# 166: Escape from Physical Pain: An Interview with Dr. David Hanscom

In today’s podcast, David and Rhonda interview Dr. David Hanscom, a renowned and controversial spine surgeon who gave up a large and lucrative surgical practice in favor of helping and educating people struggling with back pain, directing them on the path to recovery without surgery or drugs.

Dr. Hanscom describes his personal journey and recovery from panic, pain, and other disabling somatic symptoms when he read Dr. Burns’ book, Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy, and began doing the written triple column technique to challenge his own negative thoughts and overcome his own feelings of depression, panic, hopelessness, and anger.

He also began to study alarming research reports indicating that many of the surgical procedures were no more effective than placebos; and even worse, he could see that back surgery often had damaging and even disabling and horrific effects on patients. He also discovered that most of the patients seeking surgery for back pain could be helped simply through talk therapy and support, by focusing on the problems in their lives, rather than simply focusing on pain and pills.

Dr. Burns supports Dr. Hanscom’s premise, that even physical pain can have powerful psychological causes and cures. Dr. Burns briefly summarizes his own research on hospitalized inpatients with significant emotional problems as well as chronic pain. He wanted to answer the question of why physical pain and negative feelings so often go hand-in-hand.

To find out, he studied changes in negative feelings, like depression, anxiety and anger, as well as the intensity of pain, in more than 100 patients attending a 90 minute cognitive therapy group. He saw that there were often massive shifts in negative feelings, like depression, anxiety, and anger, as well as the severity of physical pain, during the groups.

He analyzed the data with sophisticated statistical modeling techniques to evaluate two competing theories about why pain and negative feelings go hand-in-hand.

1. Physical pain could cause negative feelings, like depression, anxiety and anger. This seems plausible, since physical pain is so debilitating, and just plain awful.
2. Negative feelings could have a causal effect on physical pain.

The analyses indicated that there were causal effects in both directions, but the most powerful effect, by far, was the effect of negative emotions on physical pain. In fact, the analyses indicated that, on average, half of the physical pain these patients were experiencing, on average, was the direct result of their negative emotions.

This means that if you’re in pain, and you’re emotionally upset, which would be totally understandable, that a great deal of the pain you are feeling is the result of a magnification of the pain by your negative emotions.

There is a positive implication of this finding that supports what Dr. Hansom is saying–namely, that if you are in pain, including chronic pain, and you are willing to overcome your negative feelings and deal with the problems in your life, there is a good chance that your pain will improve substantially. Some people, as David saw in the groups, will experience a total elimination of pain–something he often observed within the group.

It is also possible that you will experience a reduction of your pain, but not a complete elimination. And it is possible that your pain will not improve when your negative feelings disappear–but at least you won’t have to struggle with pain and depression!

So he has now devoted his life to making people, as well as his surgical colleagues, aware of the realities vs. the myths of back surgery. To learn more, visit his website, or pick up a copy of his terrific book, Back in Control. The book includes a section on your personal roadmap out of pain.

Rhonda and I are incredibly grateful to Dr. Hanscom for this illuminating, challenging, and profoundly personal interview. We hope you enjoy it! And if you’ve been struggling with any kind of chronic or debilitating pain, we hope you will find some hope, as well as a drug-free path to recovery!

David D. Burns, M.D. & Rhonda Barovsky, Psy.D.

You can reach Dr. Burns at david@feelinggood.com. Dr. Rhonda Barovsky practices in Walnut Creek, California, and can be reached at rbarovsky@aol.com. Today’s featured photo is courtesy of Nancy Mueller–www.nancymuellerphotography.com.

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

# * * *

I have two tremendous one-day workshop scheduled with my esteemed colleague, Dr. Jill Levitt, next year–

## High Speed Methods to Reduce Resistanceand Boost Motivation

This is the most important, and least understood, topic in psychotherapy. Nearly all therapeutic failure results from the failure to address resistance effectively. Therapists do not understand what causes resistance or how treat resistant and oppositional patients who “yes-but” you or fail to follow through on homework assignments.

Come to this workshop and learn how to melt away resistance for incredibly high-speed recovery!

You can join this workshop in person or online (live streaming) from anywhere in the world!

# 165: Ask David: Why do shrinks kill themselves? How to find out if your loved one is suicidal.

In today’s podcast, David and Rhonda answer two questions about suicide submitted by podcast fans.

Question 1. Why do shrinks kill themselves?

Dear Dr Burns,

Before I get to my question (which I hope you will consider addressing in your ‘Ask David’ segment of the podcast), I would like to extend my gratitude to you. Your book, Feeling Good, came to me at a time when I was struggling to make sense of my depression and anxiety, and it has been a vital part of my recovery journey. The exercises and the podcast have been such lifelines, and I am grateful to you for the incredible and life-changing work that you do.

I know you have addressed the topic of suicide in a previous episode, but I recently was struck by a piece of news from my alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania, where a senior member of the college’s counselling services (CAPS) died by suicide. Here was someone who had spent his life’s work on promoting suicide prevention, and had a great deal of knowledge on resilience. How can we process/understand the decisions that someone like this might make to take his life. How can I arrive at the understanding that his decision doesn’t necessarily spell doom for the rest of us? What TEAM-CBT exercises can we do to make sense of the world when it might not make much sense at first glance, during situations like these?

Thank you very, very much,

Sindhu

Thanks, Sindhu, this is a really great question.

I’ll put this in the Ask David folder. Should I use your name?

Here’s the short answer. It’s a lot like saying that an infectious disease expert shouldn’t get pneumonia, or that an orthopedic surgeon shouldn’t have back pain, or a broken leg. I know of at least three mental health professionals who have committed suicide, but my knowledge based is tiny. I’m sure there are thousands of mental health professionals who have committed suicide.

People can commit suicide for many reasons, and I can only mention a few here, as my knowledge, like yours, is limited.

1. Hopelessness is one of the most common causes of suicide in depressed individuals. Hopelessness always results from cognitive distortions, and never from a valid appraisal of one’s circumstances. Depressed people often turn to suicide, thinking (wrongly) that it is the only escape from their suffering.
2. You may have done something that you are profoundly ashamed of, and fear it is about to be made public. Like the fellow in New York arrested for child abuse who hung himself just a few weeks ago.
3. I am convinced that sometimes people commit suicide to get back at someone they are angry with, someone perhaps who rejected them.
4. Physician-assisted suicide. I believe that physician assisted suicide is absolutely indicated and compassionate if someone is in excruciating pain from an irreversible terminal illness.
5. The Achievement Addiction. Feelings of failure and worthlessness. In our culture, we sometimes (wrongly) base our feelings of self-esteem on our success in life, our income, or our achievements. And so, if your achievements are only “ordinary,” you may feel worthless, like “a failure,” and kill yourself.
6. The Love Addiction: Many people (wrongly) tell themselves they must be loved to feel happy and worthwhile, and then kill themselves when they are rejected by someone they thought they loved and “needed.”
7. Drug and alcohol abuse: These habit, when severe, can greatly disrupt a person’s life. They can also make someone more impulsive, and more likely to jump or pull the trigger when intoxicated.

There are likely way more causes than just these common ones. For example, a psychotic process like schizophrenia might sometimes play a role as well.

I suspect you may have a hidden “Should Statement,” telling yourself that a mental health professional “should not” get depressed or have the urge to commit suicide. But to me, that would be a nonsensical claim, and it isn’t even clear to me why you might think that way. In fact, most people are drawn to this profession because of their own unresolved suffering. There is, I suspect, MORE depression and anxiety in mental health professionals, but I have not seen data, so I’m not certain of this. But I’ve trained tens of thousands of mental health professionals, and pretty much ALL of the ones I’ve known personally have struggled at times, and sometimes intensely.

People also ask, “Why did so and so commit suicide? S/he was so famous and loved and wealthy!” Well, famous and loved and wealthy people often suffer and commit suicide, too.

Finally, I would say that suicide is both tragic and devastating—for the patient for sure, for the family and friends who typically suffer for years, and for the therapist as well. Fortunately, the family and friends can be helped, if they ask, but it is too late for the person who was depressed. And the tragedy is needless in most cases, since the patient’s intense negative feelings can be treated effectively in nearly all cases.

David

Question 2. How can you find out if a friend or loved one is suicidal?

Many people are afraid to ask a depressed friend or family member if they are feeling suicidal, fearing this will create conflict or may even cause the person to become suicidal. For the most part, these fears are unfounded, and the biggest mistake could be avoiding the topic.

Most people who are feeling suicidal are willing to discuss their feelings fairly openly. Several types of questions can be useful.

Suicidal thoughts or fantasies. Most people with depression due have suicidal thoughts or fantasies from time to time, and these are not necessarily dangerous.

First, you can ask, “do you sometimes feel hopeless, or have thoughts of death, or wishing you were dead?” If s/he says yes, you can ask him / her to tell you about these thoughts and feelings. You can also ask if s/he thinks of suicide as the only way out of his / her suffering.

