The Woman with a Ph.D. in Anxiety
Ana, a middle-aged woman, came to see me because of two problems that had severely limited the quality of her life for over 10 years. She told me that she had been diagnosed with depression and anxiety. And that she had, so far, spent seven years in psychotherapy to get to the root causes of her problems.
She knew all the details of why she was anxious and depressed. She had analyzed every corner of her subconscious mind with the help of a variety of psychotherapists belonging to different schools of therapy.
“I have a Ph.D. in my neurosis,” she said, “I know all about my depression and my anxiety.” However, despite her vast knowledge of all the reasons and causes of the problem, she was still anxious and depressed.
I saw Ana for the total of 8 sessions. After the first 5 sessions, her anxiety was completely gone. During three more sessions I helped her to learn how to handle future life challenges without any relapse.
I did not ask her anything about her past for two main reasons. First of all, she had already done this with the help of many therapists. She knew all her conflicts with her family, parents and herself. Of course this didn’t help her at all. Secondly, and most importantly, I did not investigate the genesis of her problem because it is unnecessary. You cannot change the past. Therapy should be focused on the present and the future.
The majority of the tasks and exercises I gave her were to help her feel anxiety differently. Ana, like all anxiety sufferers, had already done the thinking about her anxiety. What she needed wasn’t more thinking, but rather a specific way of feeling differently about her problems.
A year later, I touched base with her and was extremely satisfied to hear from Ana that, after so long, she was finally happy because anxiety was now a closed chapter in her life.