During session 3, Dr. Smelt helped Fred understand the connection between his thoughts and feelings. Fred agreed to complete several written exercises called thought sheets during the week. Today he brings into the session his first efforts. The following session segment shows how Fred deals with his assignment.
“Good morning Fred,” Dr. Smelt begins, “I think we’re moving to the point where outlining a goal or two each session makes sense. What would you like to accomplish today?”
Fred says, “Well, I suppose going over thought sheets makes sense. They were sort of interesting. And then there was another incident at work I guess we could discuss. It happened just this morning before I came here.”
“OK, that sounds like a plan. Let’s start with the Thought Sheets I gave you to fill out.”
Fred pulls out a few papers from his briefcase, “Here’s the first one I did. My wife had asked me to pick up some milk and tomatoes from the store and I forgot. She said it was OK, but I was mad because she made me feel inept. Well, let me show you what I wrote.”
Situation: My wife said it was OK that I forgot to pick up some grocery items.
Feeling & Sensations: Anger, my face got hot
Thoughts: I figured she really thought that I had intentionally forgotten to stop at the store. She’s always putting me down.
More Reasonable Thoughts: Well, I guess she doesn’t always put me down.
New Feelings & Sensations: Maybe a bit less angry, but still pretty upset and stirred up.
Dr. Smelt tells Fred, “You’ve made a great start here, Fred. You described the situation pretty clearly and you seem aware of what you’re feeling. Sometimes that’s hard for people. You also managed to figure out what was going on in your head that led to your anger. I’d like to toss out some additional ideas about your More Reasonable Thoughts segment.”
“So, I guess I messed that up too, right?”
“That’s an interesting thought, Fred. I had just said you made a great start; that’s what I meant. My job is to help you figure out how to go even further. How does that mean you’re messing up?”
“Well, you said that you wanted to toss my ideas out.”
“Hmm,” Dr. Smelt begins, “This is a wonderful example of how automatic thoughts can trip people up. You took something that I think was neutral and turned it into a criticism. I think what I actually said was that I wanted to toss out some additional ideas, not toss out your ideas.”
“Oh, I guess I see your point. I guess I’m sort of primed and ready to see things as attacks. And so, maybe you’re about to suggest that maybe my wife wasn’t actually feeling critical of me, and that she meant what she said when she said it was OK. Am I right?”
“You get a gold star for that one, Fred. If you think that she wasn’t actually being critical, how would you feel then?”
“Honestly, a little mad at myself for forgetting, but not really mad at her. I’m worried though; how can I possibly stop a habit that’s so automatic for me?”
“Excellent question, Fred. It’s through practice—over and over and over again. These thought sheets can work wonders if you stay at them. And your progress will inevitably go up and down, but over time, a positive trend is likely to emerge.”
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