A podcast fan named Chuck asked if we could have a podcast devoted to the concept of the “self,” or the Buddhist concept of “no self,” so here it is.
David emphasizes that there are two issues. First, can your “self” be validly judged as not good enough, as inferior or even worthless? Or, can your “self” be validly judged as more worthwhile, or even superior? And is it really true that some people are more worthwhile, or less worthwhile, than others? Do more worthwhile, or less worthwhile human beings exist?
Second, do we even have a “self?”
Fabrice talks about the history of the concept of ego. For example, Freud divided the human mind into three parts: the id, ego and superego. Do these really exist as “things,” or are they just concepts, or metaphors for talking about the mind? When you try to think about the “ego” or the “self” as a thing, that’s when you get in trouble.
David argues that if you believe that someone people are “more worthwhile” or “less worthwhile,” you’d have to define what a of worthwhile human being is. Once you define it, you can always show that your definition has one of these problems:
It applies to all human beings, and therefore has no meaning.
It applies to no human beings, and therefore has no meaning.
It is inherently meaningless.
It does not apply to you.
David and Fabrice illustrate these traps with one of the most common definitions—thinking that your worthwhileness as a human being depends on your achievements, productivity, or success. They conclude that can only judge specific thoughts, feelings, or behaviors as more or less worthwhile, but there’s no such thing as a more or less worthwhile human being.
Next, they raise the question, “Does the ‘self’ exist?” And “What is the self?” David argues that the notion is nonsensical, or that there is no such “thing” as a “self.”
Although the discussion in today’s podcast is philosophical, and may go over the heads of some people, it has practical importance because most people who are struggling with depression and anxiety do believe that they are “not good enough,” and that their “selves” are somehow defective or flawed. Letting go of this notion can help to speed recovery, as well as what the Buddha referred to as “enlightenment.”
David expressed the hope that we may be able to return to this theme in future podcasts and perhaps find ways of making these potentially healing and liberating concepts more understandable! These concepts can take time to grasp, so be patient with yourself.
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October / November / December 2018– Cool Workshops for You!
Learn how to reduce patient resistance and boost motivation to change. Master skills that will enhance communication skills and increase intimacy with loved ones. This workshop will be highly interactive with many case examples and opportunities for practice using role plays.
Join us for a day of fun and inspiring learning on site in Palo Alto
OR online from anywhere in the world.
November 29 and 30, 2018–San Francisco, CA (in person only)
December 3 and 4, Portland, Oregon (in person and live streaming)
PESI is proud to offer an exciting workshop by David Burns, M.D., a pioneer in the development of cognitive behavior therapy (CBT). Achieve rapid and lasting recovery with all your anxious clients, just as Dr. Burns has done in over 35,000 therapy sessions with severely troubled clients. Become skilled at treating every type of anxiety without drugs.
In this unique 2-day certificate course you’ll master more than 20 treatment techniques to help your clients eliminate the symptoms of anxiety quickly – even your most challenging, resistant clients.
Dr. Burns will illustrate concrete strategies that provide rapid, complete recovery and lasting change for your patients. You’ll learn…
How to integrate four powerful treatment models to eliminate symptoms.
How to enhance your client’s engagement in therapy.
How to develop a treatment plan that specifically targets each client’s unique problems and needs.
…and so much more!
David will provide you with guided instruction and share powerful video sessions that capture the actual moment of recovery. You will take away practical strategies to use immediately with any anxious client. Leave this certificate course armed with tools you can use in your very next session!
Don’t miss this opportunity to learn from one of America’s most highly acclaimed psychiatrists and teachers!
Lisa Nicole Bell is the host of the highly regarded podcast, Behind the Brilliance. In this lively interview, Nicole and David talk about
David’s path into the mental health field
the difficulties and rejections David faced getting his first book, Feeling Good, published
David’s advice to listeners interested in therapy
how he approaches perfectionism, depression, and anxiety with patients
the joys of a life free from the need to be special—
and much more!
Click here if you’d like to learn more about Nicole and hear more of her fantastic interviews! Lisa’s show delivers a smart and funny take on pursuing ambitions, designing a life, and living joyfully. Lisa’s most recent media work includes producing an Australian documentary on identity and gender politics within sports and a digital docu-series produced by Academy Award-winning actress Viola Davis.
Once you develop unconditional self-esteem, try to get rid of it as soon as possible!