Second, you can ask if s/he simply has passive suicidal thoughts, like “Sometimes I feel like I’d be better off if I were dead,” or active suicidal thoughts, like, “Sometimes I have fantasies of killing myself.”

Suicidal urges. You can ask if s/he sometimes has urges to kill himself / herself. Suicidal thoughts or fantasies without suicidal urges are usually not especially dangerous.

Suicidal plans. You can ask if s/he has made any plans to actually commit suicide. If so, what method would s/he use? Jumping? Shooting? Hanging? Cutting?

You can also ask if s/he has been acting on these plans. For example, if shooting is the choice, you can ask if s/he has access to a gun and bullets. If jumping is the choice, you can ask where s/he plans to jump from.

Deterrents. When evaluating suicide, you can also ask if there are any strong deterrents, such as religious beliefs, impact on family and friends, and so forth. If there are no strong deterrents, the situation is more dangerous.

Desire to live, desire to die. You can also ask the person how strong their desire to live is, and how strong is their desire to die?

Past suicide attempts. If the person has made suicide attempts in the past, the risk of a future suicide attempt is greater.

Drugs and alcohol. You can ask if the person drinks or uses drugs, and has ever has a stronger urge to commit suicide when intoxicated. This is a danger sign.

Impulsiveness. Some people make suicide attempts when they’re feeling impulsive, kind of on the spur of the moment. You can ask if they every have these kids of sudden impulses.

Willingness to reach out. You can ask if they’d be willing to reach out and ask for help if they ever have a suicidal urge.

Honesty. You can ask if they were felt reasonably open and honest in asking your questions, or if it was difficult to answer some of the questions.

Once you have explored these types of questions, you can decide whether action is necessary. If the person seems in danger of making a suicide attempt, you can bring him / her to an emergency room for an evaluation.

If s/he refuses, you can dial 911 and ask for help. Generally, the police will come immediately and do a safety check, and bring the person to an emergency room involuntarily if necessary. You can also call his or her therapist and alert that person to the situation.

This may all sound grim and very unpleasant, but these kinds of conversations can sometimes be lifesaving, and can protect you from much greater pain later on.

In a future podcast, we will focus on this question: How do you treat someone who is suicidal using TEAM-CBT?

David D. Burns, M.D. & Rhonda Barovsky, Psy.D.

You can reach Dr. Burns at david@feelinggood.com. Dr. Rhonda Barovsky practices in Walnut Creek, California, and can be reached at rbarovsky@aol.com. Today’s featured photo is courtesy of Nancy Mueller–www.nancymuellerphotography.com.

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

# * * *

I have two tremendous one-day workshop scheduled with my esteemed colleague, Dr. Jill Levitt, next year–

## High Speed Methods to Reduce Resistanceand Boost Motivation

This is the most important, and least understood, topic in psychotherapy. Nearly all therapeutic failure results from the failure to address resistance effectively. Therapists do not understand what causes resistance or how treat resistant and oppositional patients who “yes-but” you or fail to follow through on homework assignments.

Come to this workshop and learn how to melt away resistance for incredibly high-speed recovery!

You can join this workshop in person or online (live streaming) from anywhere in the world!

# “What should I do if I hate my therapist?” A Fascinating Interview with Dr. Jill Levitt!

Dear colleague,

You might enjoy this link to a dynamic interview with my esteemed colleague, Dr. Jill Levitt, published a few days ago in the San Francisco magazine, BobCut. Jill is the Director of Clinical Training at the Feeling Good Institute in Mt. View, California, and teaches with me at Stanford. The article should be of interest to therapists and patients alike.

Jill answers these question. and more:

• How do I know if I need to go to therapy?
• How does someone deal with burnout if they don’t have the means to quit their job and don’t think they have time for therapy?
• How can you say “No” and set boundaries at work?
• Won’t people be disappointed in you if you say no?
• What should I do if I hate my therapist?
• What qualities should people look for in a therapist?
• If someone is struggling with anxiety, they don’t want to just go to any therapist, they want to find someone who can really help them. How can find a therapist who has the specific skills that will help you?
• If you disclose a problem such as substance abuse, is my therapist required to report it?
• Why do I only get angry/upset with my inner circle including my family and partner?
• I feel so insecure, small and insignificant in the real world. How can I help this feeling of overwhelming fear and anxiety?
• Can you describe how you’ve seen the evolution of your patients change over the past few years? Because mental health is a bigger topic in the media, more people are talking about it, and more people are open to seeking help. It’s slowly becoming less stigmatized. So have you seen the attitudes of your patients change? And have you seen the levels of resistance that they come in with change over the past few years?
• What makes TEAM-CBT different from other forms of therapy practices?
• And more!

I hope you enjoy Jill’s interview!

David

# * * *

I also have two tremendous one-day workshop scheduled with my colleague, Dr. Jill Levitt, next year–

## High Speed Methods to Reduce Resistanceand Boost Motivation

This is the most important, and least understood, topic in the behavioral sciences. Nearly all therapeutic failure results from the failure to address resistance. Therapists do not understand what causes resistance or how treat it effectively.

Come to this workshop and learn how to melt away resistance for incredibly high-speed recovery!

With Drs. David Burns and Jill Levitt

# A Podcast Fan Comments on “How to HELP, and how NOT to Help!”

Hi David and Rhonda,

I just wanted to tell you I LOVED the latest podcast on when not to help. I know you mentioned you’ve covered many of these ideas before, but this podcast really helped it all sink in for me, especially as a non-therapist. Also, I can’t seem to find Dave’s email, but I wanted to say I thought he added some especially valuable perspectives as a non-therapist.

Rhonda, I absolutely loved the story you shared about your son. And I’m so grateful for the therapist that allowed her 5 secrets response to be played. Listening to that was incredibly eye-opening – I’ve made the same mistake countless times but didn’t really get it until now.

Thank you both for all your amazing work on these podcasts!

best,

Daisy

Thanks Daisy for your kind and thoughtful comment! I’m so glad this message is “getting through” at last! Some ideas are so hard to convey, because they seem to go against our natural human impulses, like the urge to jump in and “help” or “rescue” a friend or loved one who is in distress.

David

You can reach Dr. Burns at david@feelinggood.com. Dr. Rhonda Barovsky practices in Walnut Creek, California, and can be reached at rbarovsky@aol.com.

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

# * * *

I also have two tremendous one-day workshop scheduled with my colleague, Dr. Jill Levitt, next year–

## High Speed Methods to Reduce Resistanceand Boost Motivation

This is the most important, and least understood, topic in the behavioral sciences. Nearly all therapeutic failure results from the failure to address resistance. Therapists do not understand what causes resistance or how treat it effectively.

Come to this workshop and learn how to melt away resistance for incredibly high-speed recovery!

With Drs. David Burns and Jill Levitt

# 164: How to HELP, and how NOT to Help!

Lately, I’ve received numerous emails asking, in essence, “how can I help my loved one who has this or that problem?” I would say that I get several emails like that every week.

For example, here’s one from a man we’ll call “Karl.”

Love you podcasts. Listen as often as I can. keep reading your books.

Our son is in an unhappy marriage. Last night we talked and he mentioned that there is no love in their marriage. Just coldness. The children “feel” the chasm. There is a lack of trust in the home.

Our son feels he did not protect the children in defense of their mom, even though he disagreed with her. Now the children feel their father does not have their best interests. Our daughter-in-law feels that everything is fine. She uses the passive-aggressive “silent treatment” to punish others.

Our son says she is controlling and manipulative, and that the children have become that way also. There’s no truth in the home. Years ago, she wanted them to go to counseling, but our son refused; now the tables are turned.

Sad. We want to help but don’t know how to approach it.

What podcasts would be helpful to us? And to our son and daughter-in-law? We visit our grandchildren often, sometimes one-on-one. Communications are open with them and with our son.

Daughter-in-law feels, and tells others, we are conspiring against her

Karl

Thank you Karl, for that moving email. It can be really sad and frustrating to see a couple in conflict who are at odds with each, especially when your son and grandchildren are involved. And I can imagine you might also be feeling anxious and a bit helpless, and deeply concerned!

When I wrote Feeling Good forty years ago, I tried to make it clear that the cognitive therapy tools I described in that book are for people to use to help themselves. It is okay to correct your own distorted negative thoughts in order to break out of a bad mood. But it is generally NOT a good idea to try to correct someone else’s distorted thoughts, because they’ll just get ticked off at you!

This is a very understandable error, because you may get really excited by the things I’m teaching, and how helpful they can be when you’re feeling depressed, anxious, or insecure. So it just makes sense that you would want to share these tools with others.

But those are generally NOT the tools to use when you’re talking to your son, daughter, spouse, or friend who’s feeling down in the dumps. There is a way to help someone you love who’s hurting—but you’ll have to use an entirely different set of tools and skills—the Five Secrets of Effective Communication—WITHOUT trying to “help.”

So, the short answer to your question is—skillful listening is all that’s called for. Anything more runs the risk of getting you into trouble. But this may require a radical change in the way you communicate, as well as your personal philosophy.

Let’s talk about what TO do, and what NOT to do when patients, friends or people you care about express angst, or seem troubled, or describe problems in their lives, and they seem to be hurting a lot.

