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  • One common kind of mental illness (which doesn't present itself as an illness to us of course,

  • it's far too clever for that) leads us to worry incessantly about the future: to worry

  • about bankruptcy, disgrace, physical collapse, abandonment.

  • What is pernicious about this kind of worrying is that it picks up on genuine features of

  • the here and now; it presents itself as reasonable but, on closer examination, it clearly isn't.

  • There are always a few alarming things going on: there is some turbulence in the economy,

  • there can be things that go wrong with bodies, reputations do rise and fallBut what should

  • eventually alert us to the peculiarity of our position is the duration, scale and repetitiveness

  • of our worries: we should learn to see that we are essentially worried all the time about

  • something.

  • The target may shift, but what is constant is our insecurity about existence.

  • It is in such situations that a therapist may make a hugely useful intervention: they

  • may point out that the way we worry about the future is in fact telling us a huge amount

  • about our past.

  • More specifically, we are worried right now in a way that mirrors the panic we once felt

  • as children; we are greeting the challenges of the adult world with the defenceless panic

  • of the child we once were. What we are doing in the process is exchanging the pain of remembering

  • the difficult past for a sense of foreboding around the future; the catastrophe we fear

  • is going to happen has already happened.

  • So sealed off are our memories, we project them forward, where they greet us as apprehensions

  • of what is to come - rather than identifying themselves as legacies of unmasterable past

  • anxiety.

  • The good therapist becomes aware of the correct source of the anxiety - and doesn't let

  • go of their insight. They will listen politely and generously to our description of our current

  • panic - what will happen in our job? Have we studied enough? What if our enemies gang

  • up on us?

  • But then they will gently try to shift the conversation to the past, to show us that

  • the future looks so fearful because we are being counterproductively loyal to the terrors

  • of an earlier age, which we now need to remember, to feel sad about and then eventually to mourn

  • and move on from.

  • We should be disloyal to those who brought us up in an atmosphere of fear in order to

  • save what remains of life from always appearing doom-laden: we may be trying to stay close

  • to them by continuing to panic alongside them, but we owe it to ourselves to break the circle

  • of worry and to make our future different from the past, by remembering, localising

  • and mourning what belonged to yesterday even as it pretends to be about tomorrow.

One common kind of mental illness (which doesn't present itself as an illness to us of course,

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B1 panic worry therapist remembering anxiety illness

How Dreading the Future May Be a Symptom of Your Past

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    Summer posted on 2021/06/09
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