Plunging into fear
- Patients with a simple form of obsession who are reasonable and courageous may recover from their illness by following the advice based on the above viewpoint. This recovery is due to a prompt plunging into fear just as happens with panic attacks.
- For example, the treatment for a patient with blushing phobia who cannot ride trains is that the patient is told to pluck up his courage and get on the train boldly showing off his blushing to everyone, thus forcing the patient into prompt action. By this method of treatment some patients have overcome their longstanding fear of blushing in only a few days. Looked at in one way, the method appears to be a kind of punishment, boldly showing one's blushing in public. However, it takes away the obsessive resistance.
- If the patient with an obsession always tries to resist his fears or fix them, the fears will increase with increased suffering But this obsession may be relieved by publicly revealing the blushing, for example.
I once gave the following instructions to a patient who had insomnia for many years, "Tonight you must go to bed with the idea that you won't be able to sleep and so suffer throughout the night." However, the patient was surprised to find himself quickly asleep. The patient came to see me the following morning and thanked me for his first successful experience of plunging into fear.
Earlier I had experimented with the same patient in the following way. First, I told him "Tonight, try to think of how to sleep soundly. Try to figure out your best sleeping position for having a good night's sleep. Is it best to lie on your back?
- Consider the best position for your feet, the place in which your arms rest, the relation between your pillow and head." However, with those instructions he felt distress and could not possibly sleep that night. The following day I said to the patient, "Tonight, make an effort to stay sleepless all night in the same position in which you first lie down. Don't try to improve your sleeping position even if the original posture feels uncomfortable."
The following morning, the patient visited me with a fully satisfied look, saying that he had slept soundly that night, and understood well what good sleep was like. This shows that the expectation and thinking of the patient and reality are in opposition. This is the reason why I call it "a contradiction in thinking".
- With such patients, specific therapy techniques are conducted for different obsessions and different degrees of severity. At the proper time, when the patient is feeling most distraught, the patient is urged to plunge into the fear. Once a patient has had this genuine experience other types of obsession are going to automatically vanish. The patient knows that by taking the plunge, he or she can easily do what he or she could not do in the past. The patient will feel pleased and will gradually become more courageous. However, obsessive patients who don't feel the joy and gratitude from this process will not have a complete recovery, and weak-willed patients will never feel such joy.
The essence of nervousness and therapy.