Anticipatory Anxiety

Victor Frankl in his book Man's Search for Meaning talks eloquently about Anticipatory Anxiety: “It is characteristic of this fear that it produces precisely that of which the patient is afraid. An individual, for example, who is afraid of blushing when he enters a large room and faces many people will actually be more prone to blush under these circumstances. In this context, one might amend the saying, ‘The wish is father to the thought’ to ‘The fear is mother of the event.’ Ironically enough, in the same way that fear brings to pass what one is afraid of, likewise a forced intention makes impossible what one forcibly wishes.“

“Paradoxical intention” is based on the fact that “fear brings about that which one is afraid of, and that hyper-intention makes impossible what one wishes. In this approach the phobic patient is invited to intend, even if only for a moment, precisely that which he fears.”

He shares a great anecdote, that I can really relate to, about how to fix the problem: “A young physician consulted me because of his fear of perspiring. Whenever he expected an out-break of perspiration, this anticipatory anxiety was enough to precipitate excessive sweating. In order to cut this circle formation I advised the patient, in the event that sweating should recur, to resolve deliberately to show people how much he could sweat. A week later he returned to report that whenever he met anyone who triggered his anticipatory anxiety, he said to himself, ‘I only sweated out a quart before, but now I’m going to pour at least ten quarts!’ The result was that, after suffering from his phobia for four years, he was able, after a single session, to free himself permanently of it within one week.”

This simple change in thought has worked wonders for me. Give it a try.