130: What’s Fractal Psychotherapy? How do you help someone with Asperger’s?

130: What’s Fractal Psychotherapy? How do you help someone with Asperger’s?

A Random Strange Encounter—
and the Emergence of Fractal Psychotherapy

* * * PLUS  * * *

How can you help a family member with Asperger’s /

high-functioning Autistic spectrum problems? 

Today’s podcast features special guest host, Dr. Rhonda Barovsky!

I (David) begin this podcast with a description of a random encounter I had one day when I was walking in downtown Bryn Mawr, when my wife and I were still living in Pennsylvania. A young man started walking next to me and talking. He seemed friendly and told me that he he’d been studying Buddhism and was hoping to become a motivational speaker.

That might sound racist to call him a “black man.” I agree, and my colleague, Fabrice, asked, “If he’d been white, would you have called him a “young white man?”

I had to agree that I would not have described him as a young white man. But this was a very white area. If a young white man was walking in a neighborhood that was predominantly black, I think I might actually have described him as a “young white man.”

At any rate, I was curious, and told him I didn’t know much about Buddhism but found it interesting. He explained that according to Buddhism, we get reincarnated repeatedly, going through the life-death cycle over and over again. He also explained that if you could just change yourself for one brief moment, you would experience enlightenment and you’d no longer have to go through the life and death cycle and more. In addition, because the world is one, the entire world would be become enlightened at the same time. He cautioned that it’s extremely difficult to change yourself for even one brief moment, and this achievement typically requires hundreds or even thousands of reincarnations.

This was interesting, but seemed totally nutty, and I was concerned that his prospects as a motivational speaker might be a bit limited. How can one small change trigger enlightenment? And how could the entire universe become enlightened at the same moment?

Impossible! Right?

But when I began to think of what he’d said in the context of my clinical work, it began to make total sense. One of the most important ideas in TEAM-CBT is the concept of Specificity, one of the key steps in Paradoxical Agenda Setting. Here’s how it works. If you’re my patient, and you want help, I will ask you what specific problem you want help with. These are the four most common problems I see: depression, anxiety, relationship conflicts, or habits and addictions. Then I’ll ask you to zero in on one specific moment when you were struggling with that problem.

For example, if you want help with depression and low self-esteem, I’ll ask you to describe one moment when you were feeling down. It could be any moment at all—it might even be right now, sitting in my office (or reading this text).

Then I’d ask you to tell me exactly what you were thinking and feeling at that moment. You might be telling yourself, “I’m no good. I shouldn’t have screwed up! I’m always doing that! I’ll feel like this forever.” These thoughts actually cause the feelings of depression, shame, inferiority, and hopelessness.

In contrast, if you want help with anxiety, I will ask you to identify one specific moment when you were feeling anxious, worried, nervous, frightened or panicky. For example, you might have been feeling shy and insecure at a party, or terrified just before you had to take a test or give a talk at work. Or it might have been a moment when you were having a panic attack and feeling like you were on the verge of passing out or losing control and going crazy.

If you’ve been having trouble getting along with a friend or family member, I would ask you to describe one brief interaction you’ve had with the person you’re at odds with, and I’d ask you to write down one specific thing they said to you, end exactly what you said next.

For example, a podcast fan told me that his wife said, “You never listen.” He responded by saying, “That’s not true! I’m listening to you right now.” He was puzzled when she got even more upset and then the argument escalated!

I recently did a one-day workshop on the treatment of unwanted habits and addictions, like procrastination, overeating, excessive cell phone use, or drinking too much. I encouraged the audience members to focus on one specific moment when they felt tempted to procrastinate, binge, or have a drink, or give in to their habit / addiction, and to write down all the Tempting Thoughts that were going through their minds, like:

  • Oh, that beer looks SO GOOD!
  • I’ve had a hard day, I deserve it.
  • I’ll just take one little sip. That can’t hurt!
  • There’s a good basketball game on TV. It will be way more fun to watch if I enjoy a few beers!

