Watch the Shouldy Show, Part 2, on Sunday!

Watch the Shouldy Show, Part 2, on Sunday!

Watch the David and Jill FB Show
this Sunday, July 29th, 2018, 3 PM Pacific Time

I hope you can join Dr. Jill Levitt and me live this Sunday for Part 2 of our Shouldy Show! The response to Part 1 last Sunday was outstanding, and I hope you can join us again. If you attend live, you can ask questions and be a part of the show. However, all the shows are recorded so you can tune in anytime on my Public FB page!

Dr. Levitt is Director of Clinical Training at the Feeling Good institute in Mt. View, California. She is a co-director of my weekly psychotherapy training group at Stanford, and is absolutely superb. In addition, when we work together, the chemistry can be pure magic. The photo below was at our recent Sunday workshop on Advanced TEAM-CBT techniques.

Jill and david 2

On the show on Sunday, Jill and I will illustrate several powerful techniques for zapping your Should Statements, including those you direct against yourself as well as those you direct against other people you feel annoyed with.

Here’s the agenda Sunday:

Outline for the Shouldy Show, Part 2*

 with David and Jill 

  1. Brief summary of last week’s FB Show (Part 1 on Shoulds) and goals for today’s show
  1. Typical Self-Directed Should Statements (with interactions with our live audience)
  • I should be a better mother (or father, or therapist, etc).
  • I should not judge people who make racist, sexist, or gay-bashing comments. I should try to have empathy for them. I should not dislike them.
  • I should be the best at everything I do,
  • I shouldn’t make mistakes.
  • I shouldn’t need help for my anxiety.
  • I should be a perfect mother.
  • I should never snap at my children.
  • I should find time to exercise.
  • I should not be so shy!
  • I shouldn’t be ashamed of my son.
  • I should have known my patient was feeling suicidal / homicidal.

What are yours?

  1. Typical Other-Directed Should Statements (with interactions with our live audience)
  • That driver shouldn’t cut in front of me in line!
  • People should be more tolerant!
  • People shouldn’t be so stupid!
  • People shouldn’t support this (or that) political candidate. They should see what a loser she (or he) is.
  • So and so shouldn’t complain all the time!
  • My patient should do his (or her) psychotherapy homework.
  • My patient shouldn’t be so resistant, oppositional, and irrational!
  • My husband (wife, partner, etc.) shouldn’t be so critical / stubborn / demanding.

What are yours?

  1. Techniques to defeat Self- Directed Shoulds and Other-Directed Shoulds (with role-play demonstrations between David and Jill)
  • Identify the Distortions (since the thought will have many distortions)
  • Positive Reframing
  • Semantic Method
  • Externalization of Voices / Acceptance Paradox
  • Paradoxical Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Examine the Evidence (Ellis)
  • Double Standard Technique
  1. Q and A
  1. Announcements:
  • Upcoming Intensive
  • New schedule for FB Show with next date announced

* Copyright © 2018 by David D. Burns, MD

* * *

Coming in San Francisco in early August

High Speed, Drug Free Treatment of Depression and Anxiety Disorders–
A Four-Day TEAM-CBT Advanced Intensive

August 6 – 9, 2018, South San Francisco Conference Center, California
For more information, click here
or contact
phone: 800-258-8411

If you can only attend one of my workshops, consider this one! The intensives are


Register right away if you want to get in on the action!

Hope to see you in San Francisco!

Tune in to the Shouldy Show with David and Jill on Sunday!

Tune in to the Shouldy Show with David and Jill on Sunday!

Watch the David and Jill Facebook Show
this Sunday, July 22nd, 2018, 3 PM Pacific Time

IMG_0892 (002)


I hope you can join Dr. Levitt and myself live on Sunday for our Shouldy Show! We will show you how to combat Should Statements directed at yourself and others. Should Statements are probably the “stickiest” of all ten cognitive distortions, and great teachers for the past 2,500 years have tried to help humans free themselves from the “tyranny of the shoulds.” Jill and I will discuss the damage from Shoulds and how to defeat them!

