Anxiety is a common feeling that many people experience when first meeting with a psychologist. In our work together, anxiety will be welcomed as a useful guide on your journey to healing and freedom. If our work is going well, you will likely experience an increase in anxiety before or during most sessions that will be relieved by the end of the session. This will be accompanied by a sense of greater clarity about yourself, the underlying cause of the anxiety and a greater sense of inner strength.
Where does this anxiety come from?
Many people have developed areas of their thoughts, feelings or functioning that they have learned to fear. Past painful, threatening or traumatic events experienced in important relationships or other life experiences mobilize our instinctual need to survive. This instinctual survival energy is often poorly received, punished, or misunderstood, leading to conflicts with the realities and demands of those around us. Unable to face or resolve these deeply held feelings we develop automatic mechanisms to keep them out of our conscious awareness. The first of these is a sense of fear or anxiety. Since anxiety is an uncomfortable and often debilitating emotion, we also learn to avoid or lessen the experience of anxiety by various means that are called defenses (or resistance). Although defenses are initially developed to support our survival, overused and unconsciously driven defenses can inadvertently stunt our growth and cripple our potential in life and relationships.
How do you work in therapy?
Many of today’s therapies have emotional regulation as their goal for you. While emotional control is an important step on the road to relief from your symptoms and an empowered life, it is rarely sufficient. Emotional control alone can even deprive you of the cues that emotions provide to direct your growth, the energy to make profound changes in your life and well being, and to whole heartedly love and be loved. Therefore in our work together, rather than try to quickly eliminate anxiety, we will treat it as a welcome signal from your unconscious and a potential doorway into the wisdom held within. Together, side by side in a caring partnership, we will work to bring out and face the forces that drive your fears and have held you hostage in your own skin. This will be hard work for both of us. We will continue on this journey together, facing those things that have frightened you from within yourself, with special attention to those thoughts and feelings that have created a barrier to fulfilling your maximal capacity for intimacy and closeness. We will continue with this process until there is nothing left inside you to fear, leaving you empowered to whole heartedly embrace life and freed to be the person you have always been capable of becoming.
Is there something I can do to prepare for a session?
Yes. First and most important, be prepared to get to the emotional engine that drives your difficulties and has crippled you from achieving your full potential in life and relationships.
Be prepared to use your relationship with me, held in the bounds of a respectful, caring, and non-judgmental partnership, to relentlessly face the things that have frightened you.
Be prepared that together, with the help of each other and maximal determination on each of our parts, we will fight for your freedom and the liberation of your full human and relational potential. Some patients have compared a session to going to the gym for a good work out. At the end they might feel fatigued, but know they have gained a lot. You are in the driver’s seat: The more you put into it and the harder you work during a session, the more you get out of it and the faster you move toward your freedom and full potential in life.
What if I get overwhelmed by my feelings?
Many people erroneously fear that if they honestly face their feelings that it will be more than they can bear. This belief often originates during early formative experiences in life. Although this is a common concern, know that I have been highly trained to evaluate your current capacity to tolerate your feelings and to regulate the pace of our work to meet your exact needs. Going too slow would waste your time and be disrespectful of the sanctity and value of your life. Going too fast could be overwhelming and inadvertently lead to the process taking longer than need be. Together we determine your current capacity and will to proceed. Both of these elements are integral parts of our work. In this way you both gain greater awareness of yourself and build upon the foundation of our partnership.
What if I don’t like what I find inside myself?
This is another common concern. Many patients have learned to disown their true selves after years of internally and externally inflicted criticisms and abuse. They fear that if they give up their “false selves,” the person they find inside will be someone they – or anyone else – would find distasteful. What initially might seem as a paradox is universally quite to the contrary: patients report that they meet themselves anew, and reflect with amazement on the profound beauty and satisfaction of this experience. They learn to not only cognitively embrace self-compassion, but to also FEEL compassion for themselves; to trade a pattern of relentless self-abuse for a pattern of radical self-acceptance; to forgive and to be forgiven. The result is often transformative: a dramatically increased capacity to love and be loved, as well as to compassionately and courageously hold a relational position grounded in mutual respect and caring. One friend who experienced this process reported that he felt as if he had been a tightly closed rose bud afraid to know what was inside of him. Once he overcame the destructive forces that had been holding him hostage he found himself unfolding like a beautiful flower, a sentiment communicated in Bette Midler’s song “The Rose”:
Some say love, it is a river that drowns the tender reed. Some say love, it is a razor that leaves your soul to bleed. Some say love, it is a hunger, an endless aching need. I say love, it is a flower, and you its only seed.
It's the heart afraid of breaking that never learns to dance. It's the dream afraid of waking that never takes the chance. It's the one who won't be taken, who cannot seem to give, and the soul afraid of dyin' that never learns to live.
When the night has been too lonely and the road has been to long, and you think that love is only for the lucky and the strong, just remember in the winter far beneath the bitter snows lies the seed that with the sun's love in the spring becomes the rose.