In each case—of depression, anxiety, a relationship problem, or a habit / addiction—I focus on one brief and specific moment when my patient was upset and having that problem. There are two reason for this concept of Specificity:

  1. When we understand what was happening at that one brief moment, we will understand everything of importance about that problem. As it turns out, all of your suffering will be encapsulated in that one brief example. So, when you understand why you were feeling depressed or panicky or whatever at that specific moment, you will understand everything you need to know about why you get depressed, or panicky, or whatever at any moment of your life.
  2. In addition, the moment you learn how to change the way you were thinking, feeling at that one brief moment, you will become enlightened, and you will suddenly grasp the solution to all of your problems. That’s because that one specific problem will simply repeat itself over and over, in slightly different disguises, every time you are depressed, or anxious, or arguing with a friend or family member, or struggling with temptations. So, once you understand the solution to that problem at one specific moment, you will understand the solution to that type of problem at any time in your life.

For example, if you were having a conflict with a loved one, you will not only learn how to resolve that conflict at that specific moment, but you will learn how to resolve any conflict you have with that person, or with practically anybody.

Fabrice and David link this Specificity concept to the amazing insights of the new branch of “fractal geometry.” Fractal geometry is a revolutionary form of mathematics in which a very simple formula, or shape, gets reproduced an infinite number of times. In the process, it morphs from a simple geometric shape and suddenly becomes a complex picture. For example, it may turn into a stunning green fern, or a gorgeous, multi-colored parrot, or a breathtaking landscape. But if you zero in on the tiniest piece of the picture, it will always look exactly the same—the same simple design that started the process.

Similarly, in “fractal psychotherapy,” we zero in on one very brief moment of your life, but the formula—or error—that caused you to become upset at that moment will always be the very same error you make every time you feet inferior or anxious or angry or tempted. And once you’ve changed at that one brief moment, you really will experience enlightenment! And your entire universe will become enlightened as well!

Fabrice provides another metaphor, that of a hologram. A hologram is a photograph that allows to display a fully 3-dimensional picture of an object. The hologram works differently from a regular photograph. Citing from Wikipedia, “When a photograph is cut in half, each piece shows half of the scene. When a hologram is cut in half, the whole scene can still be seen in each piece.” This remains true as you fragment the hologram into smaller and smaller pieces. So you could say that your problem is a kind of hologram of all the problems in your life, in a single moment so you can see the pattern that is repeated in many other situations.

David provides an example of how this works, using an example provided by a podcast fan we’ll call Janine. Janine was convinced that her husband couldn’t deal with feelings because he had “Asperger’s / high level autism.” David asked Janine for a brief simple exchange between Janine and her husband. what, exactly, did he say to her, and what exactly, did she say next?

That brief moment is all we need to understand her problem; and things suddenly began to look radically different when we examined how she responded to her husband!

You can see the first two steps of Janine’s Relationship Journal if you can click here.

It turned out she was right–someone definitely WASN’T dealing with feelings? But who? You’ll see two spiritual principles brought to life in the Relationship Journal.

  1. We create our personal reality at every moment of every day.
  2. We like to blame others for the problems in our relationships instead of pinpointing our own role in the problem.
  3. Intimacy, and enlightenment, require a painful death of the ego, or self. When you “look inward” for the cause of the problem, instead of blaming, you will find the answer you’ve been looking for–but the answer can sometimes be pretty painful.
  4. If you’re willing to let your ego, or “self,” die, you will receive a pretty awesome reward in heaven. But this heaven occurs when you are still alive!

You’ll see Rhonda model a more effective response using the Five Secrets of Effective Communication, as well as one of the advanced communication techniques called “Multiple Choice Empathy.”

David

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Dr. Fabrice Nye currently practices in Redwood City, California and treats individuals throughout the world (but not across U.S. state lines) via teletherapy. You can reach him at fabrice@life.net. You can reach Dr. Burns at david@feelinggood.com. If you like our jingle music and would like to support the composer Brett Van Donsel, you may download it here.

* * *

THREE COOL UPCOMING WORKSHOPS FOR YOU

TEAM-CBT Methods for Anxiety Disorders–

Step-by-Step Training for Therapists

by David D. Burns, MD and Jill Levitt, PhD

May 19, 2019

You can attend in person or from home via Live Streaming

Check it out now!

