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Identifying exceptions to unhelpful cognitions

Video Type: In Practice

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  • Summary

David and Jacques “Identifying exceptions to unhelpful cognitions” Scenario Background Jacques is currently separated from his wife Ali. They have three children: Ellie, 9, and Phil, 10, and Max, 14. Jacques wants to review what he calls “negative patterns” in his relationship with Ali and to some extent the children with the hope of becoming reconciled. The focus of his talks with David here is a scenario that repeats itself when he is with his family: he is in the middle of telling a story or holding forth on some topic and they tune him out, turn to each other, pick up other conversation threads, and leave him stranded. He says he sometimes responds to this by withdrawing and becoming silent, quietly hurt and angry. At other times, he becomes indignant about “his right to be heard” and challenges them angrily, which alienates them rather than promoting intimacy, and has ended at times in him storming out of the room. Video Introduction David becomes curious here about whether Jacques has ever been able to respond differently in situations like the one identified as an Activating Event—moments where he is interrupted while sharing a story with his family. Jacques is able to identify a recent incident with the children. What does David ask to help Jacques identify what is different about his self-talk in this instance? How would you describe this more helpful cognition? What is Jacques’ description of the consequences of this self-talk, both emotionally and behaviourally? How does David invite Jacques to consider exploiting this learning for improving his relationship with his children and wife? What aspects of this practice might you have done similarly/differently? Video Analysis The exception that Jacques identifies here comes from a related, but not identical, situation. In his example, he is just with his children. While David and Jacques are able to identify the useful alternative self-talk in that situation, Jacques is less certain whether he could respond similarly with his wife present. This leads to a further exploration of what is unique about his relationship with his wife, and what might be the possible obstacles to replacing the negative self-talk with his wife. David remains curious about what makes the situation with his wife different, rather than pushing Jacques to defend his doubts about whether the exception they have identified would apply to his relationship with Ali. The exchange ends with Jacques reflecting on how totalizing claims about his wife’s lack of care may be overstated. These “cracks” in the negative cognition provide openings for further exploration.

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