“I feel lost in my own little world,” Timothy confided. “It’s like I notice people but I don’t notice them at the same time. I don’t know how else to put it.”
[Three minutes of silence.]
“I feel so self-absorbed like I’m stuck in a rut immersed in my own gut. I think people are talking about me. I think they see me but more than that…they see through me. That threw me…for a loop. That’s the scoop. A scoop of poop.”
[Two minutes of silence.]
“I feel like I’m talking to myself, with myself…like I am eavesdropping on a conversation made for one. So, perhaps I have won? Or am I done?”
[One minute of silence.]
“Well, Timothy, I’d like you to try an exercise for me, okay?”
“I want you to go to a place where people hang out, like the mall. And, I want you to notice what kinds of shoes people wear.”
“That’s it? Seems kind of trivial to me.”
“Well, just humor me, okay?”
“I want you to notice the colors of the shoes these people wear. Pick out one person. Write down the color of their shoes, or the colors if there are more than one. Do that for four people, and bring your observations back to our session next week. Can you do that?”
Behavioral therapy attempts to change maladaptive thought patterns via changing behaviors. In this example, Timothy knows he spends too little time thinking about himself and observing his surroundings with a “self-centered” lens. However, he is stuck and doesn’t know how to get out of his conundrum.
His therapist gives him an exercise that might sound elementary, but it is a stroke of genius. Imagine Timothy wanting to learn to play baseball. Would you put him up to bat against a major league pitcher who can throw 95-mile per hour fastballs with pinpoint accuracy? Of course not. And this therapist knows that. This therapist is starting Timothy out with Tee-Ball. She is meeting Timothy at his level, and her assignment is spot on.