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Apr 27, 2020

This is the first in a series of podcasts by David and Rhonda focusing on the best techniques to crush each of the ten cognitive distortions in David’s book, Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy.

David and Rhonda discuss the amazing positive feedback that Rhonda received following her two recent podcasts doing live personal work. David emphasizes that being open and genuine about your own flaws and insecurities can often lead to far more meaningful relationships with others. This is a paradox, since we often hide our shortcomings, fearing others will judge and reject us if they see how we really feel, and how flawed we are.

David and Rhonda begin the discussion of the Cognitive Distortion Starter Kit with a review the three principles of cognitive therapy:

  1. Our positive and negative feelings do NOT result from what happens in our lives, but rather from our thoughts about what’s happening or what happened.
  2. Depression and anxiety result from distorted, illogical, misleading thoughts. What you’re telling yourself is simply not true. Depression and anxiety are the world’s oldest cons.
  3. When you change the way you THINK, you can change the way you FEEL. This can usually happen rapidly and without drugs.

The first idea goes back at least 2,000 years to the teachings of the Greek Stoic philosophers. Although the idea that our thoughts create all of our feelings is very basic, and enlightening, many people still don’t get it! This even includes lots of therapists who wrongly believe that our feelings result from what’s happening to us!

David describes an innovative "Pepper Shaker" game devised by George Collette, one of his colleagues in Philadelphia to make the hospitalized psychiatric patients aware, through personal experience, that their feelings really do result from their thoughts. The game can be done in a group setting, and is entertaining. Rhonda suggested that the therapists who attend David's Tuesday training group at Stanford might enjoy this game as well!

There are key differences between healthy and unhealthy negative emotions. Healthy negative feelings, like sadness, remorse, or fear, also result from our thoughts, and not from what is happening to us. However, the negative thoughts that trigger healthy feelings are valid and don’t need to be treated or changed. In contrast, unhealthy negative feelings, like depression, neurotic guilt, or anxiety, always result from distorted negative thoughts.

David and Rhonda briefly describe each of the ten cognitive distortions, with examples. They warn listeners that the goal of these podcasts will be to learn how to change your own distorted thoughts, and not someone else’s. Pointing out the distortions in someone else’s thoughts or statements is obnoxious and will nearly always lead to conflict. David and Rhonda do a humorous role-play to illustrate just how incredibly annoying it is when you try to correct someone else’s distortions, or when someone tries to correct your own distorted thoughts!

David and Rhonda remind listeners to focus on one negative thought from a Daily Mood Log, like “I’m defective” or “my case is hopeless,” and to remember that the thought will typically contain many distortions, and possibly all ten. This means that there will be lots of techniques—often 20 or more—to help you crush the thought.

They also discuss the new idea that you can do Positive Reframing with cognitive distortions as well as negative thoughts and feelings.

In the next podcast in this series, David and Rhonda will discuss the TEAM-CBT techniques that can especially helpful for the first distortion, All-or-Nothing Thinking.

David D. Burns, MD / Rhonda Barovsky, PsyD