DO NOT

2. Try to help
3. Try to cheer the person up
4. Try to solve the problem s/he is struggling with
5. Try to get the other person to think or act more positively
6. Try to minimize the problem by saying it’s not that bad, or things will get better.
7. Point out ways the other person may be thinking or acting in a self-defeating manner.

Before we tell you what does work, let me focus on just one of these errors, to bring it to life for you. Recently, Rhonda and I recorded a live therapy session with a man named who was upset because his mother had lost the use of her legs to due a rare neurological disorder, and needed much greater care in an assisted living facility. This required selling the house his mother was living so they could afford the assisted living facility, and it was a great loss for everyone, since Kevin was raised in that house, and his parents and grandparents had lived there, too.

After Rhonda and I empathized with him for about thirty minutes, we asked the other therapists to offer empathy as well, as part of their practice and training that evening. We stressed the importance of simply summarizing what Kevin had told us (Thought Empathy) and how he was feeling (Feeling Empathy), without trying to “help.” One of the therapists, who was new to the group, kind of missed the mark, She did what we call “cheerleading,” telling Kevin what a wonderful and heroic person he was without acknowledging what he’d be saying and how painful it was for him.

You’ll hear this brief excerpt from the session in the podcast. When we asked Kevin how he felt about her comment, he had to tell her that he was embarrassed, and not helped, by what she’d said.

Here’s why. When you don’t acknowledge someone’s profound negative feelings of loss, anxiety, sadness, anger, and more, you might unintentionally convey the message that you don’t want to hear about how they really feel inside. And when you cheerlead, it also conveys the message that the person is not very intelligent, and simply has to be cheered up, and then everything will be okay!

We cannot be too hard on this therapist, because her efforts came from the heart, and I’m sure she felt sad for this man. And most of us have made the same mistake at times, or even often. I frequently hear parents trying to cheer their children up, or trying to tell their children what to do, or how to change, without really listening.

But, most of the time, it just doesn’t work like that!

Now that you know what NOT to do, what can you do that WILL help?

DO

Use the Five Secrets of Effective Communication, with an emphasis on the listening skills. One of the most important skills is called Feeling Empathy—simply acknowledging how the other person is feeling, and asking them to tell you more, and if you got it right.

For example, let’s say a friend or family member is procrastinating on something important, like a research report or college application, and is feeling pretty upset and self-critical. You could say something like this: “It sounds like you’re beating up on yourself for procrastinating, I’m wondering if you’re feeling

2. anxious, worried, pressured, or nervous?
3. guilty or ashamed?
4. inadequate, worthless, defective, or inferior?
5. alone or lonely?
6. humiliated or self-conscious?
7. discouraged or hopeless?
8. stuck or defeated?
9. angry, annoyed, hurt, or upset?”

I find that people really like it when I ask these questions, and I let them answer each one. Then I ask them about their negative thoughts. What are they telling themselves? What are the upsetting messages?

When you use this approach, you are literally doing nothing to “help” the other person, but if you listen skillfully, she or he will probably really appreciate your listening, and you may end up feeling really close. In fact, I (David), had this exact experience just a couple days ago with a student who was struggling and feeling down.

Often, the person who’s depressed will be someone you love, like a family member, so your concerns for him or her, and your desire to “help,” are an expression of your love. But listening skillfully will likely be a whole lot more effective. And you can express your own feelings, too, with “I Feel” Statements, like “I feel sad to hear how down you’ve been feeling, because I love you a lot.”

Example

A woman named Clarissa was concerned because her son, Billy, who is in his early 20s, had been severely depressed for several years, and had not responded to treatment with antidepressants and even lithium. Clarissa had read my book, Feeling Good, and listened to almost all of the Feeling Good Podcasts. She described herself as a true “TEAM-CBT convert because she’d worked with a therapist trained in TEAM-CBT and no longer suffered from the depression and anxiety she’d struggled with most of her adult life. She agreed with a lot of what I’d said on the podcasts about the chemical imbalance theory (there’s no convincing evidence for it) and antidepressants (recent research suggests they do not outperform placebos to a clinically significant degree).

But Billy was saying things like this:

“Mom, I KNOW I have a chemical imbalance because this cloud will suddenly come over me, and I feel TERRIBLE. It’s not about negative thoughts—I don’t have any negative thoughts. My depression is clearly the result of a chemical imbalance, and I feel doomed by my genes.”

Then Clarissa would try to cheer him up, which always failed, or would try to convince him that it’s not about a chemical imbalance and that if he really tried TEAM-CBT, he could overcome his depression, just as she had done. These are such common errors!

How could Clarissa respond more effectively? If she focuses on good listening skills, instead of trying to win an argument, she might say something like this:

“Billy, I really love you, and feel so sad to hear about your depression. You’re absolutely right, too. Sometimes a bad mood seems to come from out of the blue, with no rhyme or reason. And genes can be important. I’ve struggled with depression in the past, and maybe you’ve inherited some of my genes. Tell me more about how you’ve been feeling. Have you been feeling down, anxious, ashamed, hopeless, or angry? What you’re saying is so important, and I really want to her what’s it’s been like for you.”

Can you see that Billy would be more likely to open up and might even share some things that he’s been hiding, out of a sense of frustration, anger, or shame? And can you also see that providing some love and support—pure listening, with compassion—might be a lot more helpful than getting into an argument about the causes of depression? He might open up about all sorts of things that have been eating away at him—problems with girls, sex, sports, or his studies, or concerns about his looks, or even feelings of shame about his depression.

The next question is—when DO you help someone? And HOW do you help them.

The approach I use as a therapist might be the same approach you’d want to use. At the beginning of every therapy session, I empathize without trying to help, exactly as I’ve been teaching you in this podcast, and in this document, and I give the other person some time—typically about 30 minutes or so—just to vent while I use the Five Secrets of Effective Communication—listening skillfully—without trying to “help.”

Then I ask the patient to grade me on empathy. I say, “How am I doing so far in terms of understanding how you’re thinking and feeling? Would you give me an A, a B, a C, or perhaps even a D?”

Most of the time, the other person WILL give you a grade. If they give you an A, you’re in good shape. But if they give you an A-, or a B+, or worse, ask them to explain the part you’re missing, or not getting right.

When they tell you, you can use the Five Secrets again, summarizing the part you missed, and then ask what your grade is, to see if you’ve improved. Usually, your grade will improve a lot.

Do NOT try to “help” until you received an A!

So, let’s assume you’ve gotten an A. What then?

Then I do what’s called the Invitation Step in TEAM therapy—I ask if the other person wants help with any of the problems s/he has been discussing. You can ask the same question.

If the other person does NOT want help, but just wanted to talk and get support, your job is done. You can also ask if they want to talk some more. Most of the time, all people want is a little listening and support, and they’re not looking for help or advice.

But if the other person DOES want help, you can ask what kind of help they’re looking for. Then you can decide if you’re in a position to provide that type of help. Sometimes, the help they’re looking for might not be something you can provide. For example, they may be angry at someone they’re not getting along with, and may want you to tell the other person to change. I explain that this is not something I would know how to do, but I could possibly help them change the way they interact with that person.

This may sound really simple, but it takes a lot of practice and determination! It can be a lot harder than it looks.

Many people will NOT want to go down this road, and will insist on jumping in to help or cheerlead. You can do that if you want, but in my experience, pushing help on people who are hurting is rarely helpful. The “need” to help or rescue can result from your love and compassion, but it can also result from narcissism, codependency, or the desire to control or dominate another person. I see it as a kind of an addiction, too.

• You can read my book, Feeling Good Together, and do the written exercises while reading, so you can master the Five Secrets of Effective Communication. This is a BIG assignment, but the reward, in terms of more loving and satisfying relationships with the people you love, will be equally great.
• You can try using “I Feel” Statements and Feeling Empathy with at least one person every day this week.

David D. Burns, M.D. & Rhonda Barovsky, Psy.D.

You can reach Dr. Burns at david@feelinggood.com. Dr. Rhonda Barovsky practices in Walnut Creek, California, and can be reached at rbarovsky@aol.com. Today’s featured photo is courtesy of Nancy Mueller–www.nancymuellerphotography.com.

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

# * * *

I also have two tremendous one-day workshop scheduled with my colleague, Dr. Jill Levitt, next year–

## High Speed Methods to Reduce Resistanceand Boost Motivation

This is the most important, and least understood, topic in the behavioral sciences. Nearly all therapeutic failure results from the failure to address resistance. Therapists do not understand what causes resistance or how treat it effectively.

Come to this workshop and learn how to melt away resistance for incredibly high-speed recovery!

With Drs. David Burns and Jill Levitt

# 163: Ask David: Anxiety, Dreams, Cyclical Negative Thoughts, Secrets of Selling, Exposure, and more

#### Will you teach on the East Coast again?

Hi! We’ve had tons of great questions from listeners like you. Here’s the first:

Question #1. TREATING ANXIETY WITHOUT MEDICATIONS

Hi Dr. Burns,

I would love to talk to you!!!

