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Identifying exceptions to emotions

Video Type: In Practice

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  • Summary

Noah is a 30 year old graduate student, married to Joanne with a 3-year old daughter, Samantha. His life is currently very hectic and he has been struggling with the pace of things. He has been concerned about his mood lately, saying he feels “down” much of the time. In one session, he reports distress about an incident that happened a few days ago. He was in a small town and met another young man, who, upon learning that Noah was Jewish, asked “How come you’re not in the ovens?” This exchange is a follow up to the one called Directing attention to an embodied emotion, also in this chapter. David and Noah now have a term, “the racing,” to describe a problematic emotional state for Noah. What does David ask to identify a context that, while similar in other respects, was not accompanied by this mood? What does Noah cite as some of the helpful things he did in that context that he is not doing in the current one? How does David support him in distilling a detailed account of what precisely he was doing differently then? What do David and Noah do to critically evaluate whether this context is reasonably similar to his current one, and thus present some feasible options? What aspects of the counselor’s practice might you have done similarly/differently? David and Noah have some useful shared language (“the racing”) to depict an unwanted feeling of being stressed and overwhelmed. They have already determined it is associated with having “many balls in the air.” David helps Noah to identify another time when he was equally busy with a multitude of responsibilities, but when “the racing” was not a problem. Noah identifies a number of self-care activities he was engaging in at that time. David and Noah evaluate whether the previous context was reasonably similar, such that it might be possible to initiate some of these activities in Noah’s current context. Notice that David does not leap at the possibilities offered by this exception, but rather invites Noah to evaluate whether it might provide some options. The methodical evaluation here is similar to the care taken in setting achievable goals.

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