How to Change a Self-Defeating Belief (SDB) (cont’d)
Last week, you had the chance to listen to our Tuesday training group at Stanford as we worked on the “Achievement Addiction,” Part 1 (Podcast 211). Although we were working with a therapist named Zeina Halim, it turned out that just about everybody in the group had this belief, and perhaps you do, too–thinking that your worthwhileness as a human being depends on your achievements, hard work, and productivity.
This belief, which is also known as the Calvinist work ethic (e.g. you are what you do) is actually at the heart of Western Civilization. And while it can trigger intense achievement, it can sometimes also trigger angst, including feelings of depression, anxiety, and endless self-doubt, wondering if you and your achievements are “good enough.”
In last week’s podcast, we played the first half of the Tuesday group’s session, featuring the Cost-Benefit Analysis. In today’s group, we play the the recording of the last half of the group, featuring these three additional techniques. At the end of today’s recording, Zeina joins us and talks about the session, and the techniques that were the most meaningful for her.
- The Semantic Technique. This involves change at the intellectual level. If you decide that a SDB is not working to your advantage when you do a CBA, you can you modify it so you can keep all the advantages you listed while getting rid of most if not all of the disadvantages. This is a bit of practical personal philosophy exercise with significant emotional implications. The group members came up with a wide variety of alternate beliefs, and I critiqued several of them, pointing out the benefits and pitfalls of each new version.
- The Feared Fantasy. Here’s where change at the gut level begins, and you also can begin to challenge the idea that high achievers really are more worthwhile. We did a version of this technique that I’ve often demonstrated in my workshops called the “High School Reunion.” It is a humor-based technique, but the goal is to make a powerful point at the gut level, so you can (hopefully) suddenly “see” that it is simply not true that people who achieve a great deal really are more worthwhile human beings.
- The Double Standard Technique. Here’s where change at the gut level continues, and you will hear a beautiful example in Zeina’s dramatic interaction with Dr. Levitt. Dr. Levitt plays the role of someone trying to figure out if she really is less worthwhile than people who achieve a great deal more.
Rhonda and I hope you enjoyed our podcasts on the Achievement Addiction. We’d also like to thank our courageous Zeina for sharing her very personal work with all of us. Live work–and showing how a technique works–is generally far more inspiring and illuminating than simply teaching how a technique works.
Please let us know if you’d like more Feeling Good Podcasts like this in the future, with recordings from our weekly training group, and also if there are additional Self-Defeating Beliefs you’d like us to feature.
My new book Feeling Great, is now available on Amazon (see the link below) as a hardbound volume or as an eBook. It features all the new TEAM therapy techniques, and is geared for therapists as well as the general public.
Rhonda and David
You can reach Dr. Burns at firstname.lastname@example.org. Dr. Rhonda Barovsky practices in Walnut Creek, California, but due to Covid-19 restrictions is working via Zoom, 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! Check out her new website: http://www.feelinggreattherapycenter.com
Zeina Halim, MA, AMFT practices in Menlo Park, California. She specializes in the treatment of TEAM-CBT with adults and anyone aged 13 or older, struggling with depression or anxiety. She also works with executives or adults wanting to boost their performance. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. She is supervised and employed by Matthew May, MD.
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. The kindle is available now, too, and the audio version may be available by the time you read this, too!
Hi Dr. Burns,
I’m fresh off an evening walk listening to this latest podcast. Thank you for the longer podcasts, I do really enjoy them, as I typically walk for two hours daily, splitting them into morning and evening increments. The longer podcasts are truly awesome and keep me engaged while I soak in just the very privilege of being able to walk autonomously, in and of itself, and outside, by my own body’s energy.
Today’s podcast was wonderful, and Zeina, thank you for being so vulnerable and transparent, so that we non-clinical listeners can learn more about ourselves and each other. Thank you for being part of the solution for all of us—I appreciate your enthusiasm for growth and allowing us to be a part of it.
Dr. Burns, as the suggestions for Zeina’s benefits to achievement addiction came pouring in from Stanford’s Tuesday training group, I felt the energy, the desire to help Zeina from all sides, and in a great humanhood of support for her. However, all the while I thought to myself, “Why does Zeina (or any of us) even need this validation? Why is everyone rushing to her side to help her come up with a reason why her perceived failure to achieve something still makes her worthy?”
I became more and more frustrated, because all I kept thinking was, “Why do humans feel the need to be ‘worthy’ in any sense?”
But then, at the end, finally, I was so relieved and felt so close to all of you as Zeina found that she doesn’t have the need to be “worthy.” As Zeina said, and I’m paraphrasing, “I learned from Buddhism worthiness is an empty concept.” I loved that, and for that I thank Zeina.
Dr. Burns, when you mentioned that some human animals murder nonhuman animals simply because they feel more “worthy,” it stopped me in my tracks and I had to feel sad and almost cry for a moment. This struck such a chord with me, as I feel always this same way. Why humans feel so superior and entitled to terrorize, torture, and murder nonhuman animals for their use and feel nothing about it has been the single most draining and profoundly agonizing bane of my existence.
Worthiness—as Zeina so beautifully put, is an abstract and one that is—as you so beautifully put, is dangerous, volatile, and deadly.
I’m grateful to you and Zeina, and Rhonda, and countless of your other colleagues and students, to have shown some of us to a place where we can let go of a self and self esteem, ego, anything with “I, me, or my” attached.
After listening to your podcasts and doing homework from your books and your wonderful one-on-one emails with me, I can say that oddly, in a troubled culture that steadily steams forward into a trajectory of “self overload,” I’ve never been more accepting and seen more beauty in life than I do now.
Thank you all.
Thanks, Natasha, a truly beautiful note that resonates on so many levels! Warmly, david
I don’t know why, but Dr Burns’ opening greeting to Rhonda always cracks me up. It never gets old. Maybe there is something wrong with me?
Hellllooooo marianna! Likely quite a bit wrong with most of us! When I was young I was skinny, so my older sisters called me “bag-a-bones.” Which kind of hurt my feelings. But now I am no longer skinny, and think of myself more in terms of “full-a-flaws!”
Thanks. Appreciate your note!
This two-part series on the Achievement Addiction was so engaging and liberating! I look forward to the possibility of a public seminar for non-therapists on this topic. Thank you!
Thanks, Ralph! david
What went through my mind during this podcast: I’ve always disliked “self-esteem” discussions for as long as I can remember because I never got it. Perhaps because I live in the moment or maybe because my brain doesn’t do “philosophical”. Whatever the reasons, I don’t need to “feel worthwhile” since that’s not relevant to happiness. Small children and animals, can be happy without ever knowing the word ‘worthwhile’. Maybe I’m too screwed up to know I have a problem. LOL. As a teen I used to say to my friends, if I’m crazy, that’s ok cause I’m pretty happy this way. LOL.
Angela, your comment sounds to me like someone who is enlightened! All these ideas about a “self” or “self-esteem” or being “worthwhile” are just nonsensical. Thanks! david