I have been going to a wonderful counselor for several years, and he is the one who recommended your book. My question is how can you overcome anxiety without taking medicine?

I have been on a very low dose medicine for years and would love to discontinue but when I try the anxiety seems to come back.

Thank you.

Lisa

Hi Lisa,

Thank you for your email! This is one of my favorite topics, since I’ve personally had at least 17 different anxiety disorders that I’ve had to overcome. That’s why I love treating anxiety. Whatever you’ve had, I can say, “I’ve had that too, and I know how it sucks! And I can put you on the road to recovery, too!”

Did you read When Panic Attacks, or one of the earlier books? The written exercises would be the way to go, I think.

You will find more than 40 methods in that book. Write back if you have questions after reading it. Focus on one specific moment when you are anxious, and do a Daily Mood Log, as illustrated in Chapter 3.

You can also listen to the free Feeling Good Podcasts on anxiety. Go to my website, FeelingGood.com, and click on the Podcast tab. There, you’ll find a list of all the podcasts, with links. In the right hand panel of every page, you’ll find the search function. You can type in “anxiety,” or “social anxiety,” and so forth, and all the relevant podcasts and blogs will pop right up. You can also sign up in that same right-hand panel of every page so you’ll receive all the new podcasts, along with the show notes.

In addition, withdrawal effects are pretty much inevitable when going off of benzodiazepines, if that is the type of medication you are taking. These are the drugs most often prescribed for anxiety, like Valium, Librium, Ativan, Xanax, and so forth. Typically, the withdrawal, which typically involves insomnia and increased anxiety, take several weeks to wear off.

Your medical doctor can guide you in this. I cannot advise you about medications in this forum, so make sure you check with your doctor!

David

Question #2. How can you interpret dreams?

Hello, Dr. Burns.

I am terrified that this may be the most boring question you have ever received, but, I’ll press on none the less.

I often experience very vivid dreams after listening to your podcasts. In fact, I recently dozed off after listening to one of your podcasts on procrastination (#75) and forgot to turn off my phone. In my dream I was in my childhood house and could hear you talking away in some far corner of the house and I was really getting quite annoyed and angry.

I really wanted to find you to tell you to shut up, but I couldn’t get the words out.

When I awoke, podcast #77 was playing, which seems to explain some of my unconscious hostility. I struggle with most of my relationships and don’t really want to deal with all the hard work I have to do to improve them.

So, there you have it!

Thanks for listening to me and all your Herculean efforts on behalf of all those in the struggle to grow.

Mike

Hi Mike,

I explain how dreams function, and give an example with my dream that I had a broken jaw!

Question #3. Are Negative Thoughts cyclical?

David, I have a question about our strong attraction or inclination to negative thoughts.

Are our psychological processes cyclical? People seem to recycle the same negative thoughts for years. Even if we produce a strong alternative thought or reattribution it may not be a default choice the next time. How can we make the alternative/ positive thoughts a conscious choice?

Thanks,

Rajesh

Hi Rajesh:

Negative Thoughts are not cyclical for the most part, but are an inherent part of our human nature. The podcast on fractal psychotherapy might be useful, since the same Negative Thoughts will tend to come back over and over throughout your life. And once you have learned how to combat those thoughts, you can use the same techniques to smash the thoughts whenever they pop back into your mind.

The written exercises I describe in my books, like the Daily Mood Log, are extremely helpful, even mandatory, in building new brain networks and strengthening them through repeated practice.

Bipolar manic-depressive illness is a little different, and it can be quick cyclical. (David will briefly explain this.)

Thanks Rajesh for yet another great question!

david

Question #4. I’m in sales. How do I combat my Negative Thoughts about each person I approach?

Hi David,

I have been struggling with anxiety for the last 18 months and recently faced up to the fact I have also been suffering from depression. And then I discovered your podcasts.

I have been spending a lot of time on the episodes I believe I can benefit from the most. I have found your solutions to be the most beneficial I have come across. Thank you for sharing your ideas and techniques with all of us!

A couple of questions—How would you advise constructing a work day to reduce anxiety? I work in sales and feel anxious before every phone call or visit I encounter, and the anxiety can be for reasons that seem to be related solely to each sales encounter on individual basis! And my anxiety will grow as the day goes on.

My second point would be, would there be a benefit in monitoring positive thoughts and feelings throughout the day, like happiness and hopefulness, rather than negative feelings?

Hi Rudi,

I’ve done a lot of sales work, including door-to-door sales when I was young. When I was 8 years old, I sold show tickets door to door. When I was a teenager, I sold Fiesta Chips, Cosmo’s Cock Roach Power, tick powder for dogs, and For Econoline Vans door to door in Phoenix. So, I feel a soft spot in my heart for everyone involved in sales! In fact, I’m still involved in sales! But these days I’m selling happiness, self-esteem, and intimacy.

I think it could be useful to do a written Daily Mood Log on the anxiety you feel before one of your calls. I think you will find there are certain themes that are common to each call, such as fears of rejection, disapproval, or failure. Once you’ve dealt with these fears successfully, I think they will help in all of your sales encounters. If you send me a partially filled out Daily Mood Log, perhaps Rhonda and I could provide more specific tips on how to crush your Negative Thoughts. If you listen to Rhonda’s work on performance anxiety, you may find it extremely helpful.

In addition, the Five Secrets of Effective Communication are the keys to successful sales. I used to think that you had to sell yourself, or your product, which is rarely true. I learned that the key is to form a warm relationship with your customers. David will explain what he learned from his mother, who sold women’s clothing part-time at a department store in Phoenix.

Thanks, Rudi, I hope to hear more.

Question #4. Why and how does exposure for anxiety work?

Hi Dr. Burns,

I am a big fan and believe that you are the greatest living psychologist of our time. I have seen you in person and hear your recent PESI presentation (link).

Quick question, when exposure is used to get rid of anxiety, what do you think is the mechanism in the brain? It works paradoxically, instead of strengthening a neuro-network it extinguishes it. Any ideas how.

Thanks for your time, and again I have learned so much from you in my over 30-year career, thank you for that also.

Sincerely, Dr. Mark

Hi Dr. Mark,

With your permission, will include this on an upcoming Ask David on my Feeling Good Podcast, but I think you discover a couple things during exposure:

1. When you stop running away and confront the monster, you discover that the monster has no teeth, so you go into enlightenment. This is the basis of Buddhism and the teachings in the Tibetan book of the dead.
2. During exposure, you also discover that after a while the anxiety just kind of wears out, dwindles, and disappears. The brain simply cannot continue creating anxiety for prolonged periods of time, especially when you are doing everything you can to make it as intense as possible.
3. You discover that you can, in fact, endure the anxiety and survive, and that you do not have to “escape” from the feeling of anxiety via avoidance.

One other thing that is important is that I treat anxiety with four models, not one: 1. The Motivational Model; 2. The Hidden Emotion model; 3. The Exposure Model; and 4. The Cognitive Model. All play vitally important and unique roles in the treatment of anxiety. Exposure alone is NOT a treatment for anxiety, just one tool among many that can be helpful, and often incredibly helpful, as you’ll see in the upcoming podcast on the treatment of Sara, a woman struggling with severe OCD for more than 20 years.

Great question! Hope to catch you in one of my upcoming in-person / online workshops!

Thanks, David

Mark’s reply and a brief final question

Hi Dr. Burns,

Yes, of course you have my permission to use my question! Also, I do understand your impressive approach to treatment (not just exposure), and again it is genius. I also love that you see the connection between Buddhism and cognitive restructuring, where as Dr. Beck only went as far back as Socrates and the Greek Stoic philosophers. I don’t know if you ever read the Dhammapada (best translation I found is Eknath Easwaran) as it clearly states that our life is shaped by our mind, and that our feelings follow our thoughts just like a cart follows the ox that pulls it.

Thanks again! Will you be coming to the East coast again soon?

Hi again, Mark,

Yes, I’ll be coming to Atlanta for a four-day intensive in November! Check my workshop tab at www.feelinggood.com for more information. (https://feelinggood.com/workshops/)

david

David D. Burns, M.D. / Rhonda Barovsky, Psy.D.

You can reach Dr. Burns at david@feelinggood.com. Dr. Rhonda Barovsky practices in Walnut Creek, California, and can be reached at rbarovsky@aol.com. Today’s featured photo is courtesy of Nancy Mueller–www.nancymuellerphotography.com.

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

# * * *

I also have two tremendous one-day workshop scheduled with my colleague, Dr. Jill Levitt, next year–

# 162: High-Speed Cure for OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder)

### The Treatment of Sara

Today we are joined by a woman named Sara, who will be featured in one of the chapters from my new book, Feeling Great.

Rhonda begins today’s podcast by reading two heart-warming endorsements from podcast fans. Then we did a brief overview of OCD. OCD consists of two components, obsessions and compulsions. The obsessions are intrusive, anxiety provoking thoughts, like “what if I forgot to turn off the burners on the stove.” Compulsions are rituals that temporarily relieve the anxiety, such as going back into the kitchen repeatedly to make sure that the burners really are turned off. This problem can become more and more severe until the obsessive thoughts and compulsive rituals consume massive amounts of the patient’s time and become crippling.

