When Anxiety Just Falls Away

It can be what you don’t do that counts.

There’s a funny Mad TV skit in which comedian Bob Newhart, as a psychiatrist/therapist, delivers his “five dollars for the first five minutes, then no cost after that” therapy deal, and we discover that his simple solution to almost every aberrant behaviour presented to him is “Stop it!” (You may well have seen it; it has been viewed on YouTube many thousands of times.)

It is funny because it is so preposterous. And yet. As a therapist, and as an individual, I have found that sometimes it is, indeed, the most effective way to deal with negative thinking and unrealistic fears.

I used to have a fear of flying. Long ago, I was on a flight from San Francisco to London when there was nasty turbulence—the kind that results in suspected heart or panic attacks and doctors on board being asked to identify themselves. I got over that, with the aid of a highly effective detraumatisation technique, but, as I had no reason to fly at the time, I started to undo the good work by paying too much attention to tabloid newspaper scare stories about the dangers of metal fatigue, mid-air collisions, pilots on cannabis, etc.

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