I’m attaching the outline of the show, so click here and take a look if you want a little preview!

If you attend live, you can ask questions and be a part of the show. However, all the shows are recorded so you can tune in anytime on my Public FB page!

* * *

Coming in San Francisco a week from Monday!

High Speed, Drug Free Treatment of Depression and Anxiety Disorders–
A Four-Day TEAM-CBT Advanced Intensive

August 6 – 9, 2018, South San Francisco Conference Center, California
For more information, click here
or contact
phone: 800-258-8411

If you can only attend one of my workshops, consider an intensive!
They are THE BEST!

Register right away if you want to get in on the action!

Hope to see you soon in San Francisco!


Watch the Shouldy Show, Part 1, on Sunday!

Watch the Shouldy Show, Part 1, on Sunday!

Watch the David and Jill Facebook Show
this Sunday, July 22nd, 2018, 3 PM Pacific Time

Here’s the email I received that triggered Sunday’s FB Live Show:

Dear Dr. Burns,

Would you please consider doing a detailed podcast where you show how to crush “should statements” about oneself and others?  I have found your books, articles, and podcasts so incredibly informative, moving, and empowering.  I am so grateful for the work you and Fabrice Nye have done on the podcasts and look forward to more.

The “Shouldy Approach to Life” is one that has not yet been dealt with as much as I’d hoped.  I do not mean extreme prejudice and religious zealotry.  I mean Should Statements that sound innocent and upstanding like taking a responsible and bravely conscious approach to one’s life by improving one’s health, relationships, the environment, and/or being a positive, loving role model for one’s children.

Sounds great, doesn’t it?

 But it isn’t. For me, I don’t believe moral superiority is the only motivator.  I am often shocked, disappointed, and/or left feeling alienated and sad by what I consider unacceptable or irresponsible behavior—mine and others.

For example, I find myself strongly disliking people who are known to make racist, sexist, or gay-bashing comments. However, I tell myself I should try to have empathy for them.  In the end, any empathy cannot withstand my repulsion, so I have essentially “shoulded” both them and myself.

I find myself fighting the urge to dislike a person and often wind up pitying them.  What does that accomplish?

I can guess that Paradoxical Agenda Setting could play a huge role in addressing this issue, but I feel lost in my attempts to dispel the distorted statements. Thanks so much for any consideration you might give.

Sincerely, J

Thanks J! Great question. We all get hooked by Should Statements.

I hope you can join Dr. Levitt and myself live on Sunday for the Should Show, Part 1! (We may need to consecutive shows to get through our agenda for the show.) If you attend live, you can ask questions and be a part of the show. However, all the shows are recorded so you can tune in anytime on my Public FB page!

* * *

Coming in San Francisco in August

High Speed, Drug Free Treatment of Depression and Anxiety Disorders–
A Four-Day TEAM-CBT Advanced Intensive

August 6 – 9, 2018, South San Francisco Conference Center, California
For more information, click here
or contact
phone: 800-258-8411

If you can only attend one of my workshops, consider an intensive! They are


Register right away if you want to get in on the action!

Hope to see you in Whistler in July or San Francisco in August!


The Shouldy Approach to Life–How to Crush Should Statements

The Shouldy Approach to Life–How to Crush Should Statements

Watch the David and Jill Facebook Show
this Sunday, July 22nd, 2018, 3 PM Pacific Time

Do you ever tell yourself,

  • I shouldn’t have made that mistake, or
  • I should be better than I am, or
  • I shouldn’t be so screwed up.

These self-directed Should Statements are responsible for a great deal of human misery. They trigger feelings of depression, anxiety, shame, inferiority,and hopelessness.

Other-directed Should Statements are also responsible for a great deal of human misery of a different kind. They can trigger feelings of anger, frustration, resentment and conflict with family members, friends, colleagues, and even strangers. They are also responsible for a great deal of violence and hatred between ethnic groups, religions, and nations.