You are probably aware that OCD plagued the life of the billionaire playboy, Howard Hughes, featured in the recent film, “The Aviator.” During the last years of his life, he became totally consumed by concerns about germs, and ended up isolated in the penthouse suite at the top of a hotel in Las Vegas. According to a “psychological autopsy” (https://www.apa.org/monitor/julaug05/hughes) published by the American Psychological Association, Hughes lay naked in bed in darkened hotel rooms in what he considered a germ-free zone. He even wore tissue boxes on his feet to protect them, and burned his clothing if someone near him became ill.

Sara, today’s guest, was a victim of the same type of OCD. She describes how her intense fears of germs and contamination came on more than 20 years ago, and the devastating impact of the OCD on her as well as her relationships with friends and family. She also describes her shame about her rituals of constantly washing her hands and desperately trying to avoid contamination.

Sara also describes, in vivid detail, her remarkable and inspiring five minute “cure” one evening at David’s Tuesday evening training group at Stanford earlier this year. She had courageously volunteered to be the patient so David could to demonstrate TEAM-CBT with a problem generally thought to be exceptionally challenging and refractory. And although Sara’s dramatic and mind-blowing recovery only took about five minutes, the treatment required a lifetime of courage!

Fortunately, one of my students had his cell phone in hand, and made a brief video of the last phase of her treatment at the Tuesday group, which involved putting her hands into a slimy, dirty garbage can right outside the front door of our Behavioral Sciences Building at Stanford and then rubbing her fingers on her face. Check it out!

And yes, the effects DID last! Her treatment was many months ago, and she’s been a totally changed person!

Following the podcast, Rhonda and I got two beautiful emails from Sara:

Wow! What a beautiful day! Thank you, Rhonda and David for the amazing opportunity to share my story! I feel very selfish but I enjoyed every minute of it. You both made me feel so comfortable and welcome. You two are so incredibly AWESOME! You make a superb team! 🙂

And here is the second wonderful email:

David, I hope you are feeling better and that you recover from your cold soon, very soon.

I wanted to share an afterthought I had a couple of days after we recorded the podcast. I wish I had thought about it before the podcast because this was so much part of my OCD.

Anyway, for years (many years) I bought sanitized hand wipes and carried them in my purse, car, briefcase, you name it—I had hand wipes everywhere. I was known for having wipes with me all the time.

Not long after the magical treatment of my OCD, I was at the grocery store and proceeded to add three packets of sanitized hand wipes to my basket and I burst into laughter, even though I was by myself! I, then, put them back on the shelf, as I told myself, “I don’t need these anymore!”

Since then, I no longer carry them NOR NEED THEM!

Funny enough, I have been approached on different occasions by family members and friends saying something like, “You always have wipes, can we have one, please?” I have to say, “Sorry, I don’t carry wipes anymore since I’ve been cured!”

What a wonderful feeling that is—not to feel dependent nor a slave to the sink and hand wipes. Not to mention, all the money I am saving by not buying wipes!!!

Anyway, I thought I should share that with you and I’m sad I didn’t remember it until after the recording of the podcast.

Once again, thank you both for the amazing recording, all your support, and all you do for our Tuesday training group and humanity in general!

With Immense Gratitude,

Sara

Sara Shane is a certified TEAM-CBT therapist practicing in the central valley of California (Stockton). She is multi-lingual and offers intensives—extended, single-session treatment of depression and all of the anxiety disorders. And, here’s something fantastic—although Sara is a superb therapist, her fees are modest, thus bucking the current trend of charging outrageous fees for psychotherapy in California. This is something I really admire and appreciate!

If you would like to contact Sara, you can reach her at: 209-476-8867.

David and Rhonda

You can reach Dr. Burns at david@feelinggood.com. Dr. Rhonda Barovsky practices in Walnut Creek, California, and can be reached at rbarovsky@aol.com. She is a Certified TEAM-CBT therapist 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

# 161: Listening to a Different Kind of Music

### Hearing the Music Behind the Words

This podcast again features the music of two beloved colleagues we introduced last week, Brandon Vance, MD and Heather Clague MD. We will be listening to music again this week, but it will be, for the most part, a different kind of music—it’s the music behind the words when someone criticizes you. We will be focusing on the most challenging and important of the Five Secrets of Effective Communication, the Disarming Technique. This week, Brandon and Heather will help Rhonda and David illustrate how to use this technique when you’re under the fire of criticism. But in addition, Brandon and Heather will also sing one more of their extremely beautiful and fun songs, appropriately entitled, “The Five Secrets!”

When you use the Disarming Technique, you find the truth in a criticism, even if the criticism seems untrue, unfair, or exaggerated. This technique is based on the Law of Opposites. The essence of the Law of Opposites is that if you genuinely and immediately agree with the criticism that seems untrue, you will put the lie to it, and the critic will stop believing the criticism. This is a remarkable phenomenon that can be enormously helpful in conflicts with patients (if you’re a therapist) as well as friends, colleagues, and loved ones. However, it is challenging, because you have to be able to really listen and “hear” the music behind the other person’s words.

If you use the Disarming Technique, or any of the Five Secrets, in a mechanical way, it will backfire. And I (David) have noticed that even trained mental health professionals can have a tremendous difficulties learning to use the Disarming Technique.

Here’s an example of POOR technique. Although this is a therapy example, it is equally valid for conflicts between friends and loved ones.

Let’s say that you’re a therapist, and your patient confronts you by saying, “This is the second week in a row that you’ve been late for my session.”

I’ve seen therapists respond like this: “You’re right. I have had emergencies which made me late for your sessions last week and today.”

Is this a good example of the Disarming Technique?

NO! Can you see why?

It’s because this therapist is agreeing with the criticism in a literal way, and not hearing the “music” behind the words. What is this patient really saying? He’s probably saying that he feels a lack of caring from his therapist, and this may be one of his core conflicts,  thinking that the people he cares about never care about him. So the therapist’s “mechanical” answer misses the boat.

Here’s an improved response that addresses what the patient really said. After each sentence, I’ll put the name(s) of the technique(s) I used in the sentence.

“Jim, it’s painful to hear you say that, because you’re right. (“I Feel” Statement; Disarming Technique) I was late and I let you down, and I feel embarrassed. (Disarming; “I Feel” Statement.) I wouldn’t be surprised if you’re feeling hurt and  annoyed, and maybe even a bit angry with me, and for good reason. (Feeling Empathy) This is particularly uncomfortable, because you’ve told me that everyone you care about seems to let you down. (“I Feel” Statement; Thought and Feeling Empathy) I care about you and have tremendous respect for you.  (Stroking) Although I was delayed by emergencies last week and this week, the fact is, you had to wait. (Disarming) I will try to correct the problem of getting emergency calls when I’m in the clinic, which definitely is irritating and unfair to you, and I’ll gladly offer a free session to compensate the fact that you had to wait. (Disarming Technique, Feeling Empathy) I want to know more about how you’ve been feeling, and if there have been other times when I’ve let you down or perhaps said things that seemed uncaring? (Inquiry)”

Can you see that this response addresses the music, or feeling, or message behind the words, and not just the words?

And can you see the Law of Opposites in action? When this therapist agrees that he has let the patient down, and shows some humility, the patient will probably suddenly feel very cared about.

In today’s podcast, Brandon, Heather, Rhonda and David play a kind of Disarming Round Robin, taking turns responding to unexpected criticisms, using the Disarming Technique as well as any other communication techniques that may be needed. For example, one of the therapists is attacked by a patient who is a person of color who calls him “one of the rich white privileged people.”

You will also hear the immediate grading of each response–was it an A, a B, a C, or a D–along with what worked and what didn’t work, followed in some cases by a second try. If you want to learn the Five Secrets, and especially the Disarming Technique, this type of practice will be a must! You can practice with a colleague, or with a friend. But be prepared to check your ego at the door so you can learn from failure, because it will be very challenging for you at first!

A neighbor who was helping with the recording, Dave Fribush, said that he really liked the podcast, but was disappointed it was so short–he wanted to hear more examples. So Rhonda and I recorded a  brief supplement two days later, which we will edit in.

Here are the additional criticisms we practiced:

1. Angry friend who feels jealous / betrayed and says: You were hitting on my girlfriend last night!
2. Irate mother, who feels neglected / used, and says: Forget it! I’ll just do it myself!
3. Hurt colleague, who says: You didn’t support me during the meeting!
4. Indignant patient, who tells her therapist: You just called me Jane, but my name is Lisa!

If you are serious about learning the Disarming Technique, as well as the other Secrets of Effective Communication, I would strongly urge you to study this list of Common Five Secrets Errors in addition to practicing with a friend. I know I’m asking a lot from you, but we are giving you, or hoping to give you, something precious!

And here are the words to today’s featured TEAM-CBT song!

She Used the Five Secrets

Lyrics by Heather Clague
to the tune of Blue Velvet by Bernie Wayne and Lee Morris.

