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Paralyzed by Anxiety after Finishing Her Dissertation

11 Jun

Dear Belleruth,

I have a fear of moving forward in my professional life.  I recently completely a doctoral program and have a PhD.  I cannot seem to bring myself to write articles from my dissertation.  I can't even read my dissertation.  The thought of it causes extreme anxiety and I will do anything to avoid it.

This is so irrational because my research is sound and my results are important. However, I'd rather shrivel into nothingness than do this and I don't know why.  

My future depends on me writing these articles and it is the first time in my life where I can't accomplish my goals.  Can you help?

A.J.

Dear A.J.,

I'm glad you wrote.  I can suggest a bunch of resources to help you with your anxiety - and I will -  but if I only did that, I'd be doing you a disservice.  That's because you may be the perfect candidate for good, old-fashioned, insight-oriented, successful psychotherapy.

I realize I don't know you - just what you've written here - but I'd lay odds that it's time for a little reflection on what entering this next phase of your life means to you; on how you perceive 'adulthood' and career; on whose goals you were reaching all this time; and what you want for yourself and your life, unimpeded by the ideas of others.  The timing is perfect for chewing all this over with a skilled therapist who has no axe to grind.

Now it’s possible that all you need is a little time off the merry-go-round.  Perhaps a few months dawdling on the Amalfi Coast are in order?  Or if the price tag for Italy is out of the question, there's always Thailand for a mellow, low cost, change of scenery and perspective.  But the degree of anxiety you’re suffering suggests otherwise.  If that were it, you'd just feel serious lassitude and lack of energy for moving forward - but it's worth mentioning, because generally speaking, it's pretty weird to reach a desired end-point that you've been striving for all your life.  

But as I said, I think your anxiety spiking in such a targeted way suggests otherwise.  This is a relatively easy thing to remedy with traditional, insight-oriented, deep dish psychotherapy.  

 

As for the promised resources, one of the best things I've run across is Erin Olivo's Free Yourself from Anxiety – a really impressively put together CD set that addresses all the issues around anxiety and offers good relaxation exercises.  David Illig also has a good one, in an Ericksonian, hypnotic style. And of course Mary Sise has an easy to follow meridian tapping program that you can learn simply by watching her video.  And my Panic Attack imagery would also fill the bill.

 

 

 

But I'd start with Erin Olivo’s first, and see how that goes - it's the most specific for what you're dealing with.

I hope this helps.  Be of stout heart. This is totally fixable.

All best,
Belleruth

Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award