Today, the Cognitive Distortion Starter Kit Focuses on
This is the final podcast on the Cognitive Distortion Starter Kit. Today, we focus on techniques to combat Blame. There are two common forms of Blame, and both can be deadly.
Self-Blame: You beat up on yourself and blame yourself for things. Self-Blame is nearly always accompanied with self-directed Should Statements: “I really screwed up. I shouldn’t have done that!” Self-Blame triggers depression, worthlessness, and guilt, and sometimes triggers feelings of hopelessness and suicidal urges.
Other-Blame: You beat up on others and blame them for the problems in your relationships. Other-Blame is nearly always accompanied with other-directed Should Statements: “He’s such a loser. He shouldn’t have such ridiculous beliefs!” Other-Blame triggers anger and conflict in relationships, and can sometimes trigger rage, violence, and even murder.
Rhonda describes going on a bicycle trip with her husband. But when they got to the trailhead, they realized that her husband had put the wrong bicycle for Rhonda on their car. Sadly, the much-anticipated bicycle ride was ruined, and Rhonda began fuming and blaming her husband for having made this mistake. but then she decided to back off and think about her own role in the problem, and soon they were bake in a loving mood again. Unfortunately, for many people, the outcome is different, with escalating arguments and lasting feelings of resentment and indignance.
David describes his work with a married woman who blamed herself for sexual difficulties and a history of sexual abuse as a child, who stood in front of a mirror with a razor blade to her neck the night before her first session with David. She was debating, “Should I just slit my throat and get it over with, or should I show up for my session in the morning?”
Rhonda presses David for details about the treatment, which had a glorious outcome.
David also gives a dramatic example of Other-Blame—a man who shot two obnoxious and aggressive teenage boys with his crossbow during a road rage incident. He shot one of the boys through the heart, and he fell and bled to death. Then he shot the other boy through the spinal column, and that boy survived but ended up paralyzed for life.
The man was arrested and given a life sentence in prison. When interviewed by a television reporter and asked if he had any remorse or regrets, the man said, “Regrets! Hell no! That was the greatest accomplishment of my life! I think about constantly and it makes me euphoric. If I had the chance, I’d do the exact same thing again!”
And that the huge problem with Other-Blame. Although negative thoughts containing Other-Blame are nearly always extremely distorted, just like the thoughts that cause depression, thoughts with Other-Blame trigger feelings of moral superiority and anger that can be extremely addictive. That’s why anger and relationship conflicts can be way harder to treat than depression and self-blame.
One potentially helpful technique is a Blame Cost-Benefit Analysis, listing all the many advantages and benefits of blaming others for your problems and relationship conflicts. Once you’ve seen all the benefits, you can list the disadvantages, and then balance them against each other on a 100-point scale. if the advantages of blame are greater, there’s no reason to change.
If you’re interested, you can check out this link to a Blame CBA that my daughter and I prepared. Check it out!
David explains how he used this technique to help a physician with chronic, refractory depression and episodic rage attacks in a single therapy session! It’s a great technique to try if you’re feeling unhappy and blaming others for the problems in your relationships with them.
Rhonda and I have enjoyed creating this series for you. If there are other series you’d like to hear, let us know. For example, we could have a series of podcasts on all the different kinds of anxiety, illustrating the most helpful techniques for each one. We could also have a series on all of the different kinds of Self-Defeating Beliefs, like the Spotlight Fallacy, and how to defeat them. Or, if there are techniques you want us to highlight, we’d be more than happy to do that, too!
Rhonda and David
You can reach Dr. Burns at firstname.lastname@example.org. Dr. Rhonda Barovsky practices in Walnut Creek, California, and can be reached at email@example.com. She is a Level 4 Certified TEAM-CBT therapist and trainer and specializes in the treatment of trauma, anxiety, depression, and relationship problems. She also does forensic work in family court, but finds TEAM-CBT to be way more rewarding!
If you like our jingle music and would like to support the composer Brett Van Donsel, you may download it here.
This is the cover of my new book, Feeling Great. It will be released in September of 2020, but you can pre-order it now on Amazon! If you pre-order it, this will help greatly in the ratings the day actually released.
One thing I do which is along the line of unconditional acceptance is that before a time period of an event I prepare myself mentally that no matter what happens short of physical pain and anything physically harmful to me or others, I will not get upset about it.
Or. I will decide ahead of time what are the most important things in my life and in my case it’s my health and physical safety that no matter what goes on I will not get upset also because I’ve had such high frustration tolerance that it is extremely painful emotionally to get upset over hassles which makes me feel good which it feels better to feel good and extremely pleasurable
Instead of getting disturbed.
Good thinking, Thomas! Always good to hear from you. Acceptance is definitely one important key to growth and inner peace. d
Hi Dr. Burns – Please keep your regular, funny, weird introduction. I think in a world of social media where many are trying to be perfect and people please, it’s nice to see an example of someone doing what they love as themselves – not as who they think they should be or whom others want them to be. If someone negates your valuable information for a 2 second introduction they don’t like, maybe the real Dr. Burns isn’t their cup of tea. In that case, there are many other cups of tea in the world to try. I enjoy your podcast immensely and have pre-ordered your new book. Can’t wait to read it. Thank you for all you do.
