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Dec 18, 2023

Today's special guest, Brittany.

Podcast 375. I'm Struggling!

Ask David Live: a New Podcast Twist

We start today’s podcast with a visit from Dr. Jacob Towery. You might recall that one year ago he offered an amazing and (almost) totally free two-day workshop for shrinks and the general public on overcoming social anxiety. Roughly 90 people attended, and it was a huge success. The only “cost” was a $20 contribution to a charity of your choice, including Doctors Without Borders and several others.

Dr. Jacob Towery

This year, Dr. Towery will be repeating this incredible program on March 16 and 17, 2024, which will be on a Saturday and Sunday, in Palo Alto. Once again, the title will be “Finding Humans Less Scary.” Jacob and Michael Luo will lead the program and will be assisted by 10 - 20 expert therapists who will lead the break-out groups.

Last year, people described the program as “transformative” and “life-changing.” Social anxiety can have a significant impact on your life, so you owe it to yourself to attend if you or a loved one has struggled with any of the five common forms of social anxiety:Shy Bladder Syndrome

  • Shyness in social situations
  • Public Speaking Anxiety
  • Performance Anxiety
  • Test Anxiety

You’ll learn and practice tons of awesome anxiety-busting techniques, including Smile and Hello Practice, Flirting Training, Rejection Practice, Talk Show Host, Shame-Attacking Exercises, and much more.

Social anxiety rarely exists alone, but is nearly always associated with other mood problems, such as loneliness, shame, depression, and substance misuse with alcohol and benzodiazepine pills to try to combat the symptoms, to name just a few.

How do you sign up? It’s easy! Just go to

If you attend, let us know how it worked out for you, what you learned, and how you grew. Thanks so much, Jacob, for making this kind of world-class experience available to everyone who’s looking for some help, and some wild, life-changing and zany fun in March!

Brittany, an enthusiastic podcast fan, asked for help with a conflict with her husband. She wrote:

Hi Dr. Burns,

I’m struggling a bit. My husband reads a ton of articles and feels that the media has been portraying a lot of the current events incorrectly, especially the horrifying Israel/Palestine conflict. He is extremely frustrated by this and has become depressed because none of his friends or family seems to want to talk about it. He says he feels alone & isolated. I have never been much into politics, abd I don’t know enough to have a real opinion on things to say who is right.

I try to be a good listener to whatever he says. For example, I may say “yeah, that sounds really frustrating,” and then I agree with what he says. But I’m obviously doing a bad job at the empathy because he says the support he gets from me is not satisfactory at all. Sometimes I feel like a parrot, just repeating back what he says.

I think you had an example before on an Ask David where you showed how to empathize with someone who says how awful everyone is and how awful all the liberals are. Something like that. But I can’t find it.

When I empathize my husband says I just don’t get it and nobody is doing anything to help these innocent people who are being attacked, and he says that I am not doing anything either.

I’m at a loss on how to reply? Maybe you could do an example on an Ask David. Sorry for the long message.

- Brittany

Hi Brittany,

Sorry you’re struggling, this is a common but important problem.

Yes, we can and will do that. Can you give me an example of something he says to you, and exactly what you say next? You can use the attached Relationship Journal I you like.

Try to complete steps 1 and 2 at least, and mail back to me ASAP. Lots of people with this problem these days, so could be great ASK D question.

Weren't you on the show live once a few years back? I know you’ve sent us some great questions. I'm thinking MAYBE you could join and practice with us, using your example.

Do you have / have you read my book, Feeling Good Together?

Best, david

It turned out that Brittany was eager and willing to join us live on today’s podcast . This is kind of an experimental podcast where we not only respond to a great question by one of our fans, but actually invite that person to get our “expert” help in real time and live on a podcast.

You can let us know if you like this format.

To get us started, Brittany sent us an example of a Relationship Journal she had prepared. I thought this was really well done, and gave her revised version a grade of A-, which is way better than most people can do. I sent her an email saying that she could probably add more acknowledgement of his feelings and her feelings, like feeling alone and hurt and a bit lonely, and also a bit more Stroking, like "I want you to know how much I love you, and how special you are to me. And that's why it's so had for me to realize that I've really been letting you down."

We practiced with Brittany using my Intimacy Drill, which you'll hear on the podcast. Essentially, one of us would play the role of Brittany's husband, and we would say something she wanted help responding to, and she used the Five Secrets to respond. Then Rhonda, Matt and David gave her an overall grade (from A to F), along with fine tuning suggestions, emphasizing what she did that was especially effective and if there were any changes that might make her excellent responses even better. Then we did role reversals so we could demonstrate ow we might respond, followed by additional role plays until she was satisfied with her response.

Five Secrets of Effective Communication

This approach is called "Deliberate Practice" and it is by FAR the best way to master the Five Secrets so you can use them successfully in real time.

We also discussed her concern that at home she'd been feeling like "a parrot" when she tried the Five Secrets. That is always caused by the absence of "I Feel" Statements in your statements, and we modelled how to correct this error.

One of the biggest problems in the way people communicate during a conflict or argument is defensiveness, and given in the urge to argue and defend your territory, so to speak. Matt explained that this nearly always results from thinking you have a "self" that you have to defend.

Another common Five Secrets error is the failure to acknowledge the other person's anger. Therapists and the general public nearly always make this error, because of a mindset I call "anger phobia" or "conflict phobia." However, Brittany did really beautiful work during the podcast exercises, as you'll see when you listen.

We (the so-called "experts") also practiced what we preached and took turns responding to criticisms, which is always fun and challenging, and often humbling when we goof up!

Let us know what you think about this new format of having someone who asks a question actually appear live on the podcast so you can actually learn through practice while we answer your question.

Thanks for listening today, and thank you Brittany for blazing new trails on our podcasting adventure!

Brittany, Rhonda, Matt, and David