My First Experience Of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

1:20 p.m. I change my shirt to the long-sleeved grey one. Then on with the blue jeans.

I slop on some sun screen. I rub it all over my face and then around the back of my neck. Am I becoming a metrosexual? Oy vey.

I’ll go to the Israel rally early. Find parking. I could walk but it’s hot out and I’m tired.

This will be my first journey out of the hovel on a weekend since my Loma Linda trip May 14-15.

I find a spot in the shade. I check my cell phone. No calls and no emails since I left the house eight minutes ago.

Nobody cares.

I pick up The Mythmaker: Paul and the Invention of Christianity by Hyam Maccoby.

I read a page. I drink water. I look up the street and see a long line of pale pasty Beth Am Jews — dressed just like goyim! — walking towards me. They’re led by Rabbi Adam Kligfeld. He’s in jeans and a dress shirt.

He’s as white as the mythical sheet that ultra-Orthodox Jews use to preserve modesty in the most intimate of moments.

He’s sweating.

Why is he leading the way? Isn’t that cliche? The rabbi leads the Jews into the promised land.

He wrote in the Jewish Journal this week that his kishkes were all knotted up by the flotilla disaster. Is that manly? Should rabbis write about their feelings or should they leave this to me?

It makes me uncomfortable when male rabbis talk about their feelings. It upsets my view of the universe.

Talking about faith and hope and love, that’s for the Christian clergy.

Rabbi Kligfeld went to college with my friend’s boyfriend. I wonder what the rabbi was like in this formative stage? Did he dance the horah? Did he invite girls to study Torah? Was he into deconstructionism and rights for the transgendered?

Does he read my blog? Does the name “Luke Ford” mean anything to him? Does it mean good things or bad things?

Oy, these shambling Jews. They need Alexander Technique. They’re clearly more suited to exploring the great indoors.

If I bolt now, maybe none of them will notice me. Just one long pull on my water bottle and I’m gone.

Out the door and across the street, heading towards Wilshire Blvd, but I can’t get away from the Jews. The police have blocked off streets. I’m going to have to walk with the group.

Some of us want to jaywalk across San Vicente Blvd but we need to be responsible. There’s a large group of us. We’d present too inviting a target for the goyim.

These are my people. Nice people. Semi-observant people. A couple of them wear yarmulkes. One carries a book. I might have a conversation but I’m afraid. What if they hate me?

I walk down a shady street. It’s crowded. I pass by the great rabbi’s house. I bet he’s inside studying Torah. I should be inside studying Torah. Why am I galivanting around Wilshire Blvd with scantily clad girls when I should update my Facebook, bathe in the wellsprings of Torah, sip Diet Cokes and listen to Kelly Clarkson tunes?

I don’t think the gadolim of Los Angeles will be here. They’ll be inside studying Torah. Only the popular rabbis will show up. The true scholars will battle with Talmud. I’m not going to run into Rabbi Gershon Bess and Rabbi Avrohom Union.

I’m here because I want to be social and because I love Israel and I hate how the world reacted to the flotilla disaster.

I want to mingle with my people but my stronger urge is to marginalize myself.

I need a wife. She wouldn’t let me go out dressed like this.

I look at girls. Some are pretty. I’d really like to talk about my feelings but the rabbis might read this, so I need to keep things kosher.

On the one hand, it might be nice to have a curvy wife. So much to explore. Thin might look good, but fat feels good.

On the other hand, I like that dark exotic slender girl over there. How come she’s in the press pen? She’s only carrying an i-Phone.

And then there’s the well-dressed girl in white and blue near the governor. It’d be nice to have a girl who dressed well. Not so much the crack whore look but classy. A girl I could take anywhere. Happy Minyan or YICC. All the same to her.

It’s great to have a girlfriend with social awareness. I had one who saw everything. I never had to explain to her when I was being sarcastic. Then I had one who was oblivious to social cues. Oy, how she shamed me!

Right now I don’t think I care about how socially aware my next girlfriend is. I just want her to be breathing.

I should go around and hit on girls but I feel a deep emptiness. On what basis would I hit on a girl right now? I feel like life is passing me by. The last nine months, oy vey, the Alexander Technique training, has exhausted me. I don’t even get to yoga anymore.

The governor has such confidence in his stride. And look at all the fancy politicians in the shade and the clean-shaven rabbis with their memorized pep talks.

