1 228: Facing Overwhelm - Session with David Burns and Neil Sattin - Neil Sattin.com

If you’ve got big feelings going on – overwhelm, anxiety, depression, sadness, anger – how can you discover the valuable messages they contain, and then transform them rapidly into feeling good – or even great? In today’s episode, you’ll get to listen in as David Burns helps me bust through feelings of overwhelm – teaching me powerful techniques to dissolve negative thoughts. Along with getting an up-close and personal look at my inner world, you’ll also get to hear a master guide me through the process of silencing the inner chatter that gets in my way. David Burns is the author of the classic bestseller Feeling Good, and the soon-to-be-released, Feeling Great. His TEAM-CBT approach to therapy is a powerful way to stay centered and positive, no matter what’s going on in your world.

Click here to receive the David Burns transcript and Daily Mood Log!

If you want to listen to our first episode together, where David Burns and I spoke about how to apply his work in relationships (based on his book Feeling Good Together), here is a link to Episode 98: How to Stop Being a Victim – Feeling Good Together – with David Burns

If you want to listen to our second episode together, where David Burns and I spoke about how to recognize and deal with cognitive distortions, here is a link to Episode 133: Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life – Cognitive Distortions with David Burns

And our most recent episode together, Episode 226, covers What Matters and What Doesn’t when it comes to making positive changes in your life and relationships.

And, as always, I’m looking forward to your thoughts on this episode and what revelations and questions it creates for you. 

Join us in the Relationship Alive Community on Facebook to chat about it! 

Sponsors:

Find a quality therapist, online, to support you and work on the places where you’re stuck. For 10% off your first month, visit Betterhelp.com/ALIVE to fill out the quick questionnaire and get paired with a therapist who’s right for you.

Resources: 

Check out Dr. David Burns’s website

Read David’s classic books, Feeling Good or Ten Days To Self-Esteem

Pre-Order David’s newest book: Feeling Great – The Revolutionary New Treatment for Depression and Anxiety

FREE Relationship Communication Secrets Guide http://www.neilsattin.com/feelinggood4 Visit to download the transcript, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the transcript to this episode with David Burns, along with the Daily Mood Log.

Amazing intro/outro music graciously provided courtesy of: The Railsplitters – Check them Out

Transcript:

David Burns: So tell me about… We’ll start out with some team therapy here… And you’ve got the things I sent you?

Neil Sattin: I did, yeah. And can you turn your video on so I can see you?

David Burns: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. I don’t know it wasn’t on. Oh, yeah. Here we go. Yeah. There we go. Great.

Neil Sattin: There you are.

David Burns: Yeah. Okay. Tell me how you’ve been feeling?

Neil Sattin: So I’ve been noticing that I’ve been feeling… I would characterize it as feeling overwhelmed, that there are too many things to organize. There’s even a little bit more chaos in my life now with being confined, more or less to my home and having responsibility to homeschool my children. On top of that, there are a lot of projects that I’m trying to manage and those could be in my business and the podcasts and all of that. Or they could be personal projects like organizing my home or making sure I stay well-nourished and get enough exercise. So lately, I’ve been noticing that it just feels like the volume has become really loud and I would say that I’ve never been necessarily the most organized person from… If you had the perspective of organization, meaning everything is neat and tidy and you have your days planned out exactly how they’re going to go, that’s not me or my approach to organization. It’s been generally a little bit more organic in how it unfolds. And that can work up to a certain level of complexity. But once things start to get more complex, I’ve been… Especially with the state of the world over the past few weeks, I’ve been just noticing that I want to shut down, instead of feeling like I’m really rising to that complexity with more resourcefulness. Yeah.

David Burns: Before we go on, let me see if I got it right, because it sounds like what I was telling you, I have been confronting…

Neil Sattin: Oh, yeah.

