Anxiety and Magical Thinking

Hi web visitors,

The following is a note about anxiety that I just sent to my Tuesday training group at Stanford this week, and it occurred to me that you might find it of interest. You may need the definition of Outcome Resistance and Process Resistance to grasp the note. Outcome Resistance means that although the patient is suffering, he or she will resist effective treatment for a wide variety of reasons. In anxiety, the Outcome Resistance nearly always results from Magical Thinking. In other words, the patient has the superstitious belief that the anxiety, although uncomfortable, protects him or her from some terrible catastrophe.

Process Resistance means that the patient may (or may not) want a positive treatment outcome, but does not want to engage in the therapeutic process required to cause a successful outcome. For anxious patients, the focus of the Process Resistance almost always has to do with Exposure Techniques. Nearly all anxious patients will fairly forcefully resist using Exposure because it is so frightening to them. They simply do not want to have to face their fears. If the therapist gives in, and agrees not to use Exposure, the likelihood of full recovery is poor.

And about 75% of mental health professional do give in to the patient’s resistance, because the therapist also fears Exposure therapy, thinking it is, indeed, dangerous for this or that (erroneous) reason. I call this “Reverse Hypnosis.” In other words, the patient has hypnotized the therapist into believing that Exposure is dangerous as well!

If you’d like to read about my new insight on this topic of the effect of Magical Thinking on Outcome Resistance and Process Resistance for anxiety disorders, CLICK HERE.