Do any of the following other–directed Should Statements sound familiar?

  • You shouldn’t feel that way!
  • You shouldn’t be like that!
  • You’ve got no right to say that!
  • I’m right and you’re wrong!
  • This is all your fault!
  • What’s wrong with you! Any normal or sane person wouldn’t support X (X = this or that religion, cause or political candidate.)

Philosophers like Epictetus, spiritual teachers like the Buddha, and mental health professionals like Drs. Karen Horney and Albert Ellis, have emphasized the “tyranny of the Shoulds.” They’ve shown us how these seductive Should Statements can rob us of self-esteem, joy, and loving relationships with others. And yet, they can be incredibly difficult to smash, defeat or let go of.

Is there such a thing as healthy Should Statements? After all, Moses and his Ten Commandments are at the heart of the Jewish and Christian faiths. “Thou shalt not kill” is a Should Statement. Are we supposed to give up on our moral and religious shoulds?

And in addition, we know that we Should not drive down the freeway at 90 miles an hour, or we’ll get arrested.

And we also know that if we drop a pen, it will fall. It SHOULD fall because it has to obey the laws of nature.

  • So, what’s the difference between healthy and unhealthy Should Statements?
  • And how can we defeat the unhealthy and addictive Shoulds that make us miserable?

Tune in Sunday as Dr. Jill Levitt and i will discuss the “Shouldy” approach to life. We;ll give you some tips on how to free yourself from your he tyranny of your own Should Statements.

If you attend live, you can ask questions and be a part of the show. However, all the shows are recorded so you can tune in anytime on my Public FB page!

* * *

Coming in San Francisco in August

High Speed, Drug Free Treatment of Depression and Anxiety Disorders–
A Four-Day TEAM-CBT Advanced Intensive

August 6 – 9, 2018, South San Francisco Conference Center, California
For more information, click here
or contact
phone: 800-258-8411

If you can only attend one of my workshops, consider an intensive! They are


Register right away if you want to get in on the action!

Hope to see you in Whistler in July or San Francisco in August!


Does “Absolute Truth” Exist?

Does “Absolute Truth” Exist?

Hi visitors and Feeling Good website members,

I got several questions from an individual that I answered in the comments section of the website, but then i thought I might edit it a little and elevate it to the status of a blog. So I apologize if you might have already read this, but if you haven’t you might find it interesting, especially if you like philosophy.

Here is the email I received from Zly:

Hi Dr. Burns,

I have bought several of your books: Feeling Good, Feeling Good Together, and When Panics Attacks. However, I am not very clear about some of your points, so I want to ask you some questions if you don’t mind:

  1. Does absolute truth exist?
  2. Is there a forth valid use of SHOULD STATEMENTS?
  3. Which laws should I obey? And why is the “legal should” valid?

Let me explain my questions. First, in Feeling Good Together, you said that protecting our TRUTH makes relationship worse. Are you saying that there is no absolute truth in the world?

Second, you have described three valid types of “should statements:” the “legal should,” the “moral should,” and the “laws of the universe should.” I am wondering if there might be a forth, undistorted SHOULD STATEMENT when you are making a choice. For example. recently, I have been bothered about making a choice between two job offers. I don’t know which offer is better, so I frequently ask myself: which job should I choose?

To explain my third question, I have read some books that seem to contradict each other, and I don’t know which book I should believe. For example, the multi-party-political system is legal in America but illegal in China. So, the sentence, “You should not support a multi-party-political system,” would be a valid “should” in China but not in America.


 * * * 

Hi Zly,

Thank you for the thoughtful questions. I edited your email to make it a bit clearer to my readers, and hope that is okay!

I will share my own take on these issues, realizing right away that some individuals may not agree with my ideas. As I came from a very religious upbringing, I am aware of the rigidity of some of those who have conservative religious orientations who believe with all their hearts that there is only one “right” way to think, feel, believe, and behave, and that they are in touch with “absolute truth.” But all too often, this way of thinking can become a justification for aggression toward those who think and believe differently. So I am not much of an advocate for absolute truth, and don’t really even know what that term means!

