Anxiety Disorders » Fighting Your Anxiety Problem Overcome Your Fears
Fighting Your Anxiety Problem Overcome Your Fears
Consciously, you sincerely desire to overcome your fears. Yet, often people find it difficult to maintain their motivation for change. Fearing people, you tell yourself to get out there and overcome your shyness.
Yet, when your friend suggests going to a party where you might have to strike up a conversation with strangers, you find yourself with a sudden headache. Fearing flying, you promise your brother youll overcome it and be on that plane for his wedding. But the night before the flight, you feel suddenly too ill to travel.
Fearing failure, youre determined to get over it, or youll never get ahead. Yet you manage to arrive too late to take your final exam in your marketing class and end up not graduating.
Why do we behave contrary to our own best interest? To Sigmund Freud, the answer lay deep within our unconscious: therein lie strong forces that often conflict with and overpower our conscious desires, a thought or feeling that we believe is sinful or wrong. Perhaps you feel intense rage and/or the desire to harm someone close to you—a parent, a spouse, a child. Or you may wish to be taken care of like a child.
Conscious awareness of these anxiety-provoking feelings might be catastrophic to your sense of well being: you might feel overwhelmed with guilt or shame or go insane altogether.
You protect yourself from bringing these feelings into conscious awareness by erecting defenses—repression, denial, avoidance and withdrawal, or displacement, for instance. As these defense mechanisms tighten their grip, your anxiety increases and eventually may spill over into symptoms like phobias, or obsessions and compulsions.
Phobias, for instance, displace your anxiety away from the repressed desire or stressful loss and onto an external object: a spider, an airplane, a bridge. Since you perceive these external objects as less threatening than your feelings and you can avoid them, you feel less fearful.
To loosen the grip of your unconscious mind over your conscious motivation, you have to uncover what truly motivates your symptoms. For instance, underlying a fear of public speaking may be a fear of disapproval, reminding you of the times when your father failed to acknowledge your efforts; regardless of your accomplishments, you feel you will only disappoint people. Underlying a fear of dating may be the feeling that you are unlovable. The person will soon find out and leave you anyway.
Freud treated a woman with an intense fear of rubber. When she was a child, her father brought her younger sister, whom she resented, and her each a balloon. When she burst her younger sisters balloon, she was severely punished and forced to give her balloon to her sister.
Freud interpreted the burst balloon as symbolic of her wish to see her younger sister dead, which created guilt that she buried into her unconscious. Later, rubber objects stirred these feelings; hence the phobia.
When you avoid the fear-provoking person or situation, you experience secondary gains that perpetuate them—conscious or unconscious rewards for holding onto your symptoms, like attention, sympathy, or nurturance. Take Beth. She is too frightened to drive across bridges unless accompanied by her husband, who holds her hand during the ordeal, as she safely leans up against him.
Deep within her is a basic fear of abandonment and of being swallowed up by strong dependency needs, as the water would swallow her up should the bridge collapse. To lessen the chance of her husband leaving her, she denies her own needs and lives her life to please him.
Her phobia serves two purposes: it maintains her dependency on her husband which, in her mind, assures that he wont leave her and it affords her moments of physical closeness that they dont often share.
To help unlock the demons lurking in the caverns of your unconscious, the psychoanalysts picklocks consist of free association (saying whatever comes into your mind), hypnosis, dream and transference interpretations (the feelings for the analyst linked with other relationships, such as love or hatred for a parent). For instance, common falling dreams may symbolize a host of current concerns:
The primal terror you experience during the dream is the most basic fear of all: falling kerplunk like Humpty-Dumpty.
The following might represent a transference interpretation. A patient says, I forgot my wifes birthday and she isnt speaking to me. The analyst responds, Sounds like shes pretty angry at you. The patient yells, You siding with her? You, who knows that she hasnt slept with me for a month and constantly burns my food? The analyst might then interpret the patients outburst as relating not to cues coming from the analyst siding with the wife, but rather a faulty perception elicited by early feelings of not having felt defended as a child—how when his mother yelled at him for no apparent reason other than her own foul mood, his father would not stick up for him.
As feelings and memories surface in a safe, non-critical and non-punitive environment, you experience catharsis (cleansing of pent-up emotions) and abreaction (resolution of neurotic behavior by reviving forgotten or repressed memories) and these terrors presumably lose their power over you. With the help of your therapist, you work through these conflicts and the phobia, no longer needed, disappears.
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