Earlier in the session, Dr. Smelt suggested that Fred’s self view of being stupid might not be accurate. Here’s what transpires next:
Fred smirks, “Oh sure, we can look at other ways to view this, but I do believe I’m right.”
Dr. Smelt notes, “Let’s not turn this into a contest of who’s right. How about instead, I give you a series of questions to think about and then see if you look at your thoughts differently once you consider them. Actually, let me write them on my whiteboard here.”
Dr. Smelt takes out her always present dry erase pen and writes:
Do I have any evidence that I’m smart?
Do I do good things for people sometimes?
Are people with anger problems always malicious, horrible people?
Can I think of reasons from earlier in my life that I led me to have an anger problem?
Fred focuses on the whiteboard and seems transfixed. Dr. Smelt lets him study the questions which he does for about five minutes. Then he takes a deep breath and says, “You know, my father was an alcoholic who flew into rages whether he was drunk or not. I never knew what to expect or when. I can remember hiding in my closet to avoid him. But it was my mother who really took most of the abuse. And she thought the world of him. He was really a good guy in so many ways.”
Dr. Smelt leans forward and says, “Thank you for sharing that with me. It sounds like you have some painful memories. Would you say your father was a mixture of good and bad, rather like most people I guess?”
“I guess so if I think about it.”
“So, you came by your anger honestly? It was modeled for you again and again. And how about looking at yourself? Do you have any evidence that you’re sometimes a pretty good person? Or that you’re smart?”
Fred nods, “Well, I’m obviously smart in a lot of ways. Everyone asks for my help when they’re really stuck. I got amazingly good grades in school. And I can solve almost anything when it comes to computers. Good? Well, my wife, despite all of my issues claims she loves me and that I’m really good to her—most of the time anyway.”
Dr. Smelt smiles, “OK, Fred. What can you come up with for “More Reasonable Thoughts” on your thought tracking form?”
More Reasonable Thoughts: I guess I did have good reasons for developing problems with anger. The important thing is that I’m working on anger management now. Beating myself up isn’t likely to help.
Dr. Smelt agrees, “That’s right, Fred. How do those thoughts make you feel?”
Fred responds, “Well, I can’t say I feel great. But I’m not quite so upset. And I feel a little hopeful.”
“That’s the most you can expect at this point. In fact, you’re likely to slip. More than a few times. Habits like anger are very hard to break. But you’ve made an amazing start. I’ll see you next week.”
Photo Credit: Rae Allen