To my way of thinking, many of our beliefs and values are stipulations, or values that we assert, and not something that can be proven one way or the other. For example, you can choose to value all humans, or you can decide that certain humans are superior, or inferior, to others, based on skin color, race, age, intelligence, achievements, gender, or a myriad of other arbitrary criteria. You cannot prove that black people, or white people, or Jewish people, or Christian people, or immigrants from any country, are inherently superior or inferior. But many people do believe such ideas, because they were brought up to believe, think, or feel this way or some other way. To my way of thinking, many of these beliefs can do a great deal of damage, in terms of depression and anxiety on the one hand, or hatred and violent aggression on the other.

Generally, our laws and moral values are stipulations that we have, for the most part, agreed upon as humans, or as a particular group of humans. Many of our basic moral / religious beliefs can be found in the ten commandments, for example, as well as other basic religious writings. They cannot be proven one way or the other, they are simply rules we agree on.

Many religious or politically zealous people want to elevate their personal beliefs and values to the level of “absolute truth.” Sadly, this type of thinking sometimes leads to prejudice, violence and war, thinking one has the “truth.”

Also, in relationship conflicts, typically the two partners are saying, over and over again in a variety of ways, “I am right and you are wrong,” rather than trying to empathize and find the truth in what the other person is saying, thinking and feeling. As a result, the conflict typically escalates, and sometimes ends in violence. That’s what I mean when I say that “truth” is the cause of most of the suffering in the world today.

This type of absolutist thinking can be viewed, actually, as one of the ten cognitive distortions I first published in my book, Feeling Good. The distortion is called all-or-nothing thinking–that’s where you view and judge things, people, or ideas in absolute, black-or-white categories. This type of thinking can fuel feelings of superiority and hostility, when you think of yourself as being on the “all” side of the equation, as well as severe depression and even suicidal urges, when you think of yourself as being on the “nothing” side of the equation.

For example, when you are depressed, you may tell yourself, and believe with all your heart and mind, that you are “a failure” or “a loser” or “no good.” And when you are angry, you may tell yourself that someone else is “a loser” or “a jerk” or “no good.” Although all-or-nothing thinking is intensely distorted, it can be intensely addictive.

So that’s my take, or my rant, for better or worse, on “absolute truth!”

As far as your second question is concerned, you could just as easily say, “What job would be more desirable for me?” When you say, “What job SHOULD I select,” it sounds like a moral imperative to make the “correct” choice, when often there is no single correct choice. So, the “should” can trap you in a box, thinking that a “right” decision is overwhelmingly important when, it fact, there often is no inherently “correct” decision. All decisions can have unexpected positive and negative consequences, and happiness often has far more to do with how we cope with those consequences than in finding some imaginary “correct” decision.

So, in short, decisions about what job to pursue, or which college to attend, or who to marry, or where to live, are to my way of thinking, not usefully viewed as “shoulds.”

With regard to question three, different cultures sometimes have different values, and different rules which are stipulated and not proven. These are just the rules any society establishes for itself. A legal “should” is just a rule that a culture establishes. For example, when we say, “you should not drive 90 miles per hour on the highway,” we are simply saying that this speed is so dangerous that we have a rule against it, and you will get a ticket if you drive that fast. But it is not thought to be immoral to drive that fast–on a race track it is perfectly okay to drive as fast as you want, for example.

Some states in the United States may have maximum speed limits of 75 miles per hour. Others may have maximum speed limits of 65 miles per hour. It is not the case that one or the other speed limit is based on “absolute truth.” It’s just what the people in that state have agreed on.

Many people with a rigid, inflexible personality style want to insist that their rules, or stipulations, are somehow “absolute truth,” and this is one of the causes of war and hostility, often in the name of God or some higher principal. Rigid thinking is often seen with narcissistic individuals, but we also see rigid thinking in individuals struggling with depression and anxiety. But the rules we establish are just that—rules—and not manifestations of some invisible “absolute truth.”