She used the Five… Secrets

Madder than angry, oh was I

Pissed and unhappy, I could cry

At the start

She used the Five Secrets

She spoke my words to ‘ empathize

She ‘ guessed my feelings, oh she tried

From the heart

How could I stay harmed

When she so skillfully disarmed

How could I want to fight

When she asked, did I get it right with

With my Five Secrets

she told me plainly how she felt

Her stroking made my whole heart melt

Into tears

And I can still hear her Five Secrets

In my ears

The Five secrets

Now I have learned to use them too

To give up blame and follow through

And face my fears

And I practice my Five Secrets

With my dears

I love the Five Secrets!

Conflict fuels intimacy

It’s more sincere!

So with the five secrets

Let love appear!

Brandon Vance, MD and Heather Clague, MD are both psychiatrists and certified TEAM-CBT therapists. They practice in Oakland, California.

In addition to her brilliant work as a TEAM-CBT psychiatrist and teacher, Heather is a singer and improviser who collaborated in the creation of lyrics for some of Brandon’s songs. She is a member of the performance group, The Berkeley Players, and is the director of Berkeley Improv, a Bay Area school of improv that offers improv acting classes for adults and youth. Heather says, “Improv is a lot like TEAM CBT – full of laughter and enlightenment.  The best moments tend to happen when we throw shame to the wind and let magic arise from the ordinary and let our ‘mistakes’ become gifts.”

In addition to his brilliant work as a TEAM-CBT psychiatrist and teacher, Brandon has a musical group that is connected with the Justice Arts Collective at Chabot College in Hayward California. In that group, he works with students to create musical pieces with social justice themes, often in the style of hip hop with Latin beats. Most, if not all of the students have experienced personal trauma and social inequity. Through music, they can share their truths, their hearts and their wealth of experiences with each other and the community, while at the same time working for social change.

Brandon explains that “we form deep connections with each other, and it’s become something of a family . A couple of years ago, we made a music video for our song, ‘From Mt. Tamalpais to Fruitvale Station,’ and actually won first place in the My Hero International Film Festival and in the World Independent Film Festival, as well as awards in many other film festivals.  Check it out! We’re now working on a new video about immigration with our song, ‘Bring Down the Wall.'”

Brandon has also worked with Amy Specter in the creation of a company called Gameful Mind. He explains that “we wanted playful ways to support adults and kids in developing skills to be and stay emotionally well. So, we made the game TuneIN TuneUP, as well as some other games and playful shirts and such.”

David and Rhonda

You can reach Dr. Burns at david@feelinggood.com. Dr. Rhonda Barovsky practices in Walnut Creek, California, and can be reached at rbarovsky@aol.com. She is a Certified TEAM-CBT therapist 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

# 160: Listening to the Music of TEAM

### & Heather Clague, MD

This podcast features the music of two beloved colleagues, Brandon Vance, MD and Heather Clague MD. Brandon and Heather are both certified TEAM-CBT psychiatrists practicing in Oakland, California. Brandon is a brilliant multi-instrumentalist and singer / song writer / performer who has transformed his vision of TEAM-CBT into music! Heather is brilliant and fun improv acting teacher and performer who is quick in her mind and on her feet! Brandon and Heather have performed at David’s annual South San Francisco psychotherapy intensive for the past several years, and we are delighted to bring them to you up close and personal today!

In today’s podcast, they’ll bring you their songs and amazing personal stories. And what is super cool is that you can follow the words for the music right here in the show notes.

Song #1

Heather and Brandon begin with music about a familiar but painful theme for nearly all of us—the feeling of failure, and the belief that we are somehow defective or just “not good enough.” Brandon and Heather are extremely talented and successful individuals, but they are not immune from suffering. During the podcast, they describe their own painful personal experiences with depression, anxiety, shame, and defectiveness.

Most therapists, including David, were trained in the psychoanalytic tradition and told that we should NEVER disclose or reveal our own personal feelings or experiences to patients. But we believe that some personal disclosure can be very healing for patients if done with skill and compassion. Most patients want to hear this type of message from a therapist:

“I’ve been there myself, and know how much pain you’re in. And I can show you the way out of the woods, so you can experience feelings of joy and self-esteem again. And what a joy that’s going to be!”

So, with no further ado, Brandon and Heather perform their first song:

The Feel of Failure

Lyrics by Heather Clague and Brandon Vance
to the tune of “The Sound of Silence” by Paul Simon

Hello failure my old friend

I’ve come to talk with you again

Because my ego softly creeping

Infects my thoughts while I am preaching

And that vision that was planted in my brain

Still remains; becomes the Feel of Failure

Fool, said I, you are so lame

Done something wrong to feel this shame

Perfect is the way that you should be

Self-blame coming like a tsunami

Negative thoughts one hundred – percent on my DML

I was in hell

Suffered the Feel of Failure

My self-esteem had turned to shit

I needed the magic button hit

Something told me my feelings weren’t lame

Began to do a positive reframe

Maybe my feelings say something about me that is pretty fly

I set the bar high

So I have a Feel of Failure

I saw that I was not alone

Dared go beyond my comfort zone

I took pride in my humility

Welcomed my faults as my humanity

And in a moment of enlightenment I cried and then I laughed

I’d finally grasped

The wisdom… of the Feel… of Failure

Song #2

The next song is on social anxiety. Brandon explains:

“I wanted to introduce this song I wrote with Amy Specter who was on your podcast on August 5th #152 a month or so ago. It’s called, “Negative Thoughts Shut your Piehole Tonight.” And it’s about social anxiety and the idea that when you’re upset, it’s not the event or the other person who’s “making you” feel upset, it’s your own negative thoughts.

“Where it gets personal for me is that I was bullied in elementary school by a group of my former friends who made up a story that I was gay – as if that’s a bad thing – and then yelled things, tried to get in fights with me, etc., for really the majority of the school year. And I got really down and felt ashamed, and didn’t tell my parents or anyone else about it because of that. But what they did, didn’t make me down – it was my negative thoughts. I wasn’t actually gay, but what was important was that I told myself that I was defective, and people didn’t want to be around me.

“The person who I thought was the ringleader was a blonde blue-eyed (as if those are good things) smart, handsome guy who had great social skills and apparent confidence – both seemingly more than I had. In my mind I made him into an evil person just interested in popularity. But he had many good qualities (and was a friend of mine before this). Seeing his good qualities reminds me of the concept of the disarm.

“In this song, the singer is anxious about going to a party. She feels envious of Anna, a woman who’s thin (as if that’s a good thing) and gets a lot of attention – both because of our culture’s preoccupation with women being thin and also because she has great social skills. So, she feels bad about herself.

“But then realizes it’s just her negative thoughts and also sees that her negative thoughts and feelings helpful to her, and represent good things about her. Then she works successfully on changing the way she thinks and feels.”

Negative Thoughts, Shut Your Piehole Tonight!

by Amy Specter and Brandon Vance

Tiny Anna, you’ve been getting me down. But I know it’s not you; it’s the negative thoughts doing their doo-doo. And those negative thoughts I can leave behind. That’s right, you can walk right out of my mind. You can shut your pie-hole, though you’ve given me a lot during my days. But, I don’t need you now; you can get up and walk right out of that door – and shut your pie hole on the way!

You’ve been talking since the dawn’s early light

you’re an expert, attention getter, you’re quite the sight!

to talk at a party like the talkin’ on the tv screen

Now I’m gonna say something and it may not be polite!

Cause I’ve realized that I’ve got some work to do

But this time I’m not going to shut down and stew.

My negative thoughts are bothering me

much more than Anna Lee

so negative thoughts, shut your pie holes tonight.

Negative thoughts you’ve served me well and

kept me from being in social situation hell

Rejection comfortably kept at bay

I don’t have to put myself out there

I can keep myself at home without judgments to fear

they can let me off the hook

No effort to change, to learn new things or swim in another lane

Negative thoughts you’ve kept me safe

But I’m going to try my mind on a different train

Maybe I don’t need negative thoughts and their kind

to tell me if I can have a good time

I can be myself and go at my own pace

Even with these tiny negative thoughts flapping their tiny lips in my face

Negative thoughts said there’s no room in this world for my kind

well that’s just bullshit created by my negative mind

I laugh about awkward autocorrects, Weird-Al and farting

So why not enjoy, the people, at the party?

So negative thoughts shut your pieholes tonight!

Negative thoughts you’ve served me well

Negative thoughts – farewell!

Negative thoughts shut your pie hole tonight

Tiny Anna will surely get some attention

That may be true

And that doesn’t mean I won’t get affection

But even if I don’t have things to say,

I’ll learn to chit chat the Anna way.

So Negative thoughts shut your pieholes tonight,

Negative thoughts shut your pieholes tonight.

That’s right, negative thoughts shut your pieholes tonight!

Cause I wanna have some FUN!!!

