Our protagonist in this story, Tommy, is a man in his thirties who has been struggling with moderate depression and anxiety for 5-6 years. One of the things he struggles with is the inner critical voice that keeps him down. In this story we dub the voice ‘the Demon,’ because this is how it behaves. Regardless of what Tommy does, the Demon has something (very) negative to say, keeping Tommy’s self-confidence down and producing negative feelings.
Fortunately, over the last few months Tommy has learned some basic cognitive techniques. Whereas he once heard and accepted as true everything the Demon said, he has now begun to question the Demon’s remarks.
As we enter into this story, Tommy has just left a café where he met a girl he likes. Objectively speaking the date went well. The Demon, on the other hand, disagrees.
DEMON: Ha ha! Yet another catastrophic date! You are the biggest loser I know – that you even try going on these dates!
TOMMY: Right, there you are again….
DEMON: I will always be here!
TOMMY: We’ll see. I’ve decided to get rid of you.
DEMON: Ha! Just you try! You are a weakling; you don’t stand a chance against me!
TOMMY: As a matter of fact I have a new trick up my sleeve. Techniques from cognitive behavioral therapy: ABC and such.
DEMON: [Snorts] You never succeed at anything, and won’t with ABC. You will give up after your first setback.
TOMMY: That is a thought fallacy, a generalization. It is not true that I never succeed at anything, as among other things I just received praise from my boss for a presentation I had made.
DEMON: The boss doesn’t like you, and besides you are getting fired soon because you have been absent from work too much.
TOMMY: There you go with another thought fallacy – catastrophe thinking! I have talked with HR, and they will not fire me, even though I have been absent lately.
DEMON: Blah! Who cares about your job? You will never get the girl. It is impossible to love you.
TOMMY: A new generalization, and it is not true either. My mom just said she loves me very much.
DEMON: All woman lie, your mother included!
TOMMY: That is polarizing, that everything is either black or white. Some people lie, but certainly not all of them. And even if everybody can lie from time to time, it does not mean that they lie all of the time.
DEMON: Didn’t you notice that your date didn’t laugh at any of your jokes, especially not at the one about the Super Bowl? You are an utterly boring man!
TOMMY: That is filtering, where you only focus on the negative. So she didn’t care for football, so what? She laughed when I told her about my vacation.
DEMON: That vacation where you made a fool of yourself and missed your flight. You always make a fool of yourself!
TOMMY: Generalization again, you are starting to bore me. You can talk all you want, but I can’t be bothered to listen to you anymore.
DEMON: Yeah right! You need me!
TOMMY: No, I don’t. You are a liar and you only want to make my life miserable.
DEMON: [Screams in desperation…. Disappears].