High Anxiety

An interesting concept came up in a recent session that I wonder about sometimes. If you know the answer, by all means let's hear it.

I have a client with high anxiety. Anxiety about a lot of stuff. He really digs theCBTstuff, so I lay it on thick. He is a dream client- terrible insightful, he does most of the work- a novel concept! One day we we're talking about challenging cognitive distortions. Specifically he writes down the thoughts that come to his head and tries to take an objective look at it. Today we we're talking about the thoughts he has about his looks.

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I want to be 175 lbs and totally ripped and tanned.

That goal in and of itself is meaningless. Why does he want those things? Ripped huh? Why? Wave my magic wand, poof!! So you're 175, tan and ripped. So what? What does thatmean?

He thought for a bit and said, Well I guess it would give me control. Control over others. Theyll respect me, envy me, girls may want me. I'd get better service places. Respect I guess.

Ok, control. What else does it mean to have control?

I guess it would, in a way, offer safety or protection from getting hurt. Ya know, emotionally.

Ok, I think you're onto something. So when we look at it, what you really want is to feel respected by others and to be safe from attacks or barbs from others and one way to achieve that is to be good looking.

Yeah, but when you say it that way it sounds kinda dumb.

Whys that?

Well, I know that I should be ok on my own and not worry about what other people think.

Are you saying that what you really REALLY want is to feel ok no matter what you look like?

Yeah, I guess so. The looks thing is more of a means to an end ya know? But that's the hard part! I don't feel ok. I feel screwed up. Only for moments at a time do I feel ok. .. normal. How do I do that?

How do you do what?

Heres the money question: Theres a small part of me that knows I'm a worthwhile person. But 99% of the time I don't feel ok. I am okbut how do I believe that?

Thats the question. Without my therapist hat on, my answer would be, You ARE ok. You have strengths and weaknesses just like the rest of us. Welcome to the club! Youre working on becoming a better more centered person all the time. We all are. Youre inherently a person of worth and your self esteem is not earned by A) anyone giving it to you (you can't EARN it, that's garbage) or B) something you earn by accomplishing something. Even if you give up and lay there the rest of your life, you're a person of worth and inherent value and you're ok.

But how do I believe that?? I can believe it for a few minutes, but then the doubt takes back over.


Wow, got carried away. But seriously, sometimes we can wipe away the muck of twisted thinking to get to the truthIm ok but simply knowing or acknowledgingdoesntmake you believe it. Ididnthave a simple answer for him. I suggested a few smaller things that can help: 1) keep track of experiences that are validating he's ok (we talk about several of them in sessions) 2) surround yourself with people that uplift you and confirm that you're a valued person. Many people get distorted views of self worth from messages around them. 3)be patient. During his first session, he was having several anxiety attacks a day. Its been about 3 months and he's able to quell the irrational fears that are fueling them most of them. Hes shown a lot of improvement battling thinking errors that have had a great affect on his mood, but he's not finished yet. I think he wants to get there. I can understand that. But even though he's not there yet, he is ok.

What do you think? How do you get to the point where you know and believe you are ok?

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Posted in Mental Health Post Date 10/09/2020






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