David Burns: Recently.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

David Burns: That you’ve been feeling overwhelmed, because you’re just getting too many things that have to be organized. And now that you’re confined to home, you’ve got homeschooling, which it takes a lot of energy and effort and personal projects and business projects, many of which are probably fun and exciting. But it just feels like the volume has become loud. You’re… There’s too much stuff happening. And then on top of that, you’re feeling like you’re not organized, that you don’t work in that kind of obsessive manner, but at an intuitive organic manner. Just like today, for example and I do the same thing. I’m supposed to work on my app with some colleagues. I told them, “Well, I’ve got something really great going on here with Neil but I’ll pick up with you later in the day”. But that… And so I don’t like to have a schedule. I like to work intuitively. In my office, I have things piled up all over in here.

Neil Sattin: Out of view of the camera right now. Just… [chuckle]

David Burns: Yeah, yeah. I could show you stacks, this high, on my desk of stuff but it’s quasi organized, but I let it get disorganized and then once a week, I try to force myself to file things and then I feel much, much better. But I like to make things happen and just set things down, when I’m done with them. It sounds like a little of that is happening to you. You like things to unfold organically. Then when there’s too much and everything gets complex and too demanding to keep up on top of all of these multiple things happening, at the same time, you feel like you just want to maybe shut down and escape. And maybe a little like myself. Sometimes I think, “Gee, do I need a nap? Do I need another fantastic podcast or a good podcast, or whatever”? Little Misty, a feral cat we adopted, she’ll swing by and rub up against my legs and give me a meow saying, “Time for some candy or some lovees. Do you have some time, daddy”? I find myself feeling really torn and wanting to spend more time on some things of that level. Did I get it right so far?

Neil Sattin: Yeah, yeah. Definitely. And right down to the… It ends up feeling a little bit like procrastination or the… Here’s an example and this is just one of many things. I did two live events last year, that I mentioned to you. One: Terry Real came here to Portland, Maine and the other John and Julie Gottman came here and both of them I filmed and I’ve been wanting to get the films… The videos edited and out the door so that people can see them. Honestly, that could be a source of revenue for me to make up for the cost of filming both of those things.

David Burns: Yeah.

Neil Sattin: And the Gottman event… That’s two-and-a-half hours. So really all I’ve needed to do is take two-and-a-half or three hours and sit down and watch it and come up with some notes and send them to my video guy. I’ve had that sitting on my desk, so to speak… My virtual desk since October, when the event happened. Obviously, I’ve had three hours, but I can think of a million other things I’ve done with my three hours. And I think when the volume increases like I was talking about, then so does the visibility of all the things that aren’t getting done, like I start… And then it becomes really hard to prioritize because each thing calls loudly to me.

Neil Sattin: Oh, there’s this thing you haven’t done that you could have done three months ago, and then there’s this other thing, and for me, I end up just doing what I need to do. So every week I need to create a podcast. That’s important to me and I’ve managed to do that, more or less, except for in the depths of when my marriage was ending. I had to stop for a minute or two there. But for the most part, I’m getting that done, but all the ways that I want to grow my practice and my work and just myself as a human, I end up feeling like I’m falling short.

David Burns: Right. I’m sorry to hear about your marriage ending. I can imagine that was a source of angst and stress, but you’re saying that in a way you feel like you’re procrastinating, but what the issue is, is that you have all these creative things that you could do, like listen to the Gottman event up in Maine so that you could think about how to edit it and maybe market it, get some extra revenue. Could be exciting, generate interest among your fans, generate more fans. But there’s so many of these maybe cool exciting things that you could be doing, you’re noticing all these things that you could be doing there that you say they shout out to you, they’re all worthwhile and interesting. But you find that you have to take what energy you have just to do the things you have to do, like doing the essentials, doing a podcast every week, and you’re not feeling the motivation, or maybe even having the time and resources, to do probably a significant list of really cool things that you could be doing, probably most of which would be reasonably successful if not tremendously successful.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, that’s the dream, is that each of those things, they come with the allure of the impact that it could make or the… I think when I look at everything that I’m doing… I used the word “organic” earlier, and my life has evolved organically in a way that generally I look at and I think, “Wow, this is beautiful,” and I look back at everything that’s come together and woven its way together to create what happens now. I worked in technology for a long, long time, and so much of what I do now would have been a lot more challenging if I didn’t have that background. And I can also look at each of these ideas and think, wow, that could be amazing or that could be a piece of this puzzle, and the puzzle starts to take shape in front of me, and that gets exciting.