THERE WILL BE MANY EXPERT TRAINERS TO GUIDE
THE ONLINE PARTICIPANTS IN THE SMALL GROUP EXERCISES

Coming Soon!

Act fast if you want to attend! The February 10 workshop habits and addictions sold out early.

And there will be two awesome summer intensives for you this year!

THE INTENSIVES ARE ALMOST ALWAYS
THE BEST WORKSHOPS OF THE YEAR!

July 15 – 18, 2019
Calgary four-day intensive
Sponsored by Jack Hirose & Assoc.

July 29 – August 1, 2019
South San Francisco four-day intensive
Sponsored by Praxis

098: Live Session with Lee, Part 3: The Rebirth

098: Live Session with Lee, Part 3: The Rebirth

 

The last of 3 podcasts illustrating
the TEAM treatment model for a relationship conflict

With Drs. David Burns and Fabrice Nye, and special guest Dr. Jill Levitt,
Director of Training at the Feeling Good Institute in Mtn. View, California

In this final podcast featuring the TEAM therapy session with Lee, David and Jill do M = Methods, and show Lee how to respond to his wife more skillfully, using the Five Secrets of Effective Communication. Like everyone who is trying to learn the Five Secrets, Lee struggles with several blind spots:

  • “I Feel” Statements. Lee has tremendous difficulties sharing his feelings openly, in a respectful manner. He seems indoctrinated with the cultural idea that men should not be vulnerable and express feelings.
  • Lee makes the common error of “problem solving” instead of asking his wife to share more of her feelings.
  • Lee makes another common error of apologizing and using the trite phrase “I’m sorry” instead of encouraging his wife to open up. David discusses the different between dysfunctional and effective apologies.

David and Jill do lots of role-play practice with Lee and give him a homework assignment.

T = Testing. After the session is over, Lee completes the Brief Mood Survey again. His scores indicated that his feelings of  anxiety and anger have completely disappeared, and he also has a perfect score  Positive Feelings Survey and the Relationship Satisfaction Scale. He also gave David and Jill perfect scores on the Empathy and Helpfulness scales and wrote what he liked the best about the session:

“My epiphany came at the moment I realized I had been afraid of emasculating myself and realizing that my vision of what a “man” should be was completely inaccurate.”

At the end, Jill reads an emotional email from Lee describing how he relapsed and started arguing with his wife, and then remembered to empathize use the Five Secrets instead, with an amazing result!

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Lee Davy is the creator and founder of “The Truth about Alcohol.” He offers free weekly webinars for people who need help and support with their drinking. Check it out!

Attend my 2018 Summer Intensive in San Francisco!

This year, I am again offering my annual SF summer intensive in August at the South San Francisco Conference Center. This four-day intensive is almost always my most exciting and rewarding workshop of the year.

Here are the details:

David’s TEAM-CBT Summer Intensive

August 6 – 9, 2018, South San Francisco Conference Center, California

For more information, click here, or call IAHB.org at 800-258-8411

Here are just a few of the really cool things about this intensive:

  • You will have the chance to practice techniques in small groups after I demonstrate each technique with a live demonstration in the front of the room.
  • You will get immediate feedback and personal grooming from me and from many of my colleagues from my weekly TEAM-CBT training group at Stanford. They’ll be there to help you, and I’ll be there to help you, too!
  • There will be a live demonstration on the evening of day 1. The amazing Dr. Jill Levitt will be my co-therapist. Last year’s live demonstration, and in fact all of them in recent years, have been jaw-dropping and incredibly inspirational!
  • You’ll get a chance to practice TEAM-CBT in real time the evening of day 3. This will be an incredibly challenging but rewarding “solo flight.”
  • You will be able to do your own personal work on the last day of the workshop using the Externalization of Voices and Acceptance Paradox. In previous workshops, at least 60% of the participants indicated they experienced jubilant enlightenment during this exercise. Their fears and insecurities suddenly vanished!
  • You’ll learn how to do Relapse Prevention Training (RPT).
  • You’ll learn how to improve your empathy skills.
  • You’ll learn tons of powerful cognitive, behavioral, and motivational treatment techniques for depression and all of the anxiety disorders.
  • You will have the abundant opportunities to schmooze with colleagues, network, and have fun.
  • You will have two fabulous free luncheon banquets featuring talks by Sunny Choi, LCSW, who is using TEAM-CBT successfully with an underserved population in primary care with limited resources and language skills (“I must apologize for my success.”), and the wonderful Vandana Aspen, PhD, who will speak on “New Treatment Strategies for Eating Disorders.”)
  • And much more.

