Interact Journal Integrative Ideas for the Process-Oriented Psychotherapist

Categories Supervision Dialogs

On feeling afraid

I often feel afraid when I intervene in certain ways. However, if I don’t try out different interventions, I won’t learn what I’m supposed to be learning.

In session try following this credo: If you hear a train coming, get off the tracks. In other words, if you feel afraid, then there is danger; so protect yourself. Your internal alarm system does not differentiate between internal or external jeopardy. When there is danger, it goes into alert mode and signals, “Red light! Change activities!” by pumping fear-producing (fight or flight) biochemicals into your bloodstream. Over time, should you mostly not pay attention, your automatic system, in order to insist you protect yourself, has to up the ante, either by starting earlier or by increasing the amount of fear.

The defense system will have its way. Luckily the more you trust and heed your inner warning system, the more it will trust you. As the intuitive, watchguard part of yourself discovers that you respect it enough to pay attention and respond to the danger signals it sends, it can relax somewhat and send you danger signals in a more timely and less hysterical manner. If your subconscious watchguard knows that when you receive its “Fright!!” message, you will, in fact, stop, evaluate and protect yourself, then it will not be so necessary for you to be so scared or anxious beforehand.

But if I don’t force myself to do certain things, I’ll never do them.

Forcing yourself to do something you do not want to do reinforces the competitive block between intellect and subconscious. Forcing yourself reinforces the defense mechanism of self-abandonment. Your psyche is your friend, not a bottomless pit of nevers and alwayses. With the cooperation of the whole organism, the human being is capable of many wondrous things, including masterful psychotherapy. Behavior that lessens cooperation, lessens the fulfillment of the whole organism’s potential. In session, rather than force yourself to do what part of you clearly doesn’t want to, I suggest you wait until you get so disgusted with yourself for not trying out those certain interventions, that you want to do them. You may still be somewhat antsy, but want-to rather than not-want-to will be your primary experience and your perception of the adrenaline in your system will be excitement rather than fear.

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