David Burns: I have an idea, let’s not work together on any project, because that’s what’s happening to me too. And these things expand exponentially. All of your skills start coming together, and then you start thinking, wow, I could do this and I could do that and I could do this and I could do that. What you’re saying is that there’s an allure, a dream that your life has evolved organically and it’s kinda coming to fruition on many different levels, and the things that you worked hard to learn are now available to be creating things that would just have a tremendous beneficial impact on others and benefits for yourself. But maybe you’re saying, “Oh my gosh, do I really want to have to do all of that right now?”

Neil Sattin: Right. There’s some… Well, you know what, the voice that actually… That I hear is something like… I’ve never been able to be that organized, and so… It’s like… I’m not sure I can. So it’s almost like there’s that hesitation… I’m trying to think of what the image is that’s coming to me, but it’s like… There are any number of starting gates, like there’s the starting gate of finishing the projects or there’s the starting gate of, let’s just create a meal plan so that I’m a little… I feel a little bit more organized around my nutrition and nourishment. Any one of those starting gates, I find myself caught a moment before that where I’m like, wow, I could go that way, I could go that way… And even when I step up to one, I’m often hearing the call of the others.

Neil Sattin: You talked about the magic button earlier in our conversation and for me, the magic button would be like the elf that somehow knows exactly where this is all going and just shows up every day with my daily agenda, and says, “You just do these things, and trust me, and it’s all going to work out just fine.”

Neil Sattin: And all I would have to do is those things and everything that I wanted to get done would happen, and the structure to support my personal wellness, as well as the wellness of my clients and listeners and the wellness of my business and my children and that would just ripple out just from taking those actions. And what’s funny is that I know that it all boils down to what you do in any given moment like, that’s what life is, life is how you… What you do in this moment and then in the next moment. Sometimes that just feels like the biggest hurdle to me and it matters more now than ever because of that additional chaos that’s in the system.

David Burns: Yeah. So, in an ideal world that you’re having a little elf bring you a Do-list every day, and the elf has figured out what are the essentials and the order in which to do them in order to fit everything in, and then it’s all going to kind of ripple out and all these wonderful things are going to happen. But then you’re saying, life is a Series of Moments and it’s kind of hard for you to get on board and feel motivated to tackle all these things, because once you think of… Well, let’s work on the starting gate, or let’s create an eating plan. And then once you think about stepping up and working on that, you start hearing the call of all these other things that you should be doing and maybe end up feeling or getting a bit paralyzed. Can I suggest we switch just temporarily to The Daily Mood Log? Do you have one there? And at the top it says, “upsetting event” and that could just be like, could be this morning or right now or you know.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, I would, for an upsetting event let’s just say, an upsetting event would be a day that’s gone by where I didn’t… Where I feel like I didn’t get enough done.

David Burns: Okay, okay, so is that right now, feeling like yesterday, you didn’t get enough done?

Neil Sattin: Sure.

David Burns: Okay, so put that on the upsetting event, day when I didn’t, I didn’t get enough done and just write that down.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, I’m actually…

David Burns: You did already?

Neil Sattin: I didn’t yet, but I’m opening this in a little PDF editor things that I can…

David Burns: Oh, okay.

Neil Sattin: Edit and write on the document, so…

David Burns: Okay, great.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

David Burns: And then, do you see… That’s an obviously upsetting event but now we want to see what your emotions are, and the first category is sad, blue, depressed, down, unhappy. Were you feeling some of those?

Neil Sattin: Definitely.

David Burns: Tell me me which ones and I’ll circle them or maybe you can circle them or highlight them.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, I would say kind of down and unhappy. Those…

David Burns: And how strong are those between zero and a hundred?

Neil Sattin: So yeah, at the end of a day, I’d say it’s like an 85 or 90.

