'I'm upset because she doesn't respect me anymore.'
'Do others respect you?'
'Where is the respect that they give you? Can you show it to me?'
'What do you mean?'
'I mean, someone gives you a slice of cake, and you can show me the cake. Someone gives you respect, and you can't show it to me? Is it even there?'
'Well, I guess it's not actually there physically, but earlier today she criticised me in front of the boss. That was real. She actually did that.'
'Did the sound waves from her voice hurt your ears?
'Well, obviously not.'
'So, what was it that actually upset you?'
'It was the thought that after all the hard work I have put in, she picks up on one tiny flaw and makes a big deal of it. I'm upset at the thought that, in her mind, she thinks I am worthless.'
' "… the thought …", you say? So, you're upset because of your thought about what someone else is thinking. You take two people: one respects you and the other does not, but, right now, neither are thinking about you. And you're still upset about what someone thinks of you, and they're not even thinking it anymore. Or you're pleased about what someone thinks of you, and they're not even thinking it anymore, either. Where does this 'respect' go, when the person stops thinking about you? Or the lack of respect, respectively?'
'Was anyone else bothered by this thought?'
'Only once I shared it.'
'How generous of you to share this thought and infect someone else with it. If only one person sees a ghost, is it there? If only two people see it, is it any more real than if only one person sees it? Does the sharing of a delusion make the delusion real? What if everyone shared the delusion? Is it more real, then? And if there were not one delusion but billions? We're already in the era of the Zombie Apocalypse, and the war has been lost. Almost. There might be hope for you, at least.
So, back to reality. What is happening right now? Are you being harmed right now?'
'Right now, no. In fact, most of the time, no; actually almost never. But when I am physically in pain, that's real, right?'
'If your leg hurts, nerve signals are conveying the information that tissue has been damaged in your leg. Not very pleasant, to be sure, but there's a difference between pain and disturbance. Where is the disturbance coming from? The thing itself or your thought about it?'
'Damn. You can't take that pain away from me. It's all I have left!'