Healing Albert’s General Anxiety Disorder
When Albert came to see me his problem had reached a climactic intensity. “I need you to help me”, Albert said, “because if I don’t solve this I will have to divorce my wife.”
He explained to me that he has been feeling anxious for the last 27 years! The main causes of his suffering were his marriage and his wife’s sister who lived with them. His sister-in-law was mentally challenged and she chanted all say, walking back and forth inside their house.
Albert would come home to rest but couldn’t because of the loud chanting. Exasperated, he would shout at her, demanding her to be quiet. But as he put it himself, “She is mentally ill and just continues to sing.” However he couldn’t help getting angry at her. Often he would just avoid his home and instead wonder around or hang out in a bar with friends or strangers.
To solve his problem he had undergone many different therapies for 6 consecutive years. He had tried yoga, Tai Chi and had also tried to calm himself by playing the piano. None of these activities seemed to have alleviated his anxiety. One of the symptoms that bothered him the most was being light-headed and dizzy.
I talked to him about factory workers who get accustomed to noise. After a while, they learn to ignore the constant noise of the machinery – to the point that many of them are capable of taking a nap right then and there. I then told him a story about a man who was haunted by a noisy bird and how with the help of a magician had learned to just ignore the bird. I gave him the task of writing down his thoughts and letting out his emotions every day for two weeks.
Albert came back surprised that his dizziness had disappeared. I complimented him on his ability to make substantial change but warned him to not move too quickly. I then asked him to come back two weeks later to tell me more about any small improvements he had made.
At the third session Albert said that he had made a realization: “Maybe my sister-in-law is not the problem.”
He then talked about his relationship with his wife and how he was not happy at all in his marriage. I asked him to continue writing and concentrating all his anxiety, worries and negative thoughts for a few minutes every day.
At our next session two weeks later, Albert said that he felt at ease. The ‘singing bird’ didn’t bother him at all. He had also noticed that he wasn’t angry and didn’t argue with his wife. Condensing anxiety and negative thoughts into a few minutes a day had helped him to feel good. He had noticed, in his own words, “an extraordinary improvement” which made him happy especially after so many years of suffering. He felt he was about to shut off anxiety for good.
One month later, during our last session, Albert reported that he had made even greater improvements:
“Our arguments (with his wife) now last only fifteen minutes”, said Albert. “Before they took up fifteen days!”
I explained to him that he had now learned and incorporated many new resources and skills that would allow him to enjoy his life. I also reminded him that anxiety was part of life and that we cannot be totally free from it because it is our ‘alarm system’. However, now he had eliminated the nasty kind of anxiety that had plagued him for so long and he could now benefit from the ‘good anxiety’ in life.
Personally, this case was very gratifying because I was able to help Albert to heal from a long term battle with anxiety and also salvage his marriage.
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