176: My suicidal daughter refuses to talk with me / How can I deal with my jealousy?

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By David Burns, MD, David Burns, and MD. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

Rhonda and David discuss two challenging questions submitted by listeners like you.

Question #1: Cindy asks: My suicidal daughter refuses to talk to me! What can I do?

Comment: Dear David,

I stumbled upon you teaching in another podcast a few months ago. Immediately I was stunned by how much your words echoed in my mind. I have listened to your book three times in Audible and many of your podcasts. You Changed my life!!!

I am much more relaxed now and I can sleep!!! I talked about you with my massage therapist and she bought your book for her daughter (who has anxiety attacks) and her niece. Her daughter is an aspiring artist who said that she would buy your book and give them away to teens when she becomes famous.

I now ask you to change another life, that of my daughter's. She has been depressed for more than 20 years, suicidal (bought a noose, watches suicide movies, talked about ways to kill herself) and no therapists could help. We went to therapy together this past summer and it only ended that she abruptly canceled and is no longer responding to me by any means: phone, text, card, or email. The last time I saw her was late August and she was very down and had very poor personal hygiene. I have since sent her a loving text at least every other day, I offer to drive to her city (an hour away) to have dinner with her, I sincerely apologized for everything I could think of that I have done wrong since she was a child, I sent gifts to her by mail, I invite her to come for holidays, I ask her cousins to call (she did respond to them). No response to me at all. I am wondering how to communicate with a loved one who just totally shut you off.

Always your fan,

Cindy

Thank you, Cindy. Sorry to hear about your daughter, very concerning. My heart goes out to you. Our own daughter had a rough time as a teenager, too, but now is doing great. I hope things evolve with your daughter, too.

This podcast may help: https://feelinggood.com/2019/10/28/164-how-to-help-and-how-not-to-help/ as well as this one:

https://feelinggood.com/2019/02/04/126-how-to-communicate-with-someone-who-refuses-to-talk-to-you/

The first podcast highlights common errors in trying to “help” someone who is hurting, and emphasizes how to respond more effectively, using the Five Secrets of Effective Communication.

The second podcast illustrates how to get people to open up using one of the advanced secrets called “Multiple Choice Empathy / Multiple Choice Disarming.

My book, Feeling Good Together, explains these techniques in detail, with practice exercises, and includes an entire chapter on how to talk to someone who refuses to talk to you. You can learn more on my book page. (https://feelinggood.com/books/). Some support from a mental health professional might also be helpful to you, as these techniques sound simple, but are actually challenging to master.

Your daughter might also benefit from my book, Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy (https://feelinggood.com/books/). It is not a substitute for treatment from a mental health professional, but research studies indicate that more than 60% of the people who read it improve significantly in just four weeks. It is inexpensive, and I’ve linked to it if you want to take a look.

All the best,

David

Question #2: Lorna asks: How can I deal with my jealousy?

Comment: Hi David,

I've recently discovered your books and your podcast and CBT has really been helping me in my personal life. I really want to thank you for all the amazing work you do!!

The issue I'm having however seems to still really get my moods down and I was wondering if perhaps you could offer some general advice via the podcast.

I'm in a great relationship but the ex-girlfriend of my partner has recently moved back to the city where we live and now we are in similar social circles. They were together for a very long time and now I'm really struggling with the prospect of spending time with her.

When we all spend time together, it’s actually fine, but afterwards I really struggle with thinking about them together, getting to know her and thinking about her personality and how we compare.

I think most people would find this uncomfortable, but it really has triggered a downward spiral for me. My partner and I argued about it and I struggle to let things go that were said in arguments.

Do you have any advice on dealing with a situation of an ex-partner being on the scene and perhaps how to not dwell on things that were said during arguments?

Thanks,

Lorna

Hi Lorna,

Thanks, might work. What does this mean: “Do you have any advice on dealing with a situation of an ex-partner being on the scene and perhaps how to not dwell on things that were said during arguments?”

The rest of the email seems to suggest feelings of jealousy, insecurity, and so forth, as if she is a threat to your current relationship. is this correct?