David Burns: Okay then, put 85-90, in the “percent now column.”

Neil Sattin: Okay.

David Burns: And see that’s important because, just a minor point, you’re such a warm, upbeat person.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

David Burns: So people interacting with you wouldn’t know that you’re feeling that unhappy inside, that’s why it’s great to measure ’cause that’s almost, most intense unhappiness a human being can have. Do you feel anxious, worried, panicky, nervous or frightened?

Neil Sattin: Yes. [laughter]

David Burns: Okay. All of them?

Neil Sattin: Yeah. I mean, if I touch in to worried, maybe a little less worried a little more on the panicky side, a little more on the nervous side a little less on the frightened side.

David Burns: Yeah.

Neil Sattin: But it’s all definitely there.

David Burns: And anxious?

Neil Sattin: Yeah, anxious for sure.

David Burns: And how strong does that get between the 80… Zero and a hundred?

Neil Sattin: I would say… Well, if I compare that to sadness, I would have actually said that that’s a little bit more.

David Burns: Sure.

Neil Sattin: So maybe the sadness is more like 80 to 85 and then the anxious is more like 85 to 90, but…

David Burns: Okay.

Neil Sattin: At the end of the day when I’m feeling that feeling of like, “Oh I didn’t get enough done.” Then yeah, there’s kind of, the sadness that comes with that and then, yeah, there’s the anxiety of like, “I work for myself and I’m also in charge of my own showing up for my life.” And yeah, there’s that sense of like, “Oh, if I don’t do this, no one’s going to do this for me.” So it’s all dependent on me. Yeah. So right, that was a long-winded way of saying 85 to 90 as well.

David Burns: Great, great! Now, do you feel guilty, remorseful, bad, or ashamed?

Neil Sattin: Yeah, I would say… Probably, mostly… Yeah, there’s definitely… You’re a capable person, you should be able to do this and figure this out.

David Burns: By the way, I’m also writing down negative thoughts in the negative thought column and I just wrote down, “I should be able to do this and figure this out.” And when that thought goes through your mind, how strongly do you believe it between zero and 100?

Neil Sattin: That I believe I should be able to figure this out?

David Burns: Mm-hmm.

Neil Sattin: That’s a 100, yeah, for sure.

David Burns: Okay, so I’m going to put 100 in the percent now column, the belief column. And again, you were about to tell me how guilty, remorseful, bad or ashamed, do you have those feelings.

Neil Sattin: I’m starting to feel guilty that these are also high. But yeah, I would just put that all, again, in 85 to 90.

David Burns: Okay, great.

Neil Sattin: I always feel like I’ve got the glimmer of… There is always that piece of me that’s like, “It’s all going to be okay, you’re fine.” So that still lives in those moments.

David Burns: Sure, sure. But that’s really intense, the guilt and shame and feeling bad. And then, do you feel inferior, worthless, inadequate, defective or incompetent.

Neil Sattin: Shit, yeah, I do.

David Burns: All of them or some of them or…

Neil Sattin: No wonder this is so horrible.

David Burns: Yep.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, I wouldn’t say worthless. I would say, it’s probably inadequate, defective, not incompetent, yeah.

David Burns: Okay.

Neil Sattin: Somewhere in there.

David Burns: How strong are those?

Neil Sattin: That’s more probably like the 65% to 70% range.

David Burns: Okay, and do you feel lonely, unloved, unwanted, rejected, alone or abandoned?

Neil Sattin: That, I do not feel as much.

David Burns: Okay, we’ll put a zero there. Do you feel embarrassed, foolish, humiliated or self-conscious?

Neil Sattin: I would make that a 50.

David Burns: Which feelings? Embarrassed, foolish, humiliated, self-conscious?

Neil Sattin: Well, it’s only in my own eyes. I don’t think anyone else really… Except now, of course, everyone who’s listening knows this is what Neil goes through at the end of a day where he hasn’t got enough time…

David Burns: This is very courageous…

Neil Sattin: Yeah, this is the reality…

David Burns: What you’re doing. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of feedback you get…

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

David Burns: I bet you’ll get an overwhelming number of fan responses.

