Sunday, January 6, 2008

Dr. Phil Show, Part 2

This post is a follow-up to yesterday's post on the Dr. Phil Show (entitled The Island of Constant Talkers.) You will want to read it first (here) if you want to understand what I am writing about.

Read it? Ok, here's the continuation. So Dr. Phil sent Jeni out to watch a bank of three television screens each featuring her talking (specifically, a film of her interviewing for the show.) They sat her at conversational distance away from each of the screens so that she could feel what it was like to be in a conversation with her. She immediately said she got it, but Dr. Phil said "I don't think you do" and then left her to continue watching while he talked with the woman who feared birds, the man who feared vegetables and the teenager who was obsessively in love with Joel Madden (of the band Good Charlotte, and also Nicole Ritchie's boyfriend.) Then he brought Jeni back out and asked her how listening to herself had felt. She said it was, in fact, exhausting to listen to her talking, just as her friends (and, I'm sure, others) had always said. Dr. Phil said what he had done was a combination of immersion therapy and social sensitization. He then called one of Jeni's friends and asked her to be ready to answer some follow-up questions when he called to see whether Jeni was improving.

I don't know what immersion therapy or social sensitization are; do you? Let's go to the web.

OK, so immersion therapy turns out to be this (gradually increasing levels of exposure to a feared object; a way of overcoming phobias.) What he did with Jeni seems to be more the opposite; levels of exposure to something she WAS comfortable with with the goal of making her uncomfortable with it (and to have insights about it.)

As for social sensitization, a web search didn't turn up anything that seemed relevant.

I hope Jeni will be able to benefit from her experience. Once I read that if you feel that when you start talking to a group of people the party really gets started, consider for a moment that they may have been perfectly happily talking about something else before you came up to them, and that even though they are laughing with you, they might actually see you as imposing on them and interrupting them. I thought this was a good point -- because I have felt that way, and I hadn't previously considered it from that point of view.

Meanwhile, the other stories were pretty interesting, too. One thing I liked about this particular episode is that these people seemed a bit more functional that the average Dr. Phil guest, and they all wanted to change (in fact, these were their New Years' resolutions.) There was a guy who seemed otherwise really sane but he hates vegetables. As it turns out, his parents are farmers or work at the farmer's market or something, and in his youth he had had to stand near a container of rotting vegetables and take the bad vegetables out there to be disposed of, and when he sees his wife eat a salad, in his mind he sees her eating garbage. Anyway, he managed to eat half a circle of zucchini. This inspired me to want to overcome my phobia of mayonnaise; luckily, however, change is less imperative in my case because mayonnaise is a less significant food group than vegetables. This (and the bird fear lady) reminds me of my sister-in-law who told me she couldn't touch a worm but she could look at a worm... maybe. (She said this in such a focused, thoughtful way that I count it as the funniest thing she's ever said. She eventually touched a worm, too.)

I used to be terribly repulsed by slugs. Well, one time I poured myself some bath water, got into the tub, saw what was on the side of the tub, and screamed! The apartment people had removed some mildewed-looking caulk, and hadn't put new caulk on, and a baby slug had crawled through the gap into the tub! Well, this wasn't the end of the story, because every morning I'd get up to take a shower and look into the tub to see whether a slug had come in. My boyfriend was a really nice person, and I'd wake him up to get the slug out of the tub and go put it out on the grass for me. Eventually it dawned on me that I was at least 1000 times bigger than a baby slug (not to mention faster, smarter, and better-looking) and I was perfectly able to scoop a slug up on a piece of toilet paper myself. Later on, I was even able to touch one, and now I am not scared of them anymore.

I'm going to mention Britney Spears as an experiment to see if I get a lot of search hits, because Dr. Phil and Britney Spears are in the news right now (he visited her when she was hospitalized overnight after refusing to give the boys back to Kevin.)

If you found this discussion of overtalking relevant, you may also be interested in Cindi's list of New Year's resolutions for 7s here.


Cindi said...

Constant Talking Island would also be like reverse immersion therapy, with the other talkers acting as mirrors of the self.
These talkers don't know how much they're missing. The introverts of the world can be quite self-revealing, if they're given a few moments of silence. Also, there is a world of non-verbal communication that these folks seem oblivious to. Sometimes, one must step back so that others can step forward.

Cindi said...

Per the internet, Dr. Phil has now cancelled a planned show about Britney Spears bacuse her situation is "too intense."

Mary Beth said...

No one has searched about Dr. Phil and Britney (too many articles), but one person did search for "Dr. Phil + Fear of vegetables." Only one article about that.

rusnash said...

Mayonnaise is bad for you. It's like having a phobia of cobras, probably not a bad idea.

Anonymous said...

Wow, Mary Beth, this entry made me work really hard. I know of immersion therapy as systematic desensitization and didn't believe wikipedia when they said they were the same thing. Actually, wikipedia didn't reference the other name. I probably went through a dozen websites before I found one that used both terms. Gist! Doesn't anyone know that someone might try to google that one day? Plus, the name made me think of flooding, which would be quite different from systematic desensitization. You can learn more about those things at if you want.

The exciting news is that this blog was included in my results while googling these terms.


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