Fear of Dying (Part 2)
Updated: Nov 22, 2019
Jonah learns that watching horror movies has its disadvantages. He is motivated to stop watching them despite being previously enticed by the excitement of them. He learns to use a list of cognitive distortions or mind traps to talk back to the lies he has been telling himself. With a new thought that puts the lie to the previous ones, he is now free of the anxiety.
NB All characters in these blogs are fictitious and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Robert Davies © 2018
Minutes later, Bob the counsellor, Mr. Jenkins, was sitting with Jonah in his office.
“Okay, then let’s start on helping you change your thoughts and get control of them. Remember you are the boss of your own mind.
“So, Jonah, what were we talking about before recess?”
“Well, I’m having bad dreams.”
“Well, we were talking about watching horror movies and the worst being the Chuckie movies.”
“So once again, what is it about these movies that you don’t like?”
" I really, really don't want to watch them anymore."
"I am really, really scared by Chuckie."
“That’s right. Then we checked out the facts about Chuckie.”
“What is it about Chuckie again?”
“Chuckie might kill me tonight.”
“That’s terrible, Jonah. Okay, let’s get back to work and get you feeling better.”
“Okay, once again close your eyes. See the scary parts. Don't look away in your mind's eye, but face them.”
Mr. Jenkins paused and counted in his head.
“Feel the tension. Keep seeing all that scary stuff.” Mr. Jenkins stopped after he reached ten seconds in his head.
“Okay, stop. Now, lets continue. Write down Watching Chuckie on the line that says: Upsetting Situation or event.”
Jonah wrote in the words plus his name and the date where required.
Mr. Jenkins pointed to the lists of feelings on the form.
“So when you think about Watching Chuckie and the killing and the blood and all the horrible stuff, which one or any of the feelings do you have?”
Bob-the-counsellor and Jonah zeroed in on the strongest feelings.
There was sad, blue, depressed, down and unhappy.
Jonah circled SAD.
“Okay, you have “sad”. How about blue, depressed, down or unhappy in the same list?
Jonah shook his head.
“Okay SAD. Let’s measure how strong that sad feeling is. Look at the bar full of percentages.
“And how strong is that between 0 and 100%?”
Jonah wrote in 20%.
“How about the next list? Let’s see there anxious, worried, panicky, nervous, and frightened”
Jonah circled ANXIOUS and wrote 1 million% instead of 100%.
“One million percent, Jonah?”
“Yeah, I am really, really anxious.”
Mr. Jenkins had had students choose to write in a gazillion or one student put in a “1” followed by as many zeroes as he could fit in the box provided – about a gazillion as well.
“Any other feelings?”
Jonah circled alone - 10%, hopeless - 5% and furious - 5%.
“Okay, Jonah, that is very good. You are being very brave. It is very difficult to talk about one’s feelings. Let’ s write down your thoughts. First, let me explain how it works. When you have an upsetting situation such as Watching Chuckie, you are going to have negative thoughts and these negative thoughts will give you negative feelings. We have the negative feelings down here – sad, anxious, alone, hopeless and furious. Let’s continue and pull out the thoughts that are causing those feelings. So, when you are feeling SAD about the Chuckie situation, watching scenes about his creeping up on people, the fear, the screams, the horror, the stabbing of people to death, what are you thinking, what are you saying to yourself?”
“I won’t be able to conquer my fear.”
“Write that down.”
Jonah wrote it out.
" Okay, Jonah. Your first negative thought is: I won’t be able to conquer my fear."
“How true is it between 0% and 100% that you won’t be able to conquer your fear?”
Slowing going through each of the feelings, Jonah agreed on the following thoughts.
I won’ t be able to conquer my fear. – 25% true
Chuckie might kill my Mom and Dad. - 100% true
I shouldn’t be having these thoughts. 60% true.
I can’t do anything about it. 50% true
Chuckie will kill me tonight. 100% true.
“So, these thoughts are causing your negative feelings which are causing your negative behaviours such as not sleeping. The good news is that we are in control of our thoughts, so that if we change our thoughts we can change our feelings. Choose positive, realistic thoughts and your feelings will become more positive and negative ones will lessen. This will change your negative behaviour such as not sleeping. Now further good news is that when we have a difficult situation such as watching Chuckie we will have negative thoughts, but these thoughts usually have mind traps or distortions within them. Why? Because it is hard to think straight when we are upset or scared. So our thoughts are often crooked or distorted. Let’s check out your thoughts and see how true they really are by looking for mind traps in them.”
Mr. Jenkins pointed at the list of negative thoughts.
But, first of all, which thought did you want to look at first? ” Jonah had written down several negative thoughts.
Jonah read them all again. Mr. Jenkins read them all again, too.
“Number 5,” said Jonah.
“Chuckie will kill me tonight,” with the 1 million percent score of true?”
“Okay, Jonah, lets check the mind traps. Number one …can anyone say, “Chuckie will kill me tonight?”
This is Mind Trap # 1 called “all or nothing thinking”.