Song #3

The last song by Brandon and Heather focuses on the “A” of TEAM therapy, formerly called A = Paradoxical Agenda Setting, and now given the simpler name of A = Assessment of Resistance. We address the patient’s resistance in this very crucial and paradoxical part of TEAM-CBT. When we address resistance up front by arguing for the status quo, the patient paradoxically argues for change, and therapy becomes much easier. After that point, it’s No Resistance No Cry.

NO RESISTANCE NO CRY

Lyrics by Amy Specter and Brandon Vance
to the tune of “No Woman No Cry.” by Bob Marley.

No resistance no cry

No resistance no cry

No resistance no cry

No resistance no cry

Next week, Brandon and Heather will return for a second podcast on listening to a very different kind of “music,” the meaning behind the words when people are critical of you. We will discuss and illustrate, once again, the incredibly important Disarming Technique, which is arguably the most important of the Five Secrets of Effective Communication.

In addition to her brilliant work as a TEAM-CBT psychiatrist and teacher, Heather Clague is a singer and improviser who collaborated in the creation of lyrics for some of Brandon’s songs. She is a member of the performance group, The Berkeley Players, and is the director of Berkeley Improv, a Bay Area school of improv that offers improv acting classes for adults and youth. Heather says, “Improv is a lot like TEAM CBT – full of laughter and enlightenment. The best moments tend to happen when we throw shame to the wind and let magic arise from the ordinary and let our ‘mistakes’ become gifts.”

Dr. Brandon Vance has a musical group that is connected with the Justice Arts Collective at Chabot College in Hayward California. In that group, he works with students to create musical pieces with social justice themes, often in the style of hip hop with Latin beats. Most, if not all of the students have experienced personal trauma and social inequity. Through music, they can share their truths, their hearts and their wealth of experiences with each other and the community, while at the same time working for social change.

Brandon explains that “we form deep connections with each other, and it’s become something of a family . A couple of years ago, we made a music video for our song, ‘From Mt. Tamalpais to Fruitvale Station,’ and actually won first place in the My Hero International Film Festival and in the World Independent Film Festival, as well as awards in many other film festivals.  Check it out! We’re now working on a new video about immigration with our song, ‘Bring Down the Wall.'”

Dr. Vance has also worked with Amy Specter in the creation of a company called Gameful Mind. He explains that “we wanted playful ways to support adults and kids in developing skills to be and stay emotionally well. So, we made the game TuneIN TuneUP, as well as some other games and playful shirts and such.”

David and Rhonda

You can reach Dr. Burns at david@feelinggood.com. Dr. Rhonda Barovsky practices in Walnut Creek, California, and can be reached at rbarovsky@aol.com. She is a Certified TEAM-CBT therapist 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

# * * *

HEY! THERE’S A TREMENDOUS WORKSHOP THIS SUNDAY, OCTOBER 6, 2019!

ACT FAST IF YOU WANT TO ATTEND!

THIS IS ONE WORKSHOP YOU DON’T WANT TO MISS!

My awesome colleague, Dr. Jill Levitt, and I are offering you a life- and career-changing (really!) relationship workshop in just a few days. You will learn powerful skills that will boost your clinical effectiveness and deepen your relationships with friends, colleagues, and loved ones.