Neil Sattin: We’ll see. Yeah, so I would say embarrassed, not foolish, not so much self-conscious, but humiliated. Yeah, that’s why it’s sort of in that range.

David Burns: Okay 50.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, I’d say 50, yeah.

David Burns: You feel hopeless, discouraged, pessimistic, despairing?

Neil Sattin: Yeah, definitely not despairing, discouraged for sure. That’s the one that jumps out of me most and…

David Burns: How strong is that?

Neil Sattin: I would say that’s an 85.

David Burns: Great, great.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

David Burns: And then, do you feel… Oh, by the way, I could have recorded this at my end.

Neil Sattin: I’m recording.

David Burns: Okay. Then I could have sent you my recording, so you would have a local, higher quality.

Neil Sattin: No, we’re good, we’re good, I think.

David Burns: Okay, that’s great.

Neil Sattin: You’re coming through loud and clear.

David Burns: Oh, good. Do you feel frustrated, stuck, thwarted or defeated?

Neil Sattin: That’s probably like a 95%.

David Burns: And all of those are…

Neil Sattin: All of them, yeah.

David Burns: Yeah, and do you feel angry, mad, resentful, annoyed, irritated, upset or furious?

Neil Sattin: I’m annoyed and irritated. Yeah, and those are probably in the 70% range.

David Burns: Right. Any other emotions that I haven’t asked about? So far, we got sad and down and unhappy. We’ve got the whole anxiety cluster, intense. We’ve got the guilty and shame clusters, intense. A little inadequate and defective and a little embarrassed and humiliated quite a bit, actually, and very discouraged, 85 and frustrated, 95 and annoyed and irritated, 70. Anything else like overwhelmed?

Neil Sattin: Yeah, I mean if we add overwhelmed in there, that would be super high if it gets its own category.

David Burns: Yep.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, I’d put that at 95%.

David Burns: 95, great. Now, let me ask you what some of your negative thoughts are when you’re feeling this way or even at this moment like you said, “I should be able to figure this out.” And you believe that 100. You also said “No one will do this for me.” That’s probably not a distorted thought. I jotted it down. And then “I’m not sure I can be that organized.” That’s a good negative thought. How much do you believe that one?

Neil Sattin: I would put that at probably 85%.

David Burns: 85, great. And what are some more of your negative thoughts when you’re feeling down, guilty, anxious, defective, embarrassed?

Neil Sattin: Yeah, it would be things like I’m failing.

David Burns: Failing, yeah.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

David Burns: How much do you believe that one?

Neil Sattin: In those moments?

David Burns: Mm-hmm.

Neil Sattin: That would be 90%-95%.

David Burns: 95 and I wrote that down. “I’m failing.” That’s an excellent one. What are some more negative thoughts, things that you tell yourself?

Neil Sattin: Oh good. I’m seeing, this goes on to another page. I was like “I’m going to run out of space.”

David Burns: We got more Daily Mood Logs too.

Neil Sattin: Time. Like there’s not enough time, or there’s no way that I can… There’s no way I will be able to do this is maybe. There’s not enough time. They kinda overlap with each other a little bit.

David Burns: You’ll make that one thought, “There’s not enough time and no way I can do all of this.” How is that?

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

David Burns: And then how much do you believe that one?

Neil Sattin: Yeah like 100.

David Burns: Hundred. Sure.

Neil Sattin: 100%. [chuckle]

David Burns: Sure. And what are some more… That’s kind of the discouraged thought and the frustrated thought. What’s the inadequate and defective thought?

Neil Sattin: Well, that I’m not capable of doing this, that’s definitely the defective there is.

David Burns: Yep, sure.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

David Burns: Let’s write that down number… That’s thought number five I think.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

David Burns: I’m not capable of doing this. And then, what is this defined as?

Neil Sattin: This is… Okay, so this could be two things. This could be getting organized and executing on that.

