036: Ask David — Empowering the Victim With the Five Secrets

036: Ask David — Empowering the Victim With the Five Secrets

Don’t blame the victim!

IMG_1028In a recent blog, David described three types of “Reverse Hypnosis,” and talked about how frequently patients can hypnotize therapists into believing things that will tend to sabotage the therapy. Reverse Relationship Hypnosis means that the patient persuades the therapist that she or he really is a victim of the other person’s bad behavior. If therapists buy into this type of thinking, it can prevent the patient from examining ways she or he may be contributing to the problem.

But a blog reader made a fairly strong and impassioned comment that sometimes this may be mistake when the patient really IS a victim, and cautioned against blaming the victim. David’s goal is never to blame patients, but rather to empower you.

David and Fabrice begin by discussing the fact that sometimes people vacillate between other-blame (it’s all his/her fault) and self-blame (it’s all my fault), and emphasize that neither approach is helpful. If you blame the other person, the problem escalates and may turn to violence, but if, instead, you blame yourself, you’ll probably end up feeling worthless, guilty, unlovable, and depressed.

So what’s the solution to this dilemma? Dr. Burns encourages patients to use the Five Secrets of Effective Communication and make a radical change in the way they communicate with others, along the lines of EAR. E stands for Empathy, A stands for Assertiveness, and R stands for Respect. You can examine each of the Five Secrets if you CLICK HERE.

David gives five compelling examples of how to deal with people who REALLY ARE violent and abuse, including a raging psychiatric patient who was threatening the staff and on the verge of exploding, a serial killer who kidnapped a social worker who had attended one of David’s communication workshops, some drunken, abusive teenagers in a huge jeep who threatened David, an insulting, demoralizing, critical boss who put down everyone who worked with him. He includes with the story of a Lutheran minister,  Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was imprisoned and mistreated by the Nazis during world war two.

This is a controversial topic that David included in the podcasts somewhat reluctantly, so give a listen and tell us what you think! Right now the world seems to be spiraling into greater and greater hostilities. Does David have a point? Or is he way off base?

025: Ask David — How do you handle a patient you don’t like (or who bores you)?

In this Podcast, David answers two intriguing questions posed by listeners, and one question posed by his host and colleague Dr. Fabrice Nye.

  1. How do you deal with a patient (or friend) who is boring? David describes a technique he learned from a mentor, Dr. Myles Weber, during his second year of psychiatric residency at Highland Hospital in Oakland. The technique works instantly 100% of the time, and is guaranteed to make any boring interaction with any patient instantly exciting! David and Fabrice emphasize that the same technique can be used with a friend, colleague, or loved one who seems boring, including someone you are dating and can’t seem to connect with at anything other than a superficial level.David also describes powerful, shocking and illuminating experiences he had when attending psychodrama marathons sponsored by the Human Institute in Palo Alto during his medical school years, and what he learned about the differences between the off-putting “outer” selves we display to others and the more genuine “inner” selves we often try to hide.
  2. How do you deal with a patient (or friend) you don’t like? David describes a method he always used with patients he didn’t like, including one who he found intensely offensive—even disgusting. He explains that the patients he disliked the most almost always became the ones he liked the most, and ended up feeling the closest to, once he used this radical technique. The technique can also be effective with friends or colleagues you’re at odds with.Fabrice reminds us that the approaches David describes in this podcast involve several of the Five Secrets of Effective Communication discussed in previous podcasts. He warns us that they require considerable training, skill and practice, and are likely to backfire if done crudely.
  3. How do you get patients to do their psychotherapy homework? Every therapist who assigns psychotherapy homework is keenly aware that many patients, perhaps most, “forget” or simply refuse to do the homework. And these are the patients who don’t improve much, if at all. Dr. Burns explains how he tried dozens of techniques that didn’t work early in his career, and finally discovered an approach that was almost always effective.

021: Ask David — Shameful Sexual Fantasies

In this podcast, David and Fabrice discuss a question posed by a listener with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder who is plagued with intrusive and shameful sexual fantasies. David discusses his treatment strategies for a young man from Argentina who was struggling with forbidden fantasies of Jesus having sex with the Virgin Mary in all positions of the Kama Sutra, but the harder he tried to control them, the more intense and tantalizing they became. Being a good Catholic lad, he was terrified and tearful he would burn in hell if he didn’t overcome this problem.

If you’ve ever struggled with shameful sexual fantasies, you might be intrigued by this fascinating discussion of Cognitive Flooding, therapeutic resistance, and the Hidden Emotion Technique!

019: Ask David — The Defiant Child: A Secret All Parents Should Know

In this short podcast, David and Fabrice address a question submitted by a listener who benefitted from his book, Feeling Good Together. She wants to know whether the same EAR techniques described in that book could help her deal more effectively with a defiant, oppositional child. Dr. Burns reveals a fantastically helpful secret that he and his wife stumbled across in raising their own children. If you have ever struggled in your attempts to deal with an oppositional child or adolescent, you will find this podcast enlightening!

018: Ask David — Overcoming the Fear of Death

In this short podcast, David and Fabrice address this question submitted by a listener:

Dear Dr. Burns,

I read Feeling Good twenty years ago. It was a wonderful relief and help to me. Your book has helped me live a better and balanced life. The best part was passing the knowledge on to my daughter. I thought I read a wonderful description of how to handle death anxiety in the book. I was describing it to a friend, but could’ find it in the book.

