Saturday, May 5, 2012

CBASP at work


I’m a mind reader.
Don’t worry. I’m not claiming to know what you’re thinking right this moment, while you’re reading this.
But if you and I were talking with each other, I would be able to interpret the true meaning behind everything you said.
I would not need to nor would I want to ask you what you meant by something you said.
Because I’m a mind reader. Or, rather, I practice mind reading.
That’s one of the lessons that was brought home to me in today’s session of Cognitive Behavioral Analysis System of Psychotherapy, or CBASP.
I first wrote about my therapist using CBASP to treat my chronic depression here.
During our first two sessions of this new (to me) therapy, we discussed my significant other histories, the stories of the people in my life who have had big influences on me and on how I view other people and myself.
Today we completed our first situational analysis questionnaire, which is a form that guided us through analysis of “an interpersonal problematic event.” The analysis included role-playing to give me the opportunity to practice new coping skills.
Before the session, my assignment was to select the interpersonal event—an exchange between another person and me—that troubled me and write a brief “slice of time,” with a beginning, an end and a short story in between.
Then working with my therapist, I did the following:

  *Described my interpretation of what happened, or how I “read” the situation.
  *Described what I did during the situation, which included what I said and how I said it. This was what someone else would have observed if he or she had been able to see me during the situation.
*Described how the event came out for me. This is called the actual outcome. Outcome has to do with the last thing I did, not what the other person did.
*Described how I wanted the event to come out for me, which is called the desired outcome. I arrived at that description by considering the end point of the situation and what would have been the best I could have done at that point.
*Answered whether or not the desired outcome was achieved and why.

What I discovered was that I tend to assume I know what the other person means when he or she says something. I don’t ask. I just assume. And I tend to read a situation with my past rather than staying in the moment and dealing with what is.
I didn’t do the very simple but very important thing that would have changed the whole dynamic of the “interpersonal problematic event.” I didn’t ask, “What do you mean when you say that?”
I was trying to avoid conflict. I am afraid of conflict. But when I avoid it, when I avoid asking questions because I’m afraid of the answers, I stuff my feelings. The more I stuff my feelings, the more they fuel my depression.
There is no guarantee that if I ask the question, I will get the answer I want. But I will have something real to cope with, instead of something that may or may not be true.
My therapist likes to use the example of the baseball player who is petrified of not hitting the ball. There is no guarantee that if he swings at the ball, he will hit it. But it is guaranteed that if he does not even go up to bat and try, he will not hit the ball.
People with chronic depression tend to not even try, to think there is no use in trying, because we’ll just fail.
So why should I explore the meaning behind what another person tells me that upsets me? I already know what he meant, right?
Well, no, I don’t. I am going to need to practice staying in the present and tackling what is, not letting the past dictate how I interact with others.
This therapy is not particularly pretty or easy. I had to face some things about myself, and I cried. That box of tissues on the therapist’s bookcase is going to come in handy.
But I feel heartened by it, too. My therapist and I are not spending time analyzing why I interact with others like I do. As he said, what happened in the past can’t be changed. I can learn how to act with more strength and assertiveness now.
I may sometimes believe I’m helpless, but I’m not.

You don’t have to have chronic depression to sometimes make assumptions about the meaning of the other person’s words. Are you a mind reader? Do you sometimes let the past dictate how you act today?


  1. Oh boy this post hit home with me!!! Wow - I am dealing with a REAL inter-personal situation that is very difficult for me right now, and I do exactly the same thing. Based on my past, I have everything figured out EXACTLY how I think it will go - because I'm terrified of confronting someone with my concerns. I like how you discussed staying in the present moment. Great advice - but how????

    1. POC, I wish I had the answer for how to stay in the present moment! I don't think any of us can do it all the time--but we can work on it and increase the moments that we are mindful of being in the present. I am working on being more aware of when I'm dwelling in the past. A lot of the time, if I'm focusing on the past, especially the distant past, the thoughts are not good ones and I feel angry or frustrated, and very helpless. That's a clue for me to pull my attention to what's happening now. Sometimes I just focus on what I hear and see right now, and that helps me be in the now. Again, I can't manage long periods of doing this, but it is becoming a bit easier.

      I am just learning how much I assume about others reactions to me, and how many problems that can cause.

      Thank you for your comment!