Here’s the scoop on self-esteem–there is no such thing! It’s just a buzz word, a marketing word. But still, lots of people complain of “low self-esteem” and they want–and deserve help. In fact, it says so right on the cover of my book, Feeling Good: “Feeling good feels wonderful. You owe it to yourself to FEEL GOOD!”
But if you’re depressed and feeling worthless, how do you do this? First, let’s see what people mean when they say they need better “self-esteem.”
When people say they have low self-esteem, what they really mean is that they are feeling depressed and criticizing themselves with a lot with distorted Negative Thoughts containing “Should Statements,” “All-or-Nothing Thinking,” “Self-Blame,” and other cognitive distortions. For example, you may tell yourself, “I’m a failure,” “I’m unlovable,” “I should be better than I am, ” or “I’m not good enough.” These kinds of thoughts trigger feelings of inferiority, hopelessness, and shame, as well as depression, anxiety, defectiveness, and loneliness.
In my books, such as Feeling Good, or in my Feeling Good Handbook, I describe many powerful techniques that can help you (or your patients) combat and crush these kinds of negative thoughts. In my new book, Feeling Great, I will include many additional techniques that are also mind-boggling, techniques that can trigger rapid recovery.
However, the goal is not to become an especially “worthwhile” or “superior” human being, but rather to accept yourself as a flawed human being in the spirit of joy, peace, humor, gratitude and even jubilation. Life can be pretty fantastic when you’re not putting yourself down all the time. In fact, when you suddenly “wake up” from the trance of depression and anxiety, you may discover that you’re so busy having fun and enjoying life and other people that you don’t want to waste any time worrying about or pursuing “self-esteem.”
I lost my self-esteem years ago jogging home from the train station in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania after work. It was a tremendous relief to finally get rid of it. It seemed to kind of fall off, and instead of stopping to look for it, I started jogging faster. After a few more steps my “self” fell off as well, and that was even better! I think my self-esteem and “self” may both still be on the side of the road somewhere between the train station and the house where my family and I used to live in Gladwyne, Pa.
Well, this may not make sense, so I’ll stop babbling, but all will be explained in my new book. What it boils down to is something I learned from my late cat and beloved friend, Obie. Obie was not special, he was just an ordinary feral cat we adopted, and I was not special, either–but when Obie and I hung out together, the heavens opened up. I learned that when you no longer need to be “special,” life becomes special.
I just returned from four days of teaching in Canada, and I’m a bit tired. So I think I’ll stop writing and just hang out with our new little kitty, Miss Misty, who was gifted to us by a kind neighbor when we lost our dear Obie in the middle of the night about a year ago. I am still grieving his loss.
I plan to stroke Miss Misty’s belly while she likes on her back in a few minutes. She loves that, and purrs loudly, and it gives me tremendous joy, too! Miss Misty also has no”self” or “self-esteem,” but wanted me to tell you she’s about as happy as happy can be without them!
Here’s the best photo I have of her right now, but I’ll try to get a more glamorous photo for you, as she is very very pretty, with colorful deep eyes and gorgeous silky black fur. I make up love songs and sing to her all the time. She smiles and blinks her eyes while I sing, even though my singing voice is fairly terrible, and I just make up the words while I’m singing.
9:00 AM – 4:00 PM
Michael’s at Shoreline
2960 N. Shoreline Blvd.
Mountain View, CA 94043
Sponsored by the Santa Clara Valley Chapter of CAMFT (California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists)
In this exciting workshop, you’ll learn how to develop more meaningful and rewarding relationships with your clients as well as the people you care about the most, and you’ll get plenty of helpful feedback while you learn. I’ll be joined by the brilliant and totally wonderful Kyle Jones, a 3rd year PhD student at Palo Alto University. Although I’ll be doing the main teaching, Kyle will help me provide helpful feedback to all of you during the small group exercises.
In the morning, we’ll focus on dealing with challenging, difficult clients, and in the afternoon we will take on a far greater challenge: how to deal with challenging, difficult loved ones!
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!
I’ve been getting lots of great emails with questions recently, and will try to get to as many as possible. Here is one from this morning.
Hi Dr. Burns,
I really hope you get to see this! I just wanted to say how I love your book and it has been helping me a lot I bought and read Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy, and I’m currently reading your book on anxiety, When Panic Attacks.
But I did want to say one thing. On page 216, near the bottom, it says, ” … in fact, we’re all defective and you can view your ‘defectiveness’ as a reason for suicide or a cause for a celebration….”
I didn’t understand that. That we should view us being defective as a reason to kill ourselves?? It threw me off and I asked my friend to read it over. I just want to know what you meant!