Is it in another book?

Your reply would be considered an act of generosity.

Thank you! Mary

Existential Therapists believe that the fear of death is universal and is at the root of most emotional problems. Dr. Burns argues that the fear of death is actually quite rare, but does occasionally occur and is extremely treatable. In this podcast, David’s describes his quick, three-part “cure” for the fear of death.

Oddly, every patient he treated in this way insisted at the end of the session that it didn’t help. And even stranger is the fact that 100% of them returned the next week and announced that they actually had been cured and were, in fact, no longer afraid of death!

Taken a listen and see what you think!

017: Ask David — Dare to be “average”—The perfectionist’s script for self-defeat

In this podcast, David answers a challenging question posed by a listener:

Dear Dr. David:

In your Feeling Good Handbook, you suggest that the reader just allows himself or herself to be an ordinary person instead of trying to be perfect. Contrary to your opinion in the book, you’re an outstanding therapist in reality. You’ve studied in one of the world’s top colleges, you’re well-educated with a doctor degree, and successful in your career and life. How can I believe your claim? I’m quite confused!

Sincerely, XXX

David first distinguishes perfectionism from the healthy pursuit of excellence, and then describes a painful incident when he was a Stanford medical student. One afternoon, he attended an afternoon Gestalt encounter group at the home of a friend and mentor in Palo Alto. During the group he was ripped to shreds by the other participants. At the end of the group, the other participants seemed elated, but he felt intensely humiliated, ashamed, and discouraged. This led to an unexpected interaction with his mentor that helped to change his life.

David also discusses his clinical work years later with a depressed and anxious professional who had never experienced even one minute of happiness in spite of a life of fabulous success and achievements.

At the end, David and Fabrice promise a future podcast on this topic: “Self-Esteem: What is it? How do I get it? How can I get rid of it once I’ve got it?”

016: Ask David — How can I cope with a complainer? How can I help a loved one who is depressed?

In this episode, David and Fabrice bring the Five Secrets of Effective Communication to life, based on a question submitted by two listeners: How can you help a depressed friend or family member? You may be surprised to discover that the attempt to “help” is rarely effective, and may even make the problem worse. In contrast, the refusal to help is nearly always helpful. But to understand that paradox, you’ll have to give a listen to this fascinating edition of “Ask David!”

David and Fabrice also address a related problem nearly all of us confront from time to time: How do you deal with a friend who is a relentless whiner and complainer? When you try to help them or suggest a solution to the problem, they just say, “That won’t work” and keep complaining. You end up feeling frustrated and annoyed, because the other person just won’t listen! David and Fabrice illustrate a shockingly easy and incredibly effective solution to this problem.

Finally, David discusses some disturbing recent research indicating that the ability of therapists—as well as friends or family members—to know how suicidal someone is, is extremely poor. David and Fabrice explain how to assess how suicidal someone actually is, and what to do if you discover that he or she really is at risk of a suicide attempt.

013: Ask David — Is Anxiety Inevitable?

A fan points out that many of the examples in David’s book, When Panic Attacks, are high functioning individuals with lots of education and good jobs. She asks Dr. Burns if depression and anxiety are inevitable among people who are poorly educated and without many assets. Dr. Burns again addresses the ancient but persistent question of whether our suffering results from the actual problems in our lives, or rather by our distorted thoughts about them.

He describes the treatment program he created at his hospital in Philadelphia for individuals with little education and few resources, including gang members and homeless individuals. He also describes his work with a depressed, suicidal high school student with significant intellectual and physical impairments who was absolutely convinced she was a failure, and concludes with a story about a depressed woman recently diagnosed with terminal ovarian cancer.

If, like so many people, you also believe that your own mood slumps are caused by the problems in your life, this heart-warming episode may be an eye-opener for you!

009: Should I Try to Be Happy All the Time? Healthy vs. Unhealthy Emotions

In previous podcasts David and Fabrice have discussed how negative feelings are created and how to change them. In this podcast, they address another question—when we’re feeling depressed, anxious, or angry, should we accept our feelings or try to change them?

Dr. Burns describes his confusion when he was an insecure Stanford medical student and a favorite patient began to die. He discusses the concept of sadness as celebration, and summarizes Aaron Beck’s theory of Cognitive Specificity.

006: Ask David — Identity Crisis; Finding a CBT Therapist; Love Me the Way I Am

In this first “Ask David” Podcast, Dr. Burns responds to three questions submitted by listeners or visitors to his website, www.feelinggood.com:

  1. What causes an “identity crisis?” And how do you treat it? You will discover that the answer takes you in an unexpected direction!
  2. Why is it so hard to find a therapist trained in cognitive therapy, as well as the newer T.E.A.M. techniques? When I go to therapists who claim to be cognitive, it always just amounts to schmoozing behind closed doors. They don’t use any of the techniques in your book, Feeling Good. I’m frustrated!
  3. In a relationship, should you change yourself in order to get along with someone, or should you wait for someone who will love you as you are?

Dr. Burns will be answering more of your questions in upcoming podcasts, including: How can I help a friend or family member who is struggling with depression or anxiety?