Shrink Rap: Managing Anxiety

Shrink Rap: Managing Anxiety

[click “Play”, Dr. Hokemeyer talks about Anxiety with Susan]


by Dr. Paul Hokemeyer

Dr. Paul Hokemeyer Dr. Hokemeyer is a nationally recognized expert on Eastern philosophies, relationships, and emotional healing. A Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, he holds a PhD in psychology, as well as a doctorate in the law. A part-time Telluride resident, Dr. Hokemeyer is based in the New York City office of the Caron Treatment Centers. He is also a weekly contributor to “The Dr. Oz Show,” CNN’s “Headline News,” and other media outlets, including “Good Morning America,” “truTV,” and “Oprah Radio.” His new column, Shrink Rap, is scheduled to appear at least bi-monthy on Thursdays on Telluride Inside… and Out.

Recent events in Japan and the threat of a government shutdown serve to underline a fact of life: We live in difficult times, which can translate to scary. On a minute-by-minute basis, we are asked to find joy as we face growing threats of environmental, economic, and physical collapse. Some anxiety is a natural byproduct of these harsh facts of life, but when that anxiety persists and crosses a line, it morphs into a full-blown, paralyzing disorder. When that happens, what steps can we take to tame and contain an anxiety disorder?

People who suffer from anxiety disorders live with a constant sense of impending doom that governs and/or restricts their every move. For example, one client of mine, governed by the fear of being abandoned by her husband, obsessed about the cleanliness of her house and compulsively cleaned. Her behavior became a self-fulfilling prophecy: rather than bringing her husband closer to her in a shared, squeaky clean world, her actions pushed him out into the real world, where life is, as we all know, always more than a little bit messy.

To treat the woman’s disorder required uncovering the basis of her fears –  turned out they originated in her relationship with her father –  and then finding out how her reaction to those fears compounded her challenges. Eventually the woman was able to relax and allow herself to be guided by the love in her heart, rather than the fear in her head. That’s just one of many examples that have walked through the doors of my practice, this one with a happy ending.

Bottom line: we build awareness by stepping back from our problems. With distance, we are able to identify the underlying causes of our anxieties and fears. Typically we find we are not reacting to a present situation such as the news of the day, but rather to a traumatic event from our past. We then work with this insight to reground ourselves in our present reality and train ourselves to react in differently. It’s a bit like what happens in yoga practice in which asanas (poses) are designed to identify habitual, unhelpful movement patterns and retrain the body to move differently and more healthfully.

To learn more, click the “play” button and listen to my interview with Susan Viebrock.

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