David Burns: Yeah, okay.

Neil Sattin: Or this could be sort of the result, like I’m not capable of the success or the goals that I want.

David Burns: Achieving my goals.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

David Burns: Okay, great. And then that’s a really well-stated one. And how much do you believe that between zero and 100, “I’m not capable of getting organized. I’m not capable of achieving my goals.”

Neil Sattin: In those moments, it’s not how I live my day. Though I guess I do come in and out of that. It’s so wild to just really kinda see that in front of me that way. I would put that in an 85 or 90.

David Burns: Yeah 90. By the way, it’s like going in and out of a trance. Like when you get in there it seems totally true.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

David Burns: And then when you recover, it’s such a radical shift. It’s like you’re in almost, you’re in a different reality.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, that makes sense to me.

David Burns: Any other negative thoughts? We’ve got some super ones here.

Neil Sattin: Let me just see if anything else jumps out at me. I don’t know, this one feels kind of risky to say. My father was right.

David Burns: Great, okay. And tell us what that means, how you’re feeling right at this moment.

Neil Sattin: Well, I can hear his voice at a young age accosting me around like, “You gotta figure this out. You gotta clean your room. You gotta get organized. You’ll never succeed if you can’t figure this out.” I hear that. And on the flip side of it, there’s a part of me that would love his blessing in terms of what I do with my life. And it might shock people to learn that I don’t… I definitely haven’t gotten it explicitly. Whether he does feel it and he’s just keeping it to himself, that’s possible. But my father, his career, he was a clinical psychologist, and there have just been a lot of times where I have wished that he could also see the value in what I do, and how I’m showing up in the world and how I’m contributing.

David Burns: Is he still alive?

Neil Sattin: He is. Yeah.

David Burns: Do you feel sad when you think about that or angry or…

Neil Sattin: Yeah, we could do a whole nother mood log on that one. [chuckle]

David Burns: Sure.

Neil Sattin: But yeah for sure, it’s a source of sadness and anger that I’ve dealt with for most of my adult life. And because he’s alive, I hold out the hope that at some point there will be some sort of redemption in that way, but it hasn’t happened yet.

David Burns: Yeah. Yeah.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, there’s a lot about… And just to be clear, I think I said this one other time when I talked about my dad on the show, I love him dearly, and then there are things about him that I just don’t understand and that aren’t… I may never understand them. There’s a level of opaqueness in terms of how he lives his life and his choices and I guess I’m just… I would just like a little bit more from him, a little more engagement and support.

David Burns: Well I feel sad and really close to you based on what you’re saying right now, what you said the entire time we’ve been talking. And I can identify with it on a personal level too because I’ve been experiencing a little conflict with my own son. Just yesterday kind of erupted a little bit and we were both pretty angry with each other and feeling unappreciated and unloved and we’re trying to talk it out a little bit. But there was such an explosive level of anger, like it wasn’t working. And he also loves me a lot and really admires what I’ve done, but maybe doesn’t always feel like his dad appreciates him. Very, very similar to what you’re saying. And I was kind of at wits’ end and very anxious and feeling kind of ashamed too and hurt. And he was sitting at the dining room table doing some work with a colleague and on an impulse, I know he likes physical touch, and so I just went up and started massaging his shoulders and he indicated he was really loving that and then I just kind of leaned over on his back and hugged him, and then he got up and turned around gave me a wonderful hug.

David Burns: It was really a beautiful moment. And sometimes I think that out of intense anger, if you hang in there in a relationship, then really, really beautiful things can happen. But I’m sure it was so painful for him and has been painful for him to feel like his dad doesn’t really appreciate him. And I’m so filled with admiration for him and his ethical qualities, his idealism, his incredible, technical skills, his love, his work ethic. But it’s so easy for fathers and sons to disconnect and sometimes never connect. My dad was a Lutheran minister and he was… I just admired him when I was little and loved him so much and thought I’d be a minister. And then we kind of drifted apart and I began to see things that really hurt me and turned me off and so, we never really did reconcile. I felt kind of judged, and he was very rigid. And if you don’t believe in Jesus, you’re going to go to hell, and stuff that seemed harsh to me. But I’m sure you’ll find a way to connect with your dad. But I can certainly identify with how incredibly painful that is for you and you have achieved such a fantastic amount – if a father could ever have a son to be proud of, you’re the son and I can see you’re hurting an awful lot.

