Exposure therapy got my friend fired

Postby perplexed175 » Sat Dec 05, 2020 6:46 pm

A friend of mine has had severe anxiety for a long time, and people have always encouraged him to speak up more and be more open and expressive and to not be so indecisive, "Speak more! Stop saying, 'I don't know.'!" His therapist herself talked him through the process of exposing himself to this.

At an informal hangout with colleagues, he tried to do this and expressed a view on some topic that was being discussed. He did it in as polite a manner as he could and he actually had a good argument. But everyone was shocked that he dared to express such a view. Soon, everyone in the firm knew about it and the boss fired him soon after that.

Not only that, many Facebook friends either got hostile or blocked him. Some of these people were the very same people who kept telling him to "open up."

What, if anything, can be done to help him? He's now even more frustrated than he was before.
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#1

Postby Richard@DecisionSkills » Mon Dec 07, 2020 1:07 pm

perplexed175 wrote: What, if anything, can be done to help him?


First, what will not help this friend is incorrectly placing the blame for getting fired on exposure therapy.

If a friend teaches you how to use a gun and then later you end up shooting yourself, you don't blame the friend and you don't blame the gun. Sure, the argument exists that had the friend never introduced you to the gun that the accident would have never happened, but it is a weak, misguided, misplaced argument. YOU shot yourself. Take responsibility for your actions.

The same can be said for any number of things in life. You are introduced to gambling, alcohol, drugs, sex, etc. If only you had never been introduced to these things then your life would be different, right? It's a common, yet weak argument to deflect responsibility, to minimize the regret of your own actions.

So who or what is to blame for your friend getting fired and/or "shunned" by the community? Well, your friend is to blame, not the therapist.

perplexed175 wrote: He's now even more frustrated than he was before.


Frustrated? Why? He should feel liberated.

Once your friend takes responsibility, he can learn from the experience. And what should he learn? That opinions have consequences, and that's okay. What else should he learn? That many of his "friends" were not really friends. Good to find that out, no? And why work at a place that is hostile to your opinions? Great! It is wonderful not to be working at a place that did not appreciate his "good argument".

Had your friend kept quiet he would have never learned how his "friends" were not really his friends. He would have trudged along in silence, working for a boss that will fire someone for expressing a "good argument". Good thing your friend spoke up and was rewarded with all this hostility.

The only reason your friend is frustrated is that he values "fitting in" with fake friends and an intolerant boss more than the freedom to have and express his own opinions.

I recommend your friend use this experience as a fresh start. I recommend your friend continue to express his opinions and in doing so he will find new friends and a new job that better aligns with his values, beliefs, and opinions. I recommend he buy the therapist a gift for giving him the courage to express himself and discover the reality of his relationships.

Now, it is possible that your friend's opinions and/or "good argument" is morally and ethically appalling to most. For example, maybe your friend is a genocidal racist that believes in cannibalism. You did not provide details. But even if the "good argument" was morally/ethically appalling to the majority, there are still people out there and jobs available for those that hold minority views. It might be a smaller crowd and more difficult to navigate, but your friend is not alone.
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#2

Postby perplexed175 » Mon Dec 07, 2020 3:58 pm

So your response is basically a variety of the completely unscientific and misguided notions of "You can choose how you feel" or "No One Can Make You Feel Anything" To which one could respond, as Megan Wildhood did:

'Therapists, professionals and regular people who think they’re being caring or kind seem to have a reference book where they go to find phrases that sound really helpful but are actually gaslighting and self-serving. They’ve been repeating these sentiments since long before the pandemic, though the pandemic and the resultant solitary confinement, damage to livelihoods and indefinite suspension of civil rights has only increased their use. This needs to be addressed. There are, of course, more than these things therapists or people who want to actually be helpful should stop saying. But the following are, in my experience, the most repeated and some of the most annoying or unhelpful.'

'You can’t repeat over and over that everything and everyone is connected and then tell people they can’t be affected by anything. Scientific research is pretty clear about neuroplasticity (and that we don’t grow out of it; though the brain’s plasticity may decline with age, it never fully loses the ability), which is basically that the brain forms in response to its environment. This does not just apply to those of us who are sensitive or who have been traumatized. Human beings come wired to respond to the world they find themselves in. That’s a gigantic part of what being human is.

This means precisely that people can make you feel things.'
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#3

Postby Richard@DecisionSkills » Mon Dec 07, 2020 4:16 pm

perplexed175 wrote:So your response is basically a variety of the completely unscientific and misguided notions of "You can choose how you feel" or "No One Can Make You Feel Anything"

This means precisely that people can make you feel things.'


Nope.

I didn't say that at all. You are reading into my response what you wish.

Of course, your friend should feel hurt. If I was your friend I would feel frustration, anger, resentment, pain, regret, etc. etc. It would anger me that all of these people reacted to my opinion this way. It would piss me off that my friends blocked me and I was fired. The feelings would not be something I "chose" to feel.

Then what would I do? After experiencing the pain and as part of the process I would learn from it. I would embrace the pain and be grateful that in expressing my opinion the pain had brought with it new knowledge. I had discovered my friends might not really be very good friends. I had discovered my boss and workplace was not such a great place to work.

What do you think your friend should do? You recommend that he go back to hiding his opinions, avoiding the pain, stop learning about the world, blame everyone else? What is your "scientific" not misguided recommendation?
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#4

Postby perplexed175 » Mon Dec 07, 2020 4:20 pm

Well, here's a very different take on things and much more useful tips by Paul Graham:

"When Milton was going to visit Italy in the 1630s, Sir Henry Wootton, who had been ambassador to Venice, told him his motto should be "i pensieri stretti & il viso sciolto." Closed thoughts and an open face. Smile at everyone, and don't tell them what you're thinking. This was wise advice. Milton was an argumentative fellow, and the Inquisition was a bit restive at that time. But I think the difference between Milton's situation and ours is only a matter of degree. Every era has its heresies, and if you don't get imprisoned for them you will at least get in enough trouble that it becomes a complete distraction."

"I admit it seems cowardly to keep quiet...The problem is, there are so many things you can't say. If you said them all you'd have no time left for your real work. You'd have to turn into Noam Chomsky."

And Robert Greene's 38th law (out of his 48 Laws of Power):

'Think as you like, but behave as others

By consistently going against the grain in public, people will begin to resent you for making them feel inferior. Practice blending in and hiding your true feelings to nurture the common touch. By doing so, you will be left alone to express your true beliefs in a targeted manner. Once a base of power is established, you can then begin to disseminate your beliefs gradually, and they are more likely to be adopted.'

But no one had ever told him, or even most people, any of this stuff.
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#5

Postby Richard@DecisionSkills » Mon Dec 07, 2020 4:44 pm

perplexed175 wrote:By consistently going against the grain in public,


But according to you, this is not the issue with your friend. He isn't consistently going against the grain. He is just being silent. You don't know if your opinion is "against the grain" if you fear the pain so much that you remain silent.

I think you are trying to justify your friend staying with bad friends and in a bad work environment. Your friend wants to express himself, but you want your friend to remain silent. Doesn't sound very helpful or scientific. It sounds rather misguided.
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