It’s near the bottom second to last paragraph on page 216
Sometimes I write things that may be hard to “get” at first, so I appreciate your question. First, let me emphasize that suicide is never appropriate or needed for someone who is feeling depressed and hopeless. However, was writing about something I call the Acceptance Paradox, where you achieve enlightenment by accepting your many shortcomings with a sense of inner peace, or even with a sense of humor. I call that “healthy acceptance.”
And when you “grasp” this notion that it is okay to be flawed and defective, or even wonderful, you can achieve liberation from feelings of depression, anxiety, shame and self-doubt. And it brings you a lot closer to other people, too, because, believe me, there are TONS of other defective people out there, so we can have a party and lots of folks will join us, and we can just hang out and not worry about having to impress each other.
But people who are depressed usually have what I call unhealthy acceptance. They wrongly believe that because they are defective, they should kill themselves.
If you CLICK HERE, you will find a chart that distinguishes healthy from unhealthy acceptance. As you can see, healthy acceptance is characterized by joy, intimacy, laughter, and creativity. In contrast, unhealthy acceptance is characterized by cynicism, depression, hopelessness, and loneliness.
This is sometimes hard to “see” at first on an emotional level, especially if you are depressed, or prone to depression. But when you suddenly “get it,” it’s like seeing the grand canyon for the first time. It simply takes your breath away, and you discover that it’s only okay to be defective, it’s actually great–in fact, the very BEST way to be!
I am writing something more ambitious on this topic, and I’ll publish it here soon. This is just a beginning note intended to whet your appetite, hopefully at least! What I am writing about now are some of the more philosophical underpinnings of TEAM-CBT, although the notions are actually ancient, and go back at least 2500 years. I will try to address two questions:
Is it possible to be worthwhile or to be worthless?
Do we have a “self”?
Although these themes may seem abstract, they have powerful, practical, emotional consequences. Just one small example, let’s say you struggle with anxiety and shyness. You may have the fear that others will judge you because you are inferior, or not “good enough,” and this thought can cause tremendous suffering. But this thought is based on the notion that you have a “self” that can be evaluated or judged. When you see through this notion, you can experience liberation from your fears.
The Buddhists called this “The Great Death.” Of course, we all fear death, and struggle to keep our egos alive. But once you’ve “died,” so to speak, you can join the Grateful Dead, and then life suddenly opens up in unexpected ways. And for those who may misread me, or interpret my words literally, I am not referring to physical death, but death of the “self.”
So, stay tuned if this type of dialogue interests you! And thanks for reading this!
If you are reading this blog from Facebook or Twitter, I appreciate it! I would like to invite you to visit my website, http://www.feelinggood.com, and register there as well. You will find a wealth of free goodies, including my Feeling Good blogs, plus all my Feeling Good Podcasts to date, and the Ask Dr. David blogs as well, along tons of resources, including videos for mental health professionals as well as patients and the general public!
Hi website visitors,I recently received a lovely email and some cool questions from a journalist working for the website, POPSUGAR, (http://www.popsugar.com/), a wellness website which claims more than a billion visitors per year. Wow! That’s a lot! She asked for some help on the topic of self-esteem and body image.Here’s her note:
Hi! Dr. Burns,
Thanks so much for getting back to me; I honestly didn’t know if you’d see my message!
I have some questions for you, and would of course link my interview to Feeling Good, and mention your resources. I have to tell you — your book changed my life, and the lives of many people I’ve talked to who have also struggled with depression and anxiety. I got it for my dad last Father’s Day and he loved it, too.
My idea for our story is centered around the idea that many women deal with a lot of negative self-talk, whether it’s about their physical appearance, fitness journey, abilities, etc. I brought up your 10 categories of distorted thoughts in our staff meeting and how your book teaches someone to identify those and replace those thoughts with ones that are rooted in positivity and reality — we all thought this will be a wonderful trick to teach our readers as well.
Would love to include a quote or two from you in the intro about identifying these thoughts, and how to correct them. In fact, if you could answer these four questions it would be a great help:
How do distorted thoughts affect body image?
Do you think distorted thoughts can be a roadblock in someone’s wellness/fitness journey? How so?
What’s a small piece of advice you could suggest to a woman struggling with poor self-esteem/body-image issues?
And less important, but if you have time:
Do you believe that fitness and healthy eating plays a strong role in having a healthier mindset and more positive / realistic thoughts?
Thank you again for your help on this story, I’m so honored to work with you! Have a great night,