Neil Sattin: Thank you. Yeah. I just want to say too that the space exists between you and your son to be able to do that and that you would recognize his love language and show up in that way is such a gift. And it was really moving to hear you describe that.

David Burns: I felt really lucky that that happened. Generally, there’s a path to intimacy when you’re upset with people. I have the philosophy, the more angry or hurt you feel with someone, the more fantastic potential for a loving connection and reconciliation and more, but it’s like, what is the path? That’s a conversation for another day. But, “My father was right,” when you say that, how much believable is that?

[laughter]

Neil Sattin: Yeah, so in those…

David Burns: Let me unplug my phone here. Sorry. I’ve just unplugged it. Yep.

Neil Sattin: In those moments, “My father was right,” that’s 85 or so.

David Burns: 85, sure. Yeah, I feel so close to you right now and I think many people are going to be touched by the reality and the openness and vulnerability you’re bringing to this and probably to all of your podcasts. Any other negative thoughts?

Neil Sattin: Well, the only other one that really jumps out for me would be something like, I’m going to be… I’ll be unhealthy, weak and broke. That that’s what’s going to happen.

David Burns: Oh great, and then how much do you believe that one?

Neil Sattin: That’s less. So, I would say, that’s in the 60%-65%.

David Burns: 65. So just to review your negative thoughts in reverse order, “I’m going to be unhealthy, weak and broke. My father was right about me. I’m not capable of getting organized and achieving my goals. There’s not enough time and no way I can do all of this, all the things I have to do and all the things I want to do. I’m failing. I should be able to do this and figure this out and I’m not really sure I can be that organized, organized enough to do all the things on my plate.” And then, perhaps the “No one will do this for me.” You had mentioned zero on lonely, unloved, unwanted, rejected, alone and abandoned. But when you say “No one will do this for me,” does that cause some feelings of being alone at all or not? You gave a zero…

Neil Sattin: Yeah, I guess so. I guess it’s true. Yeah, there’s that sense of like, “I’m in this by myself.” Yeah.

David Burns: Yep.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

David Burns: And then, when you have that thought, then how alone would you be feeling?

Neil Sattin: Yeah, like an 80.

David Burns: An 80.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

David Burns: Okay, good. And so, you’re feeling overwhelmed, irritated, frustrated, discouraged, embarrassed, alone, inadequate, guilty, ashamed maybe, intensely anxious and very sad, down and unhappy. So how am I doing right now in terms of getting you an understanding how you’re thinking and how you’re feeling? And to what extent are you feeling the sense of compassion or acceptance, if you were to grade me on empathy, so far, would you give me A, a B, a C, a D?

Neil Sattin: I’d give you an A for empathy, yeah. I feel like going through this, it helps me see myself for one thing and what’s happening in those moments and the attention that you’re giving to the language that I’m using, and encouraging me to get specific and telling me about your experience with your son and your dad, and really kind of pausing with me in that. Yeah, I feel seen.

David Burns: Okay, we’ve kind of… Just from a brief teaching point of view. We’ve done the T, because we’ve done testing. We know exactly how you’re feeling and we’ll do that again at the end of the session, and we’ve done some empathy. Now, we want to take a look at A: Assessment of resistance, and let me ask you this question. You’ve talked about some things that are very powerful, and very personal and very important. And there’s something here that you would want help with. And is this a good time for us to get to work or do you need more time to talk and have me listen and provide support? Because that’s important and I don’t want to jump in prematurely.

Neil Sattin: I think that both my excitement for being able to do this with you and my frustration at how persistent this has been, leads me to want do the work.