If you can only attend one of my workshops this year, the South San Francisco August intensive is the one to attend!

 

097: Live Session with Lee: The Death of the Ego

097: Live Session with Lee: The Death of the Ego

Part 2 of 3 podcasts illustrating the TEAM treatment model for a relationship conflict

With Drs. David Burns and Fabrice Nye, and special guest Dr. Jill Levitt,
Director of Training at the Feeling Good Institute in Mtn. View, California

Lee suddenly discovers the answer to his question:
Why is my wife so critical and controlling

David and Jill do A = (Paradoxical) Agenda Setting with Lee, starting with the Invitation: Jill asks Lee if he wants help with the relationship conflict, and if this would be a good time to roll up our sleeves and get to work. Lee indicates that he does want help.

They review the first two steps of his Relationship Journal, where Lee had recorded one specific thing his wife said to him, and exactly what he said next. Here’s what he wrote down:

Step 1 – She said: Write down exactly what the other person said. Be brief:

I was trying to convince my 18-month-old daughter to put her pajamas on. I was calm. Eventually, I raised my voice an octave or two and in a stern voice I told my daughter to put her pajamas on.

Afterwards, Liza said, “I don’t think you need to use that tone with a small child.”

Step 2 – I said: Write down exactly what you said next. Be brief:

I said, “I don’t think there was anything wrong with what I did. You can be stern without losing your shit*. There are times when she needs to know I am serious and not messing about anymore.”

It then devolved into a debate over a clash of values on how to raise our daughter.

* Transcribed as-is from Lee’s Relationship Journal.

Lee also circled all the emotions he thought she was having, along with all of the emotions he was having. He thought she was feeling:

  • Sad and unhappy
  • Anxious and worried
  • Rejected and alone
  • Discouraged, pessimistic, and despairing
  • Frustrated and stuck
  • Angry, annoyed, irritated and upset
  • Other feelings: troubled, defensive, dismayed, downhearted, and disconnected

Here’s how he was feeling:

  • Unhappy
  • Anxious and worried
  • Guilty, remorseful, bad and ashamed
  • Inferior, inadequate, defective and incompetent
  • Embarrassed, foolish and self-conscious
  • Hopeless, discouraged and despairing
  • Frustrated
  • Angry, mad, resentful, annoyed, irritated, upset and furious
  • Other feelings: hostile, loud, critical, agitated, defensive, stubborn, exasperated, sarcastic, powerless, diminished, low, resistant, confused, judgmental, vulnerable, inept

Step 3. Good vs. Bad Communication. When David and Jill ask Lee to examine his response to his wife, he had to admit that his response in Step 2 had all the characteristics of bad communication—he did not acknowledge any of her feelings, he did not share his own, and he did not convey love and respect. This was disturbing and surprising to Lee.

Step 4. Consequences. When David and Jill asked Lee to examine the impact of what he said to his wife, they suddenly ran into a wall of resistance, which is almost universal in relationship work. The Relationship Journal is an incredibly powerful tool, and it can be extremely painful because you have to stop blaming the other person and examine your own role in the relationship.

Lee suddenly and painfully discovered the answer to his question of why his wife was so controlling and critical of him—it was NOT because of the influence of her mother, but rather because he was forcing her to treat him like that almost every time he interacted with her.

This insight cannot be denied when you do the Relationship Journal, and it’s potentially incredibly empowering, but it can be incredibly painful at the same time.

You will also hear a masterful and paradoxical response by Dr. Levitt when Lee resists—and as a result, his resistance suddenly disappears, and he jumps on board! 

Subscribe

Lee Davy is the creator and founder of “The Truth about Alcohol.” He offers free weekly webinars for people who need help and support with their drinking. Check it out!

Attend my 2018 Summer Intensive in San Francisco!

This year, I am again offering my annual SF summer intensive in August at the South San Francisco Conference Center. This four-day intensive is almost always my most exciting and rewarding workshop of the year.