Thanks, Jeff, I totally agree and appreciate your support! Warmly, david
Dr. Burns, thank you so much for your work which has helped to change my life after several years of struggling with depression and anxiety. I started a couple of months ago by reading Feeling Good and I could feel an improvement in my mood after the first few weeks. When I realized that it was possible for me to feel happy again, I was excited to continue my journey. I was thrilled to discover your podcasts which are the perfect way to reinforce and build upon the techniques I learned from the book. I listen on my drive to and from work and can feel my emotional health improving every day. One of the things I enjoy the most about the podcasts is the relationship and rapport between you and Rhonda (and Fabrice in the older podcasts – I jump back and forth through the archives depending on what I am interested in learning about or reinforcing on that day). I feel that I am listening to two people who care about each other, and the audience that they are trying to help. You are both very genuine and welcoming, and this creates a space where I am comfortable. I feel as though I am an active part of your conversation rather than a passive listener. I think that your greeting to Rhonda is unique and genuine, and it reflects your personality. It also makes me smile. For someone who is working on “Feeling Good,” a smile is a great place to start. Whatever you decide to do, I will remain a loyal listener, but I encourage you to continue the tradition!
P.S. Three months ago I would never have dreamt of leaving a comment publicly, much less one that would be read by someone who I greatly admire. I was so terrified of expressing my opinion and making myself vulnerable, because of the possibility of rejection which I did not have the tools or self confidence to cope with at that time. This comment alone is evidence of how far I have come.
Thanks, Barbi, appreciate your “public” comment and hope you will keep commenting. Forwarded to Rhonda, too. Very thoughtful. your comment reminds me of an experience as a freshman at Amherst College. The second semester, in one of our history classes, I raised my hand and made a comment. The professor said something to the effect that he liked my comment and that I’d been hiding my candle under basket, or something like that. It felt good to be recognized in that kindly ways! David
I have seen additional cognitive distortions (personalization, control fallacies, fallacy of fairness, fallacy of change, always being right & heaven’s reward fallacy). What are your thoughts on these relative to your ten?
I am looking forward to my birthday this year, September 15th, the date your new book is published.
Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA
Personalization is the same as self-blame. Some people like big impressive names, other people like simple, clear names. I am in the latter camp. Beck started with four or five distortions, and all had complicated sounding names. I like to make things really clear and easy to understand. There are so many kinds of Self-Defeating Beliefs as well, I use a list of 23 common ones. Everyone likes to make stuff up, and different metaphors can be helpful to folks. Albert Ellis had his list but he called them Irrational Beliefs. david
I Love the fun intros. They help put me at ease and I think help me be more comfortable with what can be difficult subjects sometimes. Why does “being professional” have to be dour? I have enough “professionalism” in my daily life and prefer the expressions of welcome and happiness.
Thanks, joseph! I totally agree! d
Hi Dr. Burns and Rhonda,
I’ve been reading Feeling Good and listening to the podcasts for the last six months, throughout the quarantine and isolation, to help with anxiety and depression, and it’s helped me a great deal in those areas.
However, I have very strong feelings of “other blame” and rage toward, frankly—idiots—that I can’t seem to overcome. Most of these pathetic examples of humanity revolve around the abuse and disrespect toward nonhuman animals and the planet. I’ve reluctantly become to truly believe that 80% of people around me are stupid. I accept humans for their flaws, hell I am the queen of flaws and make 1,000 mistakes a day in one way or another. In fact merely being human inherently precipitates all of us to be heavily flawed.
That said, how do I stop the dark thoughts of wishing harm to come to stupid humans who do asinine, narcissistic, self serving, irresponsible things—like driving massive, loud pickup trucks around the neighborhood, honking incessantly as they wave their 20ft political flags; or bringing the family for a paddle boat ride in the local pond, taking delight in teaching their human offspring to paddle the boat as quickly as they can to chase after the beautiful, innocent geese and ducks trying earnestly and fearfully to swim to safety; or having loud backyard parties during a quarantine late into the night, while blasting music, yelling, and cheering as they set off firecrackers and blow ear-splitting air horns all night—not only disturbing the peace of their human neighbors, but more importantly terrorizing the local nonhuman animals who possibly flee in a panic to escape the sound, only to get lost from their families.
I see and hear what these people do, and I blame these types of humans for everything that’s gone wrong in the world.
I feel like I find myself surrounded more and more by ignorant, self serving, entitled, obtuse, irresponsible, mean-spirited human beings who don’t give a flying ** about how their mindless actions effect the lives of those around them – particularly nonhuman animals who are simply trying their best to live in peace in an environment that has for them become increasingly deadly and difficult for them to navigate.
This is a huge obstacle for me—as a nonhuman animal rights activist, it has been my whole life. I don’t want to be this enraged, hateful person I’ve become in these circumstances. It’s not helpful, it’s not productive, it’s not healthy, and mostly I don’t want to be sucked into the negativity and vitriol that has become the most serious pandemic of all these days. I want to try to focus on the positive and enjoy my connection with other humans—and I DO, very much. I value my human connections as much as the next guy.
But these types of actions by stupid people preclude me from being entirely warm and kindhearted. They fill me with rage—deep, hateful, dark rage. Can you take one of the scenarios above and possibly demonstrate how I can use your tools to calm these “other blame” feelings, dial them down?
Lastly, thank you for all you do, Dr. Burns—and Rhonda, Matt, Jill, and Fabrice, and all of your other wonderful TEAMS colleagues—for trying to help bring positivity and enlightenment to what seems to be a plague of rapidly crumbling human decency.
Thank you for any advice you can offer,
Thank you for the excellent and timely question! We could include it in an Ask David, using your first name, or even a fake name. If you are interested, I could send you a blank Daily Mood Log and you could fill out the first part of it, and then we could do A = Assessment of Resistance, using the Magic Button, Positive Reframing and Magic Dial. This would not be “treatment,” as I cannot do treatment through emails, but a psychoeducational experience, to see if it helps. Lots of people—millions in fact—can totally identify with your thoughts and feelings.