A successful man in his prime, Toni, is sent to me by his second wife, and although he has no idea how therapy can help with his heart palpitations and insomnia, he comes and talks about his overload. He let me know right from the start that he had a good childhood and loving parents. That he has a good life. Everything is fine, he just has too much to do and can’t do enough. His large family needs him very often, but he is happy to help.
After using our conversations to delegate a few tedious tasks and implementing my suggestions for organizing his to-do’s, he comes up with another, much more difficult problem. Although his physical complaints and insomnia have improved, his busy desk is a heavy burden. He has an inexplicable resistance to doing his mail, tax returns, applications and letters, his large desk practically bends under all the paperwork. He puts off this work for far too long and, because of a guilty conscience, does not indulge in any leisure activities.
In my experience, I can’t get any further with this topic with techniques – it’s about understanding the inner resistance. In his imagination, Toni stands in front of his full desk – what does it trigger?
“I have no choice, I have to do all this.” He senses restlessness in the heart area, it moves to his head. He keeps his attention on the restlessness until it subsides. “I want to dodge, but I’m not the person to hide.” A strong belief.
In the next session, Toni imagines the full desk again and perceives his body’s reaction: “I’m unable to figure out what it feels like,” he says at first, and then: “I feel angry that I have to do all this, and a blast inside”. He wants to tackle it and senses something that is blocking him, and then he realizes with surprise that he is defiant.
Was his father strict with him during his childhood and youth? Toni says yes straight away, he always demanded a lot of performance from him.
In the course of our conversations, Toni understands how he ticks: He likes to tinker around with machines, motorcycles and bicycles until they work again, it’s about getting it right, creating something, reaching the goal. But driving around with it with relish is less interesting for him.
“Can we get rid of this?” he asks me, and I am happy about this question.
“In any case, you will be better able to deal with the internal resistance,” I answer confidently.
I know this problem from my own experience: on the one hand, I can now be more lenient with avoidance, and, on the other hand, I can set myself a deadline. And sometimes I watch myself procrastinate and I find it amusing to notice all the things I can think of that need to be done urgently. Just to see myself as someone who “has so much to do”, who has to take care of everything and is needed by others, instead of ending up unspectacularly at a desk just getting something done.