Before the cause of epilepsy was known, some cultures viewed it as a good thing, and imagined that epileptic seizures were visitations from God, or manifestations of genius, and that those who suffered from seizures were special. Other cultures viewed seizures as visitations from evil spirits, or as defects in the afflicted individuals who were seen as inferior human beings. Later, when the cause of seizures was finally understood in terms of abnormal outbursts of electrical activity in the brain, we began to think about epilepsy as an “illness” instead of a sign of superiority or inferiority in the person with seizures.

Consider old age. In some cultures, elderly individuals are treated with great respect. In other cultures, the elderly are viewed in a negative manner, and old age is feared, while youth is idealized. These are just subjective decisions, not things that can be proven one way or the other. Young people, or old people, are not in any way “inherently” superior or inferior.

Of think about food preferences. I like blueberry pie, but I don’t like pumpkin pie. But it is not “true” that blueberry pie is inherently superior to pumpkin pie. It is simply a preference of mine, and not an expression of “absolute truth.”

It’s the same with racial, ethnic, and religious biases. Some people look down on blacks, Asians, Jews, the Irish, Mexicans, Christians, Muslims, gays, and on and on endlessly. Often these groups are targeted for hatred and mistreatment by rigid individuals who tell themselves and others that they represent “absolute truth.” But you cannot “prove” that any of these groups are, in fact, inherently inferior or superior. It is simply an arbitrary decision to hate. And the bias is often fueled by addictive feelings of moral superiority.

Science works the same way, partly through stipulation and partly through experimentation and testing. You always have to start with a stipulation that cannot be proven as right or wrong. Once you have done this, you can do experimentation based on research. For example, we can decide as a culture that pneumonia is an “illness,” a bad thing, so to speak. Once we have agreed on that, which is simply a stipulation, then we can do scientific work, searching for the causes and cures for pneumonia. That’s where empirical testing becomes vitally important, because you CAN prove that many theories are false, and that many treatments are not effective, whereas other theories and treatments prove more useful.

I don’t really spend any time at all searching for “absolute truth.” As the Buddha so often said, only specific and real problems can be solved. Problems that don’t exist don’t require solutions. All real problems exist at specific times and locations on the surface of the earth. When people come to me for help, or for treatment, we pinpoint specific problems in their lives, and then we solve those problems using a wide variety of strategies and techniques. The recovery is usually pretty exhilarating, but never involves looking for or finding any kind of “absolute truth.”

“Absolute truth,” like the “self,” does not exist. These are simply nonsensical concepts that we use to create misery for ourselves or others.

My take on it, only! Let me know if my rambling makes sense, or if you are still in the trance or enchantment of searching for “absolute truth.”



My live FB broadcasts have been moved to 3 PM Pacific (California) Time every Sunday afternoon. I hope you can join us! The show is for therapists and the general public alike. If you cannot join us live, you can download the shows and listen any time that’s convenient for you!

Feel free to submit questions you’d like me to cover in these shows. Your questions drive the discussion each Sunday afternoon!


How to Find My FB Broadcasts

Click on my Facebook tab on if you’d like to watch me each week on my Live Facebook broadcast each Sunday afternoon around 3 p.m. PST. Make sure to “like” my Public Facebook page: so you can watch it on my page or yours.

Join me as I answer mental health questions from viewers — therapists and non-therapists alike — from all over the world. Type your question in the Facebook feed and I’ll do my best to answer it.

If you miss the broadcast you can watch the saved videos on my Facebook page! Also, viewers can watch these Live Facebook broadcasts as well as other interesting TEAM-CBT videos on the Feeling Good Institute’s YouTube channel!

The David and Fabrice Feeling Good Podcasts

Fabrice and I hope you also enjoy our Feeling Good Podcasts, and also hope you can leave some positive comments for us and some five star ratings if you like what we’re doing! We are already enjoying 25,000 downloads per month from listeners like you. Thank you so much for your support of our podcasts!