Congresswoman Michelle Bachman comes up with a film crew and starts shaking hands while the governor tries to talk via a cell phone to Gilad Shalit‘s father in Jerusalem. The public address system can’t transmit the talk so Israel’s consul general translates.

I wish I could find Gilad Shalit and rescue him. I see myself giving all sorts of interviews. They’d ask me if I’m a hero and I’d be real modest.

2:40 p.m. I’m tired. I don’t need to hear pep talks. I need a woman. Failing that, I’ll settle for some cognitive behavior therapy (CBT). I can get a free session, my first session ever, if I leave now.

I was introduced to CBT and Albert Ellis by a pastor friend in 1991. I was whining about my problems and he gave me this book on happiness. He’d studied it with his church.

I read the book and was immediately convinced of the power of CBT. I read more Albert Ellis books. I did some exercises. But I never worked with a CB therapist. All my shrinks have primarily used psycho-dynamic psycho-therapy.

OK. I’m going to be reflective, not reactive!

A. Activating event. I shared with a friend how discouraged I was by my CFS. That I felt like life was passing me by. He said, “Look at how much you’re accomplishing! You’re halfway through your Alexander Technique teacher training and you’re writing constantly.”

Yeah, but I’m not loving constantly. I have a lot of love to give but no one will take it.

B. Belief – What is my negative automatic thought/belief? What is my negative self-talk? What distorted or irrational thinking style am I using?

Oy, this is hard. This is much harder than regular therapy. You’re really making me work here.

I don’t know what I was thinking. I can tell you what I was thinking. I felt like I had made a bid for intimacy and it was knocked back. That left me feeling isolated and discouraged.

I don’t normally share my feelings much except for on my blog. So when I do develop the balls to share my feelings, then I don’t want to hear why they are invalid.

I have this big empty ball of “life is passing me by” woe in my heart.

I opened up a door to my heart and I felt like he shut it.

But you don’t want to know about my feelings now. If this were psycho-dynamic, I could happily rattle on about my feelings for the next 40 minutes and then the session would be over. Now you’re forcing me to work.

Oy vey! I don’t know what I was thinking.

My therapist suggests that perhaps I was thinking that I was damaged goods and would never find a woman to bond with.

Yeah, that’s it, but I know such thinking is irrational.

Well, you may intellectually know that such thinking is irrational, but you may still indulge in it.

OK, I thought I was shut out. That I had opened up and he shut the door on me. I felt alone. That I am damaged goods. I’m 44 and I have never married. What kind of Orthodox Jewish guy never marries? A shmuck! A pretend Orthodox Jew. If I were a real Orthodox Jew, I’d be married by now. Instead, I’m just putting on a costume.

I think she’ll never want me. I’ll never get married.

If only I weren’t hobbled by CFS, I could accomplish more. I could get degrees. I could publish prestigious books. I could learn more and write more and do more. I could be more active in shul and in the community and in learning. I could be more committed to causes. I could be more out there. I could cut a more impressive figure. I don’t like to be dismissed by the hot chicks.

At the rate I’m going, I’ll never marry. That means I won’t have lived life to the full. I will have wasted the opportunities God gave me. I blew it. It’s my fault that I am not living my life.

It’s my fault I have CFS. In the months leading up to it, while I was pushing myself to the max to achieve, I thought, “I’ll either breakthrough into excellence or I will break down. Either way, I’ll get nurtured.”

Well, it didn’t work out that way.

C. Consequence – what am I feeling? Lonely, defeated, frustrated, sad, isolated, loser.

D. Dispute – counter thought. What realistic alternative and rational statements can I use instead? What will I do differently?

My friend tried to comfort me. He wasn’t blowing me off. He tried to cheer me up.

In spite of my problems, I still have a lot of advantages. I’m white. I’ve finished my Orthodox conversion.

I’m not alone. I have friends. I’m talking to somebody who cares about me. Somebody who loves me.

Do I want her? She’s not that hot. I could marry someone hotter. I am a valuable person even if I never marry. I can still live life to the full. I care about people. I can develop friendships and accomplishments. I’m doing the best I can with a difficult situation.

We don’t know what caused my CFS. I don’t have to beat myself up over it. Even if it was my fault, it does not make me unworthy of love.

There. I feel better.

Session over. Time to go home.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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