What Inspires Me: Understanding The Anxiety-Depression Swing

By Judith Sherven, Ph.D.
NABBW’s Healthy Relationships Associate

When I was early on in my private practice as a clinical psychologist some 30 years ago, I kept noticing how so many of my clients suffered from a pattern of anxiety as they pursued a goal that they desired (their frustration with not achieving the goal was usually the reason they had come to me for help in the first place). Yet, after making some minor progress they would reel back from the anxiety and soon they would fall into a nagging depression.

These weren’t the mood swings of what is diagnostically known as Manic-Depression. This was some kind of every-day push-pull with success. But what was the underpinning cause?

I didn’t and still don’t subscribe to the use of pharmaceuticals for help with anxiety and/or depression as I believe drugs mask the cause and leave the individual bereft of the real help that is needed.

drama childSo I turned to a book that now has two names: Drama of the Gifted Child: The Search for the True Selfor “Prisoners of Childhood“—same book—by Alice Miller, a psychoanalyst who practiced in Zurich at that time.

As she said in her book and is quoted in Wikipedia:

“For twenty years I observed people denying their childhood traumas, idealizing their parents and resisting the truth about their childhood by any means.”

And this was a perfect reflection of the pattern I was seeing—over and over and over again. In fact, I’m seeing it in many of the comments on my regular posts, people wanting to look anywhere but at the family roots of the problem.

It was reading Alice Miller, followed by learning to dig more deeply into my clients’ growing-up environments that prompted me to see that they suffered from what I soon termed “The Fear Of Being Fabulous.”

My clients suffered from unconscious prohibitions, what my husband Jim Sniechowski, PhD and I now call “Unconscious Forbiddances,” that prevented them from growing their identity much further beyond what they’d been raised to believe was real, true, and expected by their family environment.

Consequently, this produced anxiety whenever they sought to excel beyond certain limits and then depression when once again they fell back into a lifestyle they somehow knew wasn’t enough for who they truly were.

prisoners of childhoodThe lynch pin for the necessary psychological release was helping my clients, and myself, move beyond blind acceptance of “my parents did the best they could,” “I had a perfect childhood,” and “I love my parents, they would do anything for me,” into examining the many ways our all too human and imperfect parents missed the boat, i.e. missed seeing who we REALLY were, how they needed us to fulfill their own lost dreams, or, in fact, were abusive in some ways.

This is not to blame parents. It’s to help each of us get our feet firmly planted in reality so we can see what’s been holding us back when we’ve been more loyal to protecting our parents than promoting our best interests out into the world.

So thank you again Alice Miller, for inspiring what has become the central core of my life’s work and the freedom from internal oppression that so many people worldwide now experience. All of this is possible because you had the courage to look beyond conventional psychoanalysis and help us all step more fully into the truth!

Judith Sherven, PhD and her husband Jim Sniechowski, PhD have developed a penetrating perspective on people’s resistance to success, which they call The Fear of Being Fabuloustm. Recognizing the power of unconscious programming to always outweigh conscious desires, they assert that no one is ever failing—they are always succeeding. The question is, at what? To learn about how this played out in the life of Whitney Houston, check out What Really Killed Whitney Houston?

Currently working as consultants on retainer to LinkedIn providing executive coaching, leadership training and consulting as well as working with private clients around the world, they continually prove that when unconscious beliefs are brought to the surface, the barriers to greater success and leadership presence begin to fade away. They call it Overcoming the Fear of Being Fabulous .

NOTE:   This post originally appeared on LinkedIn. Follow Judith on LinkedIn.

Married psychology team and best-selling authors, Drs. Judith Sherven and James Sniechowski have redefined the future of weddings. From now on brides AND grooms will be co-partners every step along the way. Be sure to read an excerpt from their new book - "The Smart Couple's Guide to the Wedding of Your Dreams." Just go to http://www.smartweddingcouples.com