David

Hi David,

Thanks so much for getting back to me!

I don't actually think she is a threat to our relationship, and don't feel that they have feelings anymore for each other, but it just makes me super uncomfortable to think about how long they spent together.

I'm always comparing our relationship to what I think their relationship was like in the past. I know I should stop thinking about those things but I really struggle to stop!

I know my partner and I are very much in love but I keep having thoughts like

  • “It’s not fair that I have to spend time with her,” or
  • “I feel really guilty because he wants to be friends with her but can't due to how I feel about the situation.”

I also feel like he blames me.

I was hoping you could shed some light on what you think in general is a good strategy for dealing with situations where an ex-girlfriend/boyfriend of your partner is on the scene and you all have to spend time together.

I do have feelings of jealousy and insecurity but I struggle to understand why as I don't believe they want to be together anymore at all.

We had a few arguments about it initially where he said things like “you are just angry that I have an ex-girlfriend” or “what's the big deal about it all?”

I was so hurt by the way he made my feelings seem petty and trivial. We have both apologized but I keep remembering what he said and how hurt it made me feel.

Do you have any advice on letting go of past arguments when the 'problematic situation' (ex-girlfriend being around) is still on-going?

Thank you so much!

Lorna

David and Rhonda discuss this question, and include David’s story in Intimate Connections as a medical student when David had a broken jaw and the ex-boyfriend of Judy, the girl he was living with in Palo Alto, charged into his house with a tough-looking friend and demanded to see Judy. David called the police, and the two fellows left and set, "we're going to get you!" David was terrified, since his jaw was still broken, and got some jaw-dropping advice the advice from his buddy, Sergio. You will be surprised to hear about what happened next!

In addition to learning to "let go" of jealousy, Rhonda and David discuss many additional strategies for dealing with jealousy, including:

  1. Use of Self-Disclosure
  2. Positive Reframing: do you really want to give up your jealousy and vigilance?
  3. Cost-Benefit Analysis: Is it worth the hassle of constantly being suspicious, as opposed to simply deciding to trust and let the chips fall here they may?
  4. Downward Arrow: What are you the most afraid of?
    1. Love Addiction
    2. Fear of Rejection
    3. Fear of Being Alone
  5. Overcoming the fear of being alone and the “need” for this man’s love, or any man’s love, is discussed in the first section of Intimate Connections.
  6. Exposure: You could fantasize the two of them together, making yourself as anxious and jealous as possible, until the feelings diminish and disappear.
  7. Self-Monitoring: Counting your thoughts about them on a wrist counter or cell phone for four weeks. David describes his work with an intensely jealous law student after his girlfriend broke up with him so she could date another fellow in his class.
  8. Understand the frequent ineffectiveness of apologizing, and why it doesn’t work! This is really important. David describes a powerful vignette about a troubled couple, where “I’m sorry” was CLEARLY a way of saying “shut up, I don’t want to feel about how hurt and angry you feel.” The Five Secrets of Effective Communication are a vastly more effective way of dealing with negative feelings. David and Rhonda contrast effective vs. dysfunctional “apologizing.”

While it can be important to say "I'm sorry," this formulaic response is usually insufficient because it often ends the conversation but the difficult or hurtful feelings remain. What's important to add is talking about the other person's feelings, thoughts and experiences of the conflict and sharing your own thoughts and feelings.

When you say, "I'm sorry," it's sometimes insufficient because it often ends the conversation, but the difficult or hurtful feelings remain.

What's important to add is talking about the other person's feelings, thoughts and experiences of the conflict and sharing yours.

After David emailed Lorna with the outline for the podcast, Lorna replied:

Hi David,

Thank you sounds great! Can’t wait to listen to the episode. I think I will definitely order your book - I think it’s the only one missing for me to have the complete collection. Thanks again!

Lorna

Thanks for listening today! By the way, if you are looking for CE credits or training in TEAM-CBT, my upcoming workshop on therapeutic resistance on February 9, 2020 will be a good one. You'll learn how to use the techniques described in today's podcast.

See below for details and links!

David

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