Here are the details:

David’s TEAM-CBT Summer Intensive

August 6 – 9, 2018, South San Francisco Conference Center, California

For more information, click here, or call IAHB.org at 800-258-8411

Here are just a few of the really cool things about this intensive:

  • You will have the chance to practice techniques in small groups after I demonstrate each technique with a live demonstration in the front of the room.
  • You will get immediate feedback and personal grooming from me and from many of my colleagues from my weekly TEAM-CBT training group at Stanford. They’ll be there to help you, and I’ll be there to help you, too!
  • There will be a live demonstration on the evening of day 1. The amazing Dr. Jill Levitt will be my co-therapist. Last year’s live demonstration, and in fact all of them in recent years, have been jaw-dropping and incredibly inspirational!
  • You’ll get a chance to practice TEAM-CBT in real time the evening of day 3. This will be an incredibly challenging but rewarding “solo flight.”
  • You will be able to do your own personal work on the last day of the workshop using the Externalization of Voices and Acceptance Paradox. In previous workshops, at least 60% of the participants indicated they experienced jubilant enlightenment during this exercise. Their fears and insecurities suddenly vanished!
  • You’ll learn how to do Relapse Prevention Training (RPT).
  • You’ll learn how to improve your empathy skills.
  • You’ll learn tons of powerful cognitive, behavioral, and motivational treatment techniques for depression and all of the anxiety disorders.
  • You will have the abundant opportunities to schmooze with colleagues, network, and have fun.
  • You will have two fabulous free luncheon banquets featuring talks by Sunny Choi, LCSW, who is using TEAM-CBT successfully with an underserved population in primary care with limited resources and language skills (“I must apologize for my success.”), and the wonderful Vandana Aspen, PhD, who will speak on “New Treatment Strategies for Eating Disorders.”)
  • And much more.

If you can only attend one of my workshops this year, the South San Francisco August intensive is the one to attend!

 

057: Interpersonal Model (Part 4) — “And It’s All Your Fault!” The Relationship Journal

057: Interpersonal Model (Part 4) — “And It’s All Your Fault!” The Relationship Journal

 

Podcast 57, “And It’s All Your Fault!” Interpersonal Therapy, Part 4

In the previous three podcasts, David and Fabrice have reviewed the “TEA” of TEAM (Testing, Empathy, and Agenda Setting) for troubled relationships. In this podcast, they describe the “M” = Methods of TEAM Therapy, which involves the Relationship Journal (RJ).

David emphasizes that the goal of the RJ is not simply to learn how to transform troubled, adversarial relationships into loving ones, but also how to achieve Interpersonal Enlightenment, which is the empowering but shocking realization that we are creating our own interpersonal reality—for better or worse—at every moment of every day! And although the reward of the RJ is greater love and joy in your daily living, the price is steep—it requires the death of the ego, which the Buddhists have called “the Great Death!”

Together, David and Fabrice walk you through the five steps in the RJ, using real examples of individuals David has worked with in his workshops for the general public or for mental health professionals. One vignette involves a woman who complained bitterly that her husband had been relentlessly critical of her for 25 years. She said she came to the workshop because she wanted to know why men are like that. She found out why her husband was so critical, but the answer was not the one she expected!

You can view her completed RJ if you click here.

The other vignette involved a minister’s wife who complained that her husband was overly “nice” and unable to deal with negative feelings. As a result, she said their marriage was superficial and lacking in intimacy. She discovered precisely why their relationship was superficial—but it wasn’t exactly the answer she was looking for!

 

If you are reading this blog on social media, I appreciate it! I would like to invite you to visit my website, http://www.FeelingGood.com, as well. There you will find a wealth of free goodies, including my Feeling Good blogs, my Feeling Good Podcasts with host, Dr. Fabrice Nye, and the Ask Dr. David blogs as well, along with announcements of upcoming workshops, and tons of resources for mental health professionals as well as patients!

Once you link to my blog, you can sign up using the widget at the top of the column to the right of each page. Please forward my blogs to friends as well, especially anyone with an interest in mood problems, psychotherapy, or relationship conflicts.

Thanks! David

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