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Intellectually that makes sense, but I still feel ...
Jim Pretzer · 3/24/97 at 7:05 PM ET
When a client says they believe something intellectually but not emotionally, several possibilities come to mind:
- They may not actually believe it, but may be reluctant to disagree with me. If this seems to be the case, I will encourage them to express their doubts and objections openly and will make a point of letting them know that I appreciate their openness. We can then take a look at their doubts and objections.
- They may be mostly convinced but not completely convinced. Again we will want to identify their remaining doubts and address them.
- We may be dealing with emotions where cognitive change alone does not produce dramatic emotional change. With some emotions, such as depression, a few good reponses to the dysfunctional thoughts produces an immediate change in the emotions reported by the client. Other emotions are different. For example, consider anxiety... There are many individuals with a fear of flying who know intellectually that flying is safer than freeway driving. However, this often does little to reduce their fear and avoidance. To overcome their fear of flying, they probably will need to face their fears and fly despite their anxiety in order to achieve a significant reduction in their anxiety.
- Most often, when a client says that they believe something intellectually but not emotionally, this indicates that we need to set up some behavioral experiments so that the client can test the validity of the point in question. Remember that verbal discussions in the office are much less powerful than first-hand experience in real life. If a client is afraid to be assertive because of his expectations of how others will respond, we can sit in the office and discuss the likely responses of others or we can help the client to gradually test how people actually respond when he tries assertion in real life. Guess which is most convincing and has the biggest emotional impact...
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