The instinct to avoid troubling thoughts and emotions may be natural, but leading anxiety disorder expert Reid Wilson is seeing positive results by nudging clients to stay with the discomfort and embrace anxiety for its revelations.
Reid examines the process, including his own experience, in “Facing Our Worst Fears: Finding the Courage to Stay in the Moment.”
“If I can catch myself saying, ‘I don’t like this, I don’t want that, I’m unhappy with this outcome, I’m anxious about that, I’m threatened by this,’ by shifting into a welcoming mode of ‘This is exactly what I want right now,’ I find myself in a much better place psychologically,” said Reid.
He uses the concept in therapy by encouraging clients to embrace bad feelings, ask what the feelings are teaching, and move through them. That can bring clients a sense of freedom from the grip of anxiety.
Carl Jung had a simple line of wisdom for it: “What you resist, persists.”
In a series of videos on “Treating Anxiety,” psychotherapist David Burn examines techniques to help clients overcome resistance.
“I negotiate with the patient and that has to be done paradoxically,” said Burns. “Exposure is what the anxious patient is going to have to do.”
One client, a handsome man with crippling shyness, hadn’t had a date in 10 years. Burns first asks if the patient would like “to change his love life from rags to riches.”
Then Burns emphasizes of the uncomfortableness of the therapy with statements such as, “I might even ask you to do something bizarre in public, to get over the fear of making a fool of yourself.” Burns probes the initial resistance, which might kick-start motivation.
Anxiety will come. Meeting it face-to-face may dismantle it.
Obviously, poet Robert Frost knew the path of confronting the “Now” when he wrote, “The only way round is through.”
References: Wilson, Reid, “Facing Our Worst Fears: Finding the Courage to Stay in the Moment,” Psychotherapy Networker, Sept. 12, 2012, Washington, D.C. http://www.psychotherapynetworker.org/magazine/populartopics/anxiety/317-facing-ourworst-fear Burns, David, “Treating Anxiety: The Latest Advances,” Psychotherapy Networker, webcast, Excerpt 2, Aug. 23, 2012, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VcKEJLb52mk