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  • Writer's pictureRobert Davies

Walter's Phobia: Well Water Part 3

Updated: Nov 22, 2019

Walter gets an inoculation against his contamination phobia. He does this by practicing using his inner dialogue to fight his phobia. It is all Negative Walter against Positive Walter. Dr. David Burns calls this technique the Externalization of Voices. Basically, Walter is reinforcing his new beliefs by fighting out loud the lies he was telling himself.

Walter’s Well Water Part 3

Robert Davies © 2019

“Walter, glad to see you again. So today we will do the inoculation.”

" Inoculation?”

“We will use Externalization of Voices.” “What is that?”

“ Well, you have already used your original negative thoughts which gave you all your negative emotions. You changed them into realistic, positive thoughts. This put the lie to what you were telling yourself. As a result, your emotions became much less negative. Consequently, you felt better.”

“That is for sure, Bob.”

“Let me explain the Externalization of Voices as you do the technique. Here are your negative thoughts below alongside your positive thoughts. Let’s just call them: Negative Walter and Positive Walter.”



The Well Water I Drink is Contaminated



A “I can die.”

B “I’m just being anxious. That’s not a cliff to drop over and die, it’s just a bump.”

A “Because of my fears, it is proof I won’t be able to cope with life.”

B “I can learn to cope appropriately with worry.

A “Crippled by fear, I will lose my career and my social life.”

B “It is an opportunity to become better equipped to deal with life.”

A “I am all alone with my problem.”

B “I have the support of my team.”

A “I can’t resolve this. I am helpless.”

B “I can talk back to my negative thoughts.”

“Now, how this works is that you, Walter, will be the Negative Walter.”

“I will be my negative self?”

“Right. And I will be the positive you or Positive Walter. “

“So, I will talk 'my negative talk', and you will talk 'my positive talk'?”

“You got it.”

“Bob, is it as if I am fighting myself in my head: Yes, go this way. No, go the other way?”

“Yes, Walter, except, I play one part of you and you, play the other part of you. You fight for the negative path, and I will fight for the positive path. Okay?"

"I think I have it."

"Are you okay to start, Walter. You are the negative Walter, and I am the positive Walter.

And so, Negative Walter (Walter) started talking at Positive Walter (Bob).

Negative Walter (NW)

“Let’s face it. The water is contaminated. You can die. It is too dangerous to play with.”

Positive Walter (PW)

“Let’s check the facts. Your family has been drinking the water for ages and no one has shown any illness due to the water, just the odd flu bug. Besides, you have already taken several samples to the Health Authority, and they have concluded, in more than one test, that the water is safe. Plus, Walter, you have done the fear ladder proving to yourself that the water is safe, and you have shown no ill effects by showering, brushing your teeth, cooking with the water, drinking the water. You have everything to prove it is safe, and nothing to say it isn’t. Do I win?”

NW: “Yes, you win. But if you want to talk about facts, it is a fact that I have been acting crazy because I believed the water was contaminated. That is proof that I am unstable, which can’t help but dampen any career aspirations. Plus who would want to be my friend except some other nut!”

PW: “Who hasn’t had fears! Fear is a part of life. Doubt is a part of life. Becoming successful socially or career-wise isn’t about being perfect or about not having troubles, it is precisely the facing of our imperfections, the facing our career challenges, that makes us successful, not the ‘not-having-any-problems’. If you have a problem, then GOOD, you now have an opportunity to grow into a more rounded but imperfect human being. Do I win, Walter?”

NW:” Yes, you win again. But I am not finished. Look at my fear of contamination. If you need proof of my not being a sane person. There you have it. There is no way that I will be able to cope with life because of that fact. There, take that you Positive Walter!”

PW: “Yes, you figured the phobias would leave you an emotional cripple. You figured that also after your surgery to remove that cancer growth? You were anxious. That is not a crime. That anxiety is on a long continuum. Everybody has it. It is good to have. Concern makes us look both ways when we cross the street. Worry stops us from taking dangerous chances. Sometimes worry gets out of hand, and we end up with a phobia. But we all can learn to control anxiety. It is a tool that works for us. We can turn it around and out of that fear can grow a more confident person. You have done that, which is all the proof I need. Got’cha! Mr. Negative Walter.”

NW: Well, you have to admit, Mr. Positive Walter, that I am fighting this alone. Nobody can understand the fears, the terrors that I go through dealing with this contaminated well water no matter how un-realistic you might think I am thinking. I am on my own to fight this. No one understands what I am going through. No one!”

PW: Well, Mr. Negative Walter, you have to admit that you have no proof according to your own experience that there is any real terror. You have a healthy family and a healthy self who have all been drinking the water for years as well as a ‘healthy’ report from the Health Authority that your well water based on all the many samples that you sent that there is nothing there to harm anyone.

And about the alone part, well, you have me your ‘positive side’, the Positive Walter, who is on your side. You have Robert Jenkins, your TEAM CBT counsellor, You have your beloved wife, children, including the people at the hospital who helped you with your operation as well as with your anxiety. These are good people dedicated to helping you and others. Dr. Burns, who trained Mr. Jenkins, is helping you albeit indirectly. You have several people on your team. We could even include your parents who only want the best for you. We could tag on your friends, who may not know even about your phobias, but nevertheless, want the best for you. You ARE NOT ALONE, Walter. What was another thought that you beat up?”

“I’m putting up the white flag. You defeated my negativity!

“Okay, Walter, let’s switch roles. I will be the negative Walter and you be the positive Walter. I begin …”

So, Bob the counsellor, hit Walter with his negativity.

Negative Walter (Robert Jenkins) (NW)

“Let’s face it. The water is contaminated. You can die. It is too dangerous to play with.”

Positive Walter (Walter) (PW)

“Let’s check the facts. You’ve been drinking the water, so has your children and wife. No ill effects. The Health Authority has checked the water. It is good and pure. No ill effects. Those are facts. You can’t dispute them ...”

Bob and Walter continued the role play pitting all the negative thoughts against all the positive ones and then switching once again. This was a way of exposing Walter to his fears all over again.

When someone has an anxiety problem, it will re-visit him once again. Using the same tools, those negative and positive thoughts, as the client had the first time in defeating his phobia, the client can defeat the anxiety phobia once and for all. Basically, the client is arguing with himself but with the tools to defeat his unrealistic, negative thoughts.

To paraphrase the famous Charles Dickens, Walter became a changed man and “it was always said of him that he knew how to keep his anxiety well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us and all of us!”


Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink?

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