In another post, I address Fear of Relationships (Romantic Anxiety). In this post, I’ll address the basics of how counseling can help you overcome a fear of relationships.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is similar to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in that it addresses thoughts and behaviors as interrelated. I address the 4 skill sets of DBT, each with various tools that help cultivate the skills:
- Mindfulness – Cultivating a simple awareness of the present moment without adding judgments that clutter your mind
- Emotional Regulation – Learning to experience your emotions in the present moment without becoming overwhelmed and behaving in destructive ways
- Distress Tolerance – Building resiliency to distressing events so you are better able to make healthy decisions about how you interact with your world
- Interpersonal Effectiveness – Learning how to set and enforce boundaries, express your thoughts and feelings, and cultivate safe, healthy relationships
Taking a simple inventory of your history sheds a great deal of light on romantic anxiety. I help you examine any potential childhood influences (i.e. difficulties stemming from dynamics you saw between your parents) and past relationships (both friendships and romantic partners). This is just an inventory, not a judgment; we just want to see what is there.
I also help you with mindfulness of your feelings in the present moment; here-and-now feelings about those past influences as well as current situations you may be going through. Remember, being mindful of your fear does not mean that you are encouraging it to stick around. We just want you to listen to it and leverage it; fear is simply trying to protect you. Mindfulness will help you see other ways to accomplish that without living in fear of intimacy.
Our work on Emotional Regulation involves examining how your emotions impact your decisions and behaviors. Once you are mindful of those dynamics, I help you learn how to regulate your emotions in ways that are not so upsetting. I show you how to use emotions as a wonderful source of information that helps you learn about your internal world and your surroundings. Emotions are trying to tell us about what is going on inside. Using them to help you is a skill that I can teach you.
Imagine feeling nervous about a first date, but experiencing that as more excitement instead of anxiety. Remember, biochemically, anxiety and excitement are the same; it’s how we use our thoughts that determines if it’s enjoyable or uncomfortable.
Most people find rejection or the ending of a relationship to be painful. This is normal. Of course, everybody wants to avoid pain when possible, but since it is a reality, learning to bounce back from it is an important life-skill. Distress Tolerance is about building resiliency, or the ability to bounce back.
There are numerous techniques that I can show you that will help you cultivate resiliency. When you feel that you have what it takes to make it through pain, the pain becomes less of a threat and therefore helps you overcome fear.
So how do you get to a place where the “rubber hits the road?” In other words, how do you get to where you feel more comfortable taking risks in the dating world? I work with you to see opportunities to practice your skills in real-world situations. This does not mean that you jump straight into proposing marriage to somebody! It just means you learn to use mindfulness, emotional regulation, and distress tolerance to your advantage in day to day interactions. As you become more comfortable, we will add some social skills elements that help you approach romance with a sense of excitement and adventure.
Learn more about Counseling for Anxiety in Austin.
Jonathan F. Anderson, LPC-s has worked in the helping profession since he started college in 1990. After completing his Bachelor’s degree at the University of Texas, Austin in 1994, he attended the highly-regarded University of Minnesota to earn his Master’s degree in 1997. He is a Licensed Professional Counselor and is recognized as a Board Approved Supervisor by the State of Texas Board of Examiners of Professional Counselors. Jonathan is a Gottman-trained Couples Counselor, and in 1998 received training by the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation in Advanced Critical Incident Stress Management & Debriefing. To learn more about Jonathan’s practice, click here: Jonathan F. Anderson, LPC-s.