## The Cognitive Distortion Starter Kit:How to Crush Negative Thoughts

### May 17, 2020 | 7 CE hours. $135 ### Learn More & Register # 159: Live Therapy with Marilyn: “What if I die without having lived a meaningful life?” ### The Secret of a Meaningful Life One of my favorite podcasts of all time, and one of the most frequently downloaded, was the live session with Daisy (podcast #79): “What’s the Secret of a Meaningful Life?” You may recall that Daisy and her husband, Zane, were looking forward with dread to the possibility of childlessness, since their efforts at pregnancy had so far failed, and Daisy was asking if she could possibly have a joyful and meaningful life without children. In today’s podcast we return to the same type of question from the other end of the spectrum. When we age and look back on our lives, and realize that our days are numbered, we may once again, “Have I lived a meaningful life?” Do you know how to answer this question? What, in your opinion, is the secret of a meaningful life? If the answer to this question is important to you, you might enjoy today’s podcast, which features, once again, two beloved friends and colleagues, Dr. Marilyn Coffee and Dr. Matthew May. Matt and I first treated Marilyn for intense depression, anxiety, and anger two years ago at the time of her unexpected and shocking diagnosis of Stage 4 non-smoker’s lung cancer. Marilyn was incredibly depressed and panicky, as you might imagine. If you are interested, you can listen to our initial treatment of Marilyn in podcast #49, “The Dark Night of the Soul.” One of Marilyn’s concerns at that time was that she had lost her faith in God and had begun to doubt the existence of an after-life. She was intensely self-critical and ashamed, and was also extremely angry because she began doubting her spiritual teachers and thinking of them as frauds. These doubts were all the more troubling to Marilyn, since she’d been a devout Catholic for her entire life. In fact, she even has a Master’s Degree in theology, along with several additional Master’s Degrees plus a PhD in clinical psychology! But now she was terrified by the prospect of her own death. During that initial treatment session, Marilyn overcome her fears, depression, and doubts, and ended up in a state of joy, and even laughter. This rapid transformation confirmed the basis of cognitive therapy, that our emotional pain results from our thoughts, and not from what is actually happening to us. And the thoughts that cause depression and anxiety will be distorted and cruel–I’ve often said that depression and anxiety are the world’s oldest cons. Following that session, we were flooded with emails praising Marilyn. Oddly enough, many people said she was their spiritual hero. They said they were stunned and grateful her raw courage, testimony, and honesty. Now, it’s two years later. Sadly, Marilyn has just learned from her doctors that she’s had numerous metastases, and that her lung cancer has spread to the opposite lung, as well as to her bones, brain, liver, and lymph nodes. Marilyn is understandably paralyzed once again by overwhelming feelings of depression, anxiety, shame, hopelessness, and anger. Today’s podcast is based on our most recent session with Marilyn about two weeks ago. I have to warn you that the session may be sobering, and even a bit terrifying, but hopefully you will find it to be inspirational and helpful, because sooner or later, we’ll all have to share the prospect of facing our own inevitable death, and asking ourselves, “Have I had a meaningful life?” We scheduled this follow-up live therapy podcast for three reasons. First, we hoped to provide Marilyn with some relief from the devastating depression that had returned when she learned of her metastases. Second, we wanted to give you, and all of Marilyn’s many fans, an update on what’s happened in the past two years. And third, Marilyn wanted the chance to tell you about some of the positives in her life, since she so often mentions her failures, such as her bouts with alcoholism, and the fact that she never found a loving partner. Every TEAM session begins with T = Testing. Marilyn had filled out the Brief Mood Survey just before the session began. The scores indicated that Marilyn was struggling with extraordinarily severe depression, anxiety, and anger, and her positive feelings were totally absent as well. Marilyn brought a partially completed Daily Mood Log to the session. If you take a look, you’ll see all of her intensely Negative Thoughts and devastating feelings about the spread of her cancer. During the E = Empathy phase, Matt, Rhonda and I gave Marilyn the space she needed to vent and describe her despair and feelings of terror. We did not try to help or cheer her up. Marilyn cried as she described her fear of dying alone, and vividly recalled a friend who died a horrible death from lung cancer 20 years ago. Marilyn says he could barely breathe, and fears a similar horrific fate. Marilyn cries, and confesses that she has not been able to cry up until now. She says she suddenly felt a spiritual presence being around Matt, Rhonda, and David. During the Empathy phase, Matt made many tender comments to Marilyn, shared his own profound sadness, and told Marilyn that joining us today is a gift to him, and to all of us. Matt and I asked Marilyn how we were doing in Empathy, in terms of understanding how she was thinking and feeling, and whether we were providing warmth, acceptance and support. She gave us high grades. When you listen, please notice that we didn’t do anything to try to help Marilyn, or to try to cheer her up. You can hear Matt simply paraphrasing much of what Marilyn had been saying, acknowledging her feelings, and sharing his own feelings of sadness and warmth toward Marilyn. After about 25 minutes of empathy, we moved on to the next phase of the session called A = Assessment of Resistance (formerly called Paradoxical Agenda Setting.) We started by asking Marilyn if she wanted any help with the problems she’d been describing, or if she needed more time to talk while we listened and provided support. She said that she did want help. Since her remaining time was potentially short, she said she didn’t want to spend it in the misery of overwhelming depression, anxiety, worthlessness, shame, loneliness, hopelessness, and rage. Then I asked the Magic Button question—If we had a Magic Dial, and all of her negative thoughts and feelings would instantly disappear, with no effort at all, simply by pressing it, would she press the button? Marilyn immediately said that she WOULD press the button. Almost everybody says this. And it seems obvious. Why would anyone want to feel intense, relentless and overwhelming negative emotions? Matt, Rhonda, and David debated about whether or not the A = Assessment of Resistance would be needed, since it seemed like Marilyn was suffering so much that she would OBVIOUSLY want help. We decided to address the resistance, since whenever we’ve skipped it, we’ve usually regretted it. So just to be safe, we decided to do some Positive Reframing, and asked these two questions about each of the nine categories of intense negative feelings on Marilyn’s Daily Mood Log, such as depression, anxiety, guilt, inferiority, loneliness, hopelessness, rage, and so forth. 1. What does this negative feeling show about you and your core values that’s beautiful, positive and even awesome? 2. What are some benefits of this negative feeling? How might it help you? Surprisingly, Marilyn came up with a list of more than 20 positives with some help from Rhonda, Matt and me. You can take a look at her Positive Reframing List. This process seemed to have a profound calming effect on Marilyn, just as it does on most people. I think one reason is that culture / society have trained all of us \to think about our negative feelings as defects, or “mental disorders,” like the many that are listed in the DSM5. Positive Reframing turns all of this upside down, and makes you proud of your negative feelings. Paradoxically, this make it possible for you to get rid of the feelings quickly. We concluded with the Magic Dial, and asked Marilyn what she might want to dial her feelings down to, without getting rid of them completely, since they did have many benefits, and since they also reflected what was most beautiful about her. You can see the result of the Magic Dial on her Daily Mood Log, in the “% Goal” column of her table of negative emotions. For example, she wanted to dial her depression down to 10%, but thought that she’d want to keep the anxiety in the range of 20 – 25. But she said she’d be happy to dial the guilt and shame all the way to zero! After the A = Assessment of Resistance, which seemed to lift her mood considerably, we went on to M = Methods. After easily identifying the distortions in her thoughts, like All-or-Nothing Thinking, Self-Blame, hidden Should Statements, and more, Marilyn was able to challenge and crush her Negative Thoughts pretty quickly using the Paradoxical Double Standard Technique as well as Externalization of Voices. Two strategies seemed important—the Self-Defense Paradigm and the Acceptance Paradox. I emphasized the overlap between the Acceptance Paradox and Marilyn’s Catholic faith. It is the idea that you cannot, and not have to, earn your way to heaven through your good works. Christianity is based on the idea that we are not saved by our achievements or good work, but rather by the grace of God–which is simply the acceptance of our flawed nature. David emphasizes that these ideas are not exclusive to Christianity, but are woven into most if not all religions. During this phase of the session, Marilyn reflected on some of the experiences that she’s proud of, things she would like you to know about, like her trip to Nicaragua to attend seminary at the Franciscan School of Theology. During that time, she worked with the oppressed indigenous people in relocation camps following the bombings, and joined the Witness for Peace group. She describes this as “one of the most transformative and spiritual experiences of my life.” Many of you are probably not familiar with Marilyn’s fairly extensive arrest record, which she is equally proud of! She explains: “During the 80s and early 90s, I was arrested several times for political protests, primarily at the Federal Building in San Francisco. For example, I participated in a major non-violent prayful march at Lawrence Livermore Laboratory. Several of us were arrested and spent a month in jail (tents on the grounds of Santa Rita Jail.)” Marilyn also wants to know that she was “a damn good therapist.” That’s something I can attest to, having presented with Marilyn on many occasions, including our empathy workshop at one of the prestigious Evolution of Psychotherapy conferences in Anaheim, California. And still, all of her amazing accomplishments and contributions do not protect her, or any of us, from falling into a black hole of self-doubt and despair from time to time, and when Marilyn falls, the pain she inflicts on herself can be intense. You may notice that the Negative Thoughts on her Daily Mood Log today are very similar to the Negative Thoughts on her Daily Mood Log from two years earlier, during our first session with Marilyn. This confirms the concept of “fractal psychotherapy.” In other words, all of your suffering will be encapsulated in any one brief moment when you are upset. And when you suffer again in the future, it will be that same fractal–the same exact pattern of negative thoughts, distortions and feelings. This is really good news, because the methods that helped you recover initially will be helpful for you when you again fall into the black hole of depression. The goal of TEAM-CBT is NOT eternal happiness–no human being is capable of that! Rather, the goal is to understand and master the tools that will be helpful for you. One important teaching point is that Marilyn’s suffering, once again, does not result from her cancer, but rather from her self-critical thoughts, which are both cruel and distorted. She’s been telling herself that she is not religious enough, that she has lost her faith, and that her life has not been meaningful. Fortunately, these Negative Thoughts can easily be challenged and defeated, as you will hear on the podcast. The entire basis of cognitive therapy is a spiritual idea, that “the truth shall make you free.” Although this is a core Christian teaching from the New Testament (John 8: 32), it is an idea that’s embedded in many religions, including Buddhism, and probably in every religion. Toward the end of the session, Marilyn described inspiring moments when she feels the most spiritual and the most alive. It’s when she notices and profoundly appreciates the simple things in her life, like seeing a sliver of the moon in the evening when walking her dogs, watching a sunset on the beach at Santa Cruz, her first sip of latte in the morning or a bite of a delicious peach! Marilyn also described the intense mourning she feels for people throughout the world who are in poverty or pain. She also grieves for animals who are suffering, and feels devastated by the destruction of our natural resources, such as the rain forests in Brazil. You can see the final T = Testing . As you can see, she met or exceeded her goals for all of her negative feelings. You may be puzzled by the end of session rating for sadness and depression was “50%, but a GOOD 50%!” Sometimes, feelings of sadness and grief, once the distortions have been eliminated, are are the experiences that can wake us up, and provide the profound sense of meaning we are craving in our lives. The highest human experience, perhaps, is the compassion we sometimes feel for ourselves and others who are suffering. In fact, this may be the true meaning of spirituality. I call this feeling, “Sadness as Celebration,” and hope to write and talk more about it in a future podcast. At the end of the session, Marilyn said, “I feel light!” And gave us all big hugs. Will it last? Matt wisely suggests some terrific Relapse Prevention Training that you will hear when you listen to the session. Of course, it will be up to Marilyn–and to all of us–to pick up these tools and use them when we again fall into a black hole. This is also an inherently spiritual idea, and is based on the idea that we have the freedom to chose light or darkness. After the session, Marilyn emailed me and asked if I could include a few additional comments in the show notes. Here’s what she wrote: Greetings David, my dearest friend, Words cannot express my gratitude for you, Matt, & Rhonda – what special gifts you are. I hope the podcast was ok. I am deeply embarrassed because I forgot to express my gratitude and surprise from all the e-mails we received – the compassion and support was/is overwhelming. I hope I can give back! I could never had done this, if I weren’t for you & Matt – and your amazing & compassionate skills. I also forgot to mention that I probably will never get to New York or Ireland because of finances. I take one day at a time and try to be grateful for the small miracles. I go to Stanford next Tuesday. I will definitely be in touch. Thank you again. I also forgot to mention this – which is VERY important is that I am going through this process sober – not avoiding with alcohol. I am going to more meetings & speaking up. Thank you again. I cherish our friendship. With deep gratitude and love. dear friend, Marilyn Thank you, Marilyn, for this incredible gift to all of us! Matt, David, and Rhonda You can reach Dr. Burns at david@feelinggood.com. Dr. Rhonda Barovsky practices in Walnut Creek, California, and can be reached at rbarovsky@aol.com. She is a Certified TEAM-CBT therapist 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 ## * * * ### You may have missed the Calgary and South San Francisco intensives, but there will be two more awesome workshopsfor you this fall. ## High-Speed Treatment of Depressionand Anxiety Disorders ## A Four-Day TEAM-CBT Advanced Intensive ### November 4 – 7, 2019The Atlanta, Georgia Intensive ### Sponsored by Praxis # * * * I also have a tremendous one-day workshop scheduled with my colleague, Dr. Jill Levitt, that will be potentially life- and career-changing (really!) You will learn powerful skills that will boost your clinical effectiveness and improve your relationships with friends, colleagues, and loved ones. ## Advanced Empathy Tools for Connectingwith Challenging Patients,Colleagues, Friends, and Loved Ones ### With Drs. David Burns and Jill Levitt ### Oct 6, 2019 | 7 CE hours,$135

Do you have a patient, colleague, friend or loved one who:

• Complains endlessly but doesn’t listen to any of your good advice?
• Appears irate, but insists s/he isn’t upset?
• Refuses to express his / her feelings?
• Never listens?
• Argues, and always has to be right?
• Always has to be in control?
• Is relentlessly critical?
• “Yes-but’s” when you try to make a point?
• Insists you don’t really care—or understand—when you think you do?

Then you’re going to LOVE this workshop with David and Jill. You’ll learn about–

• The Powerful “Law of Opposites”
• How to find out how your patients really feel about you–if you dare!
• How to transform therapeutic failure into success
• How to talk to people who refuse to talk to you

You’ll also learn–

• Why your worst therapeutic failure is actually your greatest success in disguise
• The fine points of the Five Secrets of Effective Communication
• Three Advanced Empathy Techniques: Multiple Choice Empathy, Changing the Focus, and Positive Reframing
• And more

There will be lots of small group practice with expert feedback and mentoring to help you refine your skills!

### Attend in person orfrom your home via Live Streaming

Sign up early because we always sell-out for the in-person seats. Of course, there will be lots of skilled trainers to help the online participants with the small group exercises, so you’ll have a great experience either way.

My one-day workshops with Dr. Levitt are usually pretty awesome! It is always an honor to teach with Jill!