  2. I have this problem too. Just so you know :-D

    1. Yes, Elizabeth, we are alike in this, aren't we? :-)

  3. I used to be like that Tina, but i am learning to change, to ask and try to understand. I can do it now with the persons I trust, with the ones I am not afraid of. I like your therapist Tina. It's so hard to work with a therapist we don't trust. Love you!!

    1. Nikky, I am grateful for my therapist. He is really good, and I do trust him. You're right--we have to trust the therapist if he or she is going to help us. Thank you for reading and commenting! :-)

  4. the book Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life. It will explain why this happens. My husband does this, too. God does it piss me off. But I realize he doesn't do it deliberately. However, it is a major communication obstacle. The fact that you know it is HUGE!!! Rock on!

    1. Thank you! I recently bought Get Out of Your Mind for my Nook. It's on my "read soon" list. Maybe sooner than I thought!

  5. Tina,
    What struck me the most was writing you are fearful of conflict. I don't ask questions from people because I learned from a young age, it didn't matter. I will readily admit I don't go up to bat, I don't even try..because the times I tried it didn't matter. So I swallowed my feelings to cope..except I really was not coping, it just fueled the fire in me and I think how it comes out is OCD..the whole feeling I have to be in control. I did all that to survive (as a child) because my feelings were either ignored, ridiculed or worse it provoked my mothers anger. I was smart enough to know that was wrong so I raised my children different, they had and have a voice. I need to get one too. I think I need to get some self-confidence and be ok with being assertive.
    I don't know if I am way off the mark here, that is what I was thinking while I read your post - I am totally sleep depraved and had about 5 minutes to check my Google reader to catch up on blogs.

    1. Kris, You are right on the mark. As a child, my voice was often met by those options: it was ignored, ridiculed, or met with anger. One of my chief goals was not be a bother to anyone.

      You're right, that wasn't really coping. I know my depression is related to my experiences as a child. That's also when my OCD started.

      But we will work through this! The fact that you raised your children differently says a lot of good about the kind of person you are and your love for your children.

      I hope you are able to get some rest!

  6. Tina, This is kind of a test, this is Krystal Lynn from "Sprinkle Some Sugar On Me.." and I wrote you the comment above and it posted, but as "kris" with my picture from my prior blog which is really strange and of course I didn't notice till I hit publish. I didn't have time to figure out why it did that right away..I can't use my own laptop & I'm out of the country but can't see why that would matter. Weird. Anyway, now you know who it is anyway.
    I am excited to hear about your CBASP as you continue.

    1. Krystal, I figured that was you. That has shown up on another comment, I think. And I recognized your photo from photos that you have had on "Sprinkle Some Sugar on Me." No problem at all, even if I hadn't recognized you.

      Do you like being called Kris better? Or would you prefer your blogger friends call you Krystal?

      Hope you're doing well!

  7. As usual, the things you post in here are interesting, and I see practical applications for everyone, not just individuals who are in treatment. I am reminded of what I learned about adolescents, and how they have not completely learned how to read people's faces and expressions, and how they make mistakes "reading" them sometimes, as a result. (Incorrectly interpreting negative for positive and vice-versa) We all make these incorrect assumptions about what others are saying and thinking, quite frequently, though....especially in our online relationships.

    1. Rebecca, Yes, we all make mistakes sometimes in reading what other people mean by what they say, how they are reacting to us, etc.

      That's interesting that you mention online relationships. I hadn't thought of that in this context, but you are so right. Written words from someone we've never met--there are plenty of opportunities for misinterpretation. I worry about that in terms of blogging and my OCD--am I writing things in a way that gets across my meaning. I've learned that all I can do is put it out there with my intentions, after doing the best job on each post as I can, and not worry about reactions that I can't control.

      Thanks for your thought provoking comment!

  8. Oh, one of my specialties is mind reading! The problem is that when I "read" someone's mind, I always put my anxious interpretation on what I believe they are thinking. And let's face it, my interpretation is almost always negative. That definitely doesn't help with depression or anxiety. My doc had to point out to me on many occasions that I was doing that. It takes a lot of practice to get out of this habit. It is very subtle. Often, I do not even realize I am doing it.

    Let's just say that I spent the first year and a half sobbing in my psychologist's office. I should have bought stock in the tissue company. I would be a wealthy woman now. : )

    1. Sunny, Another specialist! :-) You are right--the interpretation I get from "mind reading" is usually negative. That's kind of odd, considering I don't ask questions because I fear conflict/fear the answer, and yet even the mind reading is bring out the negative. Sigh.

      I'm glad I'm not the only one who cries. It happens even when I'm not expecting it!


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