David Burns: Okay. Now, let me ask you this question, suppose at the end of our session today, you say, “Well, that was better than French fries,” or something like that, and a miracle happens. What miracle would you be hoping for? What change… If this was a really wonderful experience, what would change by the end of our session?

Neil Sattin: Okay, if a miracle were to happen, then I would feel totally capable. I’d have a sense of how to prioritize and where to start. And I would feel like a certain measure of trust in the path and the unfolding that I could see it… I could see how it’s all going to work, how it’s all going to be okay, yeah.

David Burns: Okay, that’s a good goal. Now, let me ask you to imagine that we have a magic button. I can send you a nice red magic button if you want for your show notes. Someone in my Tuesday class, her husband is a graphic guy and he made a magic button, a red magic button for me. It’s very neat looking. But if we have this magic button, let’s say, if you pressed it, all your negative thoughts and feelings would instantly disappear in a flash. And you become euphoric and you’d feel joy and confidence and trust and you’d feel totally capable. Would you press the magic button?

Neil Sattin: Yeah, I definitely would.

David Burns: Oh, okay. That’s what most people say. And I don’t have a magic button but I’ve got some really wonderful techniques. But I’m not sure it would be a good idea to use those techniques and cause all these negative thoughts and feelings to disappear, that there might be some unanticipated losses there. And so, if you can take a piece of paper and put positives on it and we’re going to make a list of positives and we’re going to ask two questions about each negative feeling, or negative thoughts as well as you like, and we’re going to ask two questions about it.

David Burns: What are some benefits or advantages of this type of negative feeling, like feeling sad, feeling anxious, feeling guilty, whatever? And the second question is, What is this kind of feeling show about me and my core values as a human being, that’s a beautiful and awesome and positive? So this is the opposite of the way most mental health professionals and people look at it. We say, “Oh, Neil has this defect this problem that that has to be fixed. This is all the stuff that’s wrong with you.” And I’m going to go in the opposite direction here and see what this shows about you, that’s really quite the opposite of defective. Let’s just start out with sad, down and unhappy. You’re feeling 85% sad, down, and unhappy. So, what does that show about you that’s beautiful, positive and awesome? Show about you and your core values? You’re sad because…

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

David Burns: You have a lot of exciting projects that you’re not getting to, among other things.

Neil Sattin: Right, I mean… Sorry, I’m just making a note here. That… For me, that shows that I… Well, on one level that I’m ambitious.

David Burns: Okay, so let’s just stop for a second.

Neil Sattin: Okay.

David Burns: Put down ambitious.

Neil Sattin: Okay.

David Burns: The sadness shows that… Is that real? Is that true? Are you ambitious?

Neil Sattin: Yeah. I am ambitious. Yeah.

David Burns: Is that a good thing?

Neil Sattin: I think so, yeah.

David Burns: Is that important?

Neil Sattin: It’s super important.

David Burns: Is that powerful?

Neil Sattin: It’s part of what drives me.

David Burns: Yeah it’s part of what… And you’ve achieved a lot. Could we add that too?

Neil Sattin: Add what?

David Burns: Your ambition has caused you to achieve.

Neil Sattin: For sure. Yeah.

David Burns: Is that important?

Neil Sattin: Very important.

David Burns: Okay, let’s add, have achieved a lot. And just to bracket it, for our listeners because this is so new to people even mental health professionals, some have not been able to learn how to do this, they’re so used to thinking about these things as bad. But notice if you press the magic button, you’ll become euphoric, euphoric about the fact that there’s all these projects you’re not getting to. You see what I mean? Sadness…

Neil Sattin: Right, ’cause I feel excited. I would just feel like, “Okay I’m going to… I will, I am going to do these things.”

David Burns: Right, and that’s a benefit. But at the same time if you weren’t feeling sad, it would be like you didn’t value these things.

Neil Sattin: Right.

NOTE – This transcript, like this episode, is very LONG. The rest of the transcript is available for download by clicking the button below (or visiting the webpage that this episode is on, and clicking the button to download the transcript).

Click here to receive the David Burns transcript and Daily Mood Log!

1