analyzing different aspect of it can be really helpful
2-and this one is more specific a podcast for individuals that spend a lot of amount of their time thinking about stuffs as what they conceive as a approach to understand the meaning of things deeper or create something valuable winch this if it be unbalanced can cause to fall into harmful thought distortion mania and unnecessary negative feeling that than they can make each other more out of control (especially thats some how my case i think the root of most of the things that i struggle now with was for those unbalanced behaviors i was both very happy and so sad in those times winch first cause anxiety and than unhopefulness and depression )
i hope in next year i come hear and comment about my recovery
thank you again (:
Hi Yasin, thanks for the note! You’ve done great work and I have no doubt you’ll continue to improve. We’ve had a podcast (actually 5) on the five secrets of happiness, or something like that. Go to my website and search for those podcasts. Also you could search for Pleasure Predicting Sheet, since that’s a tool that can help a lot with anhedonia. I assume you’ve read one or more of my books, but if not, Feeling Good would likely help you a lot, and my new Feeling Great is available for pre order on Amazon right now. David