At least one listener has had problems leaving an iTunes review from his i-phone, so Fabrice has created some simple to follow instructions if you need help.


Should Statements: Is there a moral / ethical dimension?

Hi Website visitors,

I got an interesting email from a brilliant colleague, Rabbi Joel Zeff, who joined one of the Sunday hikes a year or so ago. He asked about the ethical implications of one of the ten cognitive distortions: Should Statements. This is a cool topic, and I hope you enjoy the exchange! Feel free to comment, too, as usual!


Dear Dr. Burns,

You might remember me from one of the Sunday morning walks. (I am the rabbi being trained by Leigh Harrington.) I am most pleased to report that I completed the TEAM-CBT Level One training in November. Leigh was absolutely marvelous and I look forward to continuing my training with this powerful approach towards healing.

Meanwhile I have returned to Israel and am completing my dissertation for the doctorate in pastoral counseling from the San Francisco Theological Seminary (Presbyterian), an affiliate of the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley. I recently posted the following inquiry, for my dissertation work, on the TEAM listserv and wonder if you would consider addressing it (many thanks!):

Dear Friends,

I am currently working on a doctoral dissertation in pastoral counseling. I am creating a source book for Jewish pastoral counseling which presents examples of cognitive re-framing found in the Jewish mystical thinking of Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, the Chief Rabbi of Israel during the “Pre-State” period of the British Mandate (died in 1935).

My point of reference is the wonderful TEAM training I received from Dr. Leigh Harrington (thank you so much Leigh!). As part of my writing, I want to address the interface of ethics and cognitive distortions. One gets the impression that cognitive distortions are not defined by ethical considerations. The primary criteria seems to me whether or not the cognition is firmly rooted in reality and to what extent it is helpful in living a relatively happy and productive life.

Do ethical considerations play a role in defining a “distortion” and/or impact on the course of therapy?

This question was particularly accentuated with regards to “Should Statements.” Ethics would posit that people “should,” for ethical reasons, behave in certain ways. Why should we not expect certain standards of conduct, on ethical grounds? I can understand why we might work on not becoming overly emotionally reactive, but that is not the same as saying “why should he/she behave otherwise?”.

I would very much appreciate your thoughts on this, as well, any references to writing on this particular issue that I could incorporate into the dissertation.

If you are able to address the issue, might I have permission to quote you referenced as “in private correspondence?”

Many thanks,

Joel Zeff,

Hi Rabbi Joel,

Good to hear from you! I still have vivid memories of the Sunday hike you joined not long ago!

In my writings (books, blogs, etc.) and teachings (workshops, podcasts) and therapy work, I have always emphasized that there are three valid uses of the word, “should”—the legal should, the laws of the universe should, and the moral / ethical should.

  • Legal should: You should not drive at 100 miles per hour because you’ll get a ticket.
  • Laws of universe should: If I drop this pen, it should fall to the floor due to the law of gravity.
  • Moral / ethical should: “Thou shalt not kill,” which is straight from the Ten Commandments.

Other uses of the word, “should,” are generally not valid, and they can be painful, too. When you say something like this–“I should be a better teacher (or therapist, or Dad, etc.),” or “I shouldn’t be so screwed up,” or “I shouldn’t have made that investment,” or “I shouldn’t be so shy,”—these are not valid uses of the word, should.

Let’s say you have a fear of bridges, like a psychologist I once treated. She told herself that she “shouldn’t” have this fear, and therefore was “screwed up,” and “shouldn’t be screwed i[.” Is this a valid use of “should?”

Well, it is not illegal to be “screwed up,” or to have a fear of bridges. Also, having a fear of bridges does not violate any of the laws of the universe. Nor is it immoral or unethical to have a fear of bridges. For example, you don’t see , “Thou shalt not fear bridges,” listed in the Ten Commandments, or in any of the holy texts from any religion.

