Tag Archives: Behavioural Experiments

Intrusive images are for life, not just for parenthood

I can see myself biting off a baby’s fingertips one day. I don’t mean that’s my dream retirement plan, I mean I can really clearly see it. Sometimes I don’t even have to close my eyes, it’s just there, transposed over whatever I happen to be looking at in that moment. My teeth. Baby’s fingertips. This recurring intrusive image started popping into my mind when I was about eight years old, after a friend told me that her mother had to bite the fingernails of her new baby brother. I immediately pictured myself tasked with trimming a baby’s fingernails with my teeth, and accidentally trimming the finger instead.

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Is that a rash on your neck or are you just anxious to see me?

I go red when I’m nervous. And when I’m embarrassed. And frustrated. And amused. In fact, any time I experience the slightest increase in emotion or temperature, you will see it on my skin, clawing its way out of my collar and onto my face.  I discovered this delightful fact about myself in high school, when someone kindly pointed out that they would have presumed I was sunburnt, had I not been so deathly pale everywhere else.  They weren’t the only person to notice, either.  Every time it happened, someone would comment on it. Once the focus was firmly on me and my neck, I would get even more uncomfortable, more red, more comments, more anxious, more red, and the cycle would continue.

Fortunately most adults don’t feel the need to comment on every perceived flaw or defect in other people.  By the time I was training to become a psychologist, I worried less about whether people would notice me going red and focused my attention on more grown up fears, like whether they would discover I am a massive fraud who didn’t belong here and had probably been let onto the doctorate programme by mistake. Continue reading →

Table For One: The Other Empty Chair Technique

I like to sit in cafes pretending to write a screenplay. Even when I’m in a café writing this blog, I pretend I’m writing a screenplay. This is because I like going to cafes, I often go by myself, and I would rather that people think I am writing a screenplay than that they jump to the conclusion that I have no friends. Or that I have a blog. If I had spent as much time actually writing a screenplay as I have pretending to write a screenplay, I’d probably have written a pretty good one by now. And by “good”, I mean “long”.

Empty chairs

Why don’t you tell the empty chairs what you would like to say to all those people who could be sitting in those chairs judging you right now?

I have no problem doing things alone, but I do have a problem with being judged about it. I don’t need eight years of therapy school to tell me that this is irrational. Sure, people probably won’t even notice that I’m alone, and sure, doing things alone doesn’t mean someone has no friends, and of course it shouldn’t matter even if a complete stranger did believe that of me. And it doesn’t. It doesn’t matter in the slightest. Unless that stranger is giving me a funny look. Continue reading →

Pay it Forehead, or When Did Giant Foreheads Become Socially Acceptable?

I have a huge head, and it’s roughly 40% forehead.  Whenever I casually refer to this fact, most people kindly try to reassure me that it’s really not that big. But it really is.

You know that point in the early 90s when bike helmets suddenly got smaller?  Mine didn’t.  My head simply grew like a goldfish to fill the space left by the improvements in helmet technology.  Despite my protestations, every single helmet seller I’ve ever encountered has insisted I try on a size Small or Medium, and subsequently suffered the embarrassment of resting it like a fez upon my crown before mumbling something about children’s sizes and scurrying off to find something more realistic. I’m not imagining it. Continue reading →

42K to Couch to 5K – The Training Plan That Got Me Running Less

For three weeks, the following visuals triggered a flash of pure rage in me: running shoes, technical fabrics, my Garmin, shorts, the gym, food with “energy” in its name, emails from the charity I’d run for, and anyone who was out running or might have just been running or was possibly just about to go running, or could have run at some point in their life.  And Top Gear, but that may have been unrelated.

Most infuriating were those smug, leap-out-of-bed-types bounding across Primrose Hill regardless of the weather, too smitten with running to be even remotely bothered to judge those foolish enough not to have caught on to their miracle remedy for the crushing reality of adult life.  What was their problem?  Who the hell did they think they were?  How on earth could I become one of them? Continue reading →

Running, I love you. Take Me Back, I’m in it for the Long Run. (Not Much Distance, Part II)

Click here to read Part I, Not Much Distance Left to Run – How a Marathon Killed My Love of Running.

Yesterday I asked running to give me a second chance. I know I spent some time with the sofa but, you know, we were on a break. Continue reading →

Why a Bad Night’s Sleep Won’t Make You Lose Your Job (Probably)

This is the third instalment of Sleep Slidin’ Away. Read Part I here; Part II (It Costs Sleep to Make Sleep) here.

I blame Suede. I wasn’t planning on extending my recent sleep experiment to full on sleep deprivation, and then Suede went and played in an inconvenient location on a Saturday night.  By the time I’d got home and caught up on Doctor Who, I was in the midst of an accidental sleep deprivation experiment.  What sort of therapist would I be if I didn’t take the opportunity for an additional experiment?  A well-rested one, probably. Continue reading →

Sleep Slidin’ Away… (Part I)

“Let me just check that I’ve understood you correctly. You’re telling me that you’re not getting enough sleep, you’re hitting snooze a lot because you’ve not slept enough, having to drag yourself out of bed because you didn’t get enough sleep, you’re generally late to work, and then once you get there you’re tired most of the time on account of all that sleep you’re not getting? You know what I think you need? Let’s cut back a little on your sleep.” Continue reading →

The only thing we have to fear is anything remotely frightening. But just until we realise it’s not. (Part II)

Read The only thing we have to fear: Part I

The review
As a little Easter treat, I planned to spend the weekend finding out what it would be like to terrify myself by watching the scary movies I have avoided for the past 14 years. Before I got started, I put myself through the same process I use when setting up experiments in CBT: making sense of why it is how it is, and reviewing what could be lost and gained from trying something different. Continue reading →

The only thing we have to fear is anything remotely frightening. And fear itself.

“I think maybe you’re not getting scared enough.” These actual words from this actual psychologist to an actual patient, explaining why they weren’t yet seeing any improvements from CBT. What I wanted to know was what was stopping them from amping up the fear levels. I assume what you want to know is why on earth I was terrorising my patient. Continue reading →

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