There is an interesting facet of the Counselling and therapeutic process. It goes like this….
A client comes to see a therapist and tells them that “everything is wrong in my life” the client is overwhelmed and exhausted and the counsellor or therapist starts the process of reflection and building rapport with the client to understand the anxiety.
After a few sessions many clients report the increased self-awareness and the opportunity to talk and get things off their chest is making them feel better. Their anxiety decreases. We can now start the process of delving deeper.
Suddenly, the client regresses …. everything is wrong again! At this point a therapist could be forgiven for thinking the client is self-sabotaging. They may even start a process of trying to understand how this self-sabotaging behaviour shows up in the client’s life ….but….
…. maybe something else is happening. The classic Anxiety Trap.
The Anxiety Trap is simple and well known. It’s the old “what came first the chicken or the egg”? The client is either experiencing an external event which is causing anxiety – job loss, relationship breakdown, bereavement, etc. Or they already have a predisposition to anxiety and the flight or fight syndrome, controlled by the gland the amydgala, has switched on and won’t switch off.
Depending on how perceptive and creative the client is, they may have many plausible stories about why they are anxious. The client firmly, fully and completely believes these events and people have caused their anxiety.
The essence of the Anxiety Trap is that the client is already in an generally anxious state and this state is often (although not always) a physiological state. The client, feeling the clutch of anxiety, then looks around their life to find things that support the feeling because why would they have that feeling unless there was a reason for it? Makes sense, right?
This is when the Anxiety Trap snaps shut! Clang!
So then the client is always benefitted by encouraging habits that generally decrease anxiety. This can be dietary, cognitive behavioural work, exercise, meditation, yoga, quitting coffee, reducing alcohol and being kinder to themselves. These simple things will help the amydgala switch itself off again and then the real process of therapy can begin.