If you look up the word, “should” in one of those huge dictionaries, you will see that it’s origin traces back to the Anglo-Saxon word, “scolde.” So, essentially, you are scolding yourself for having some flaw or shortcoming when you use the word, “should.”

You can combat these painful types of self-criticisms in many ways, but one of the easiest is the Semantic Method—you simply substitute gentler language, such as “I would like to be a better teacher” (or therapist, or Dad, or whatever). Then you can focus on the specifics of what you are doing in your teaching, for example, that’s effective, or ineffective, and make a plan for improvement, if needed.

But in a clinical situation, other methods will almost always be needed, especially Paradoxical Agenda Setting techniques, along with empathy and all the rest of the TEAM-CBT treatment techniques. There are numerous techniques that can be used to combat these dysfunctional uses of “Should Statements.” For example, you can say, “It would be great if I could get over my fear of bridges,” and then you can use a variety of techniques to overcome your fear of bridges, if that is your goal. But that is radically different from beating up on yourself.

Should Statements will generally double your trouble. First, you have some flaw, and second, you are filled with self-hatred because you are telling yourself that you “should not” have that flaw. Then you may feel ashamed and defective, or inferior, or even hopeless.

Shoulds directed toward others cause anger, but are equally irrational. Other directed “shoulds” are usually combined with other-directed blame, and are sometimes difficult to combat. That’s because anger and blame usually make people feel morally superior to others—for example, the blame may be directed at certain religious, political, or ethnic groups, and you may enjoy feeling morally superior to the group or the person you are angry with.

The late Albert Ellis, PhD, humorously called this “shoulding on yourself” (or others.) He also called it the “shouldy” approach to life. He tried to show the “shoulding” patient why these statements are irrational, using the technique called Examine the Evidence. He often said things like, “Where is it written that you shouldn’t have this or that problem?” Or “where is it written that your spouse should be different from the way s/he is?” He often made these statements with considerable force and charisma. Those who remember seeing him when he was still alive will know exactly what I mean!

Some people could see his point, and bought it, while others simply could not “see” it, and got turned off by Ellis. That’s why I’ve developed motivational approaches, like Paradoxical Agenda Setting, that therapists can used before trying to modify the patient’s negative thoughts. You can use techniques like Paradoxical Cost-Benefit Analysis and Sitting with Open Hands, for example. This protects the therapist from having to “sell” something to a reluctant “customer,” and greatly boosts therapeutic effectiveness..

There is no conflict I have ever detected between any form of spirituality, religion, or ethics and good, effective therapy. In my experience, individuals who have resolved and recovered from depression, anxiety, relationship problems, or habits and addictions frequently become more spiritual, and have a deeper understanding of spiritual / mystical / theological / philosophical concepts at the moment of recovery, although that probably sounds vague and maybe goofy. That would have to be the topic of another conversation.

I wrote an article on Should Statements that I might publish on my website at some point.

Albert Ellis was one of the first individuals who taught about the problems with Should Statements, back in the 1950s. He pointed out the three valid uses of shoulds that I listed above. The idea that there are valid uses of shoulds, including Moral Shoulds, is an old and well established concept that is embedded in all of the cognitive therapies.

The feminist psychiatrist, Karen Horney, wrote about the “Tyranny of the Shoulds” in the 1950s as well. My mother was struggling with some depression then, and found the books of Karen Horney to be helpful. I was just a kid at the time. I’m still a kid, but more of an old kid now!

Good luck with your dissertation. I’m sure it will be thought provoking, and interesting to many people!

Hope you can come on a hike again one day!


012: Negative and Positive Distortions (Part 3)

In this final podcast on the ten cognitive distortions, David and Fabrice discuss Should Statements, Labeling, and Blame. He brings these distortions to life with a case of a severely depressed woman who felt profoundly guilty and devastated after her brother’s tragic suicide. Dr. Burns also describes the negative thoughts of an individual who experienced horrific childhood abuse, and concludes with a surprising vignette of an elderly woman who was absolutely convinced that the problems in her marriage over the past 35 years were entirely her husband’s fault.