This mind trap says it is all one way or all the other way. Now, is that true? Think about your thought about dying? Isn’t that extreme? Maybe you could be a little sick tonight but not feel like dying. Maybe you could be very sick with a stomachache and think you are going to die, but you are not really.
I have had lots of stomachaches, and I didn’t die although I felt like I was dying. A night’s sleep can be anywhere from excellent to very good to not bad, to kind of bad, to a little bad, to very bad to terrible. If you are thinking of the two extremes without all the possibilities in between, then that is a mind trap. Jonah? So, maybe Chuckie will stab you but only get you in the arm and you run away and get help. That could happen. It doesn’t have to be life or death. It can be a little scratch even or a tiny cut and you escape. Is it “All or Nothing Thinking?” that is your mind trap here?
Jonah circled mind trap #1.
“Let’s look at number five mind trap. Read it out loud.”
Jonah read it.
Jumping to conclusions. You jump to conclusions not warranted by the facts. For example: a) Mind-reading. You assume that people are reacting negatively to you.
“What do you think, Jonah?”
“Well, I don’t have any proof that there might be a random killing and about Chuckie coming here to PEI to kill me. I would be kind of reading Chuckie’s mind, telling myself that I know he is after me. Well, I would be “jumping to conclusions” not based on any facts – mind reading.”
“Are you fortune telling? That is another type of Jumping to conclusions.
b) Fortune-telling. You predict that things will turn out badly or even perfectly. No one can tell the future.
“Yes, it is as if I know what is going to happen next. No one knows that.”
“Good! Circle Mind Trap number 5.
Now another cognitive distortion or mind trap - Using Your Feelings to Think With – Emotional Reasoning – Another Mind Trap!
“Jonah, did you feel like you were going to die, so you started to believe or to think that you were going to die? Did you use your feelings to think with instead of your mind? It really, really felt like you were going to die; therefore, you were going to die.”
“Yes, Mr. Jenkins, I got carried away with my feelings."
“And if you got carried away, do you think you blew everything out of proportion making it bigger than it really was? That mind trap is called Magnification or minimization. It is called the binocular trick because it’s like looking through the two ends of a binocular, so things either look much bigger, or much smaller than they really are.
“Yes, Mr. Jenkins, I did blow things up pretty big.
Jonah mind traps numbers 5 & 6 on his form.
“So, Jonah, count the number of mind traps you have in your thought,
“Chuckie will kill me tonight”.
“Six. Six Mind Traps.”
“Well, with that many distortions your thought can’t be 100% true or I should say 1,000,000% true. What would be more true?”
“I can write, “I’m not going to die tonight.”
“Yes, but something more positive than a negative statement would work better. Think of something else to write. It has to be 100% true for you, and it has to be positive. In fact, it should show that “Chuckie will kill me tonight!” is a lie.” After all, with that many distortions how can it be accurate! It has to be untrue. What do you call it when you tell somebody something that isn’t true especially when you’ve proved it to yourself that it isn’t?”
“Yes, a lie. So, stop lying to yourself and tell the truth! Who wants to be a liar? Not me! How about you, Jonah?”
Jonah looked down on his mood log form, glanced at the distortions, thought about his thought, “ Chuckie will kill me tonight!” And wrote down the following:
"Chuckie can't kill me tonight!" because Chuckie is not real. 100% True
“Okay, Jonah, now that you are talking to yourself in a positive and realistic way, “ Chuckie can't kill me tonight‘ because Chuckie is not real,” let’s measure how strong that sad feeling is. Look at the bar full of percentages.
“And how strong is the sad feeling now between 0 and 100%?”
Jonah wrote in 0%.
“How about ANXIOUS?”
Jonah wrote .0001 % instead of 0%.
“One thousandth of a percent, Jonah?”
“Yeah, I am really, really NOT anxious anymore.”
“Okay and the other feelings?”
Jonah wrote in under % after ALONE 0%, HOPELESS 0% and FURIOUS 0%.
“Okay, Jonah, that is very good. You have been very brave. It is very difficult to talk about one’s feelings.
A week later, Mr. Jenkins checked in with Jonah.
“Jonah, I was wondering how you have been doing after our last session? Do you need to see me again?”
“No, Mr. Jenkins.”
“Between 1 and 10, how are you doing with the issue we met about with 1 being TERRIBLE and 10 being GREAT?”
“A 10, Mr. Jenkins, a 10.”
Mr. Jenkins smiled. Jonah was himself again.
“Have a great gym class, Jonah. You know where I am if you need me.”
“Jonah smiled again; his dark brown hair as usual sticking out madly in all directions; his eyes all squinted up.
Mr. Jenkins smiled back, for now he read only good news in those dark eyes.
Most people like stories, and therapy is all about stories. Telling stories about powerful techniques used in TEAM CBT therapy demystify this therapy one story at a time.
Yet, confidentiality is a cornerstone of all counselling. Without confidentiality, clients wouldn’t feel safe going to therapy to divulge the most painful areas of their lives. To safeguard clients while illustrating TEAM CBT techniques, confidentiality is kept by either having the client’s consent or by distorting the facts, making the client unrecognizable .