I have so many clients over the years who were successful moving on from anxiety symptoms, panic attacks, obsessive thoughts or compulsive behaviors, but after time passed would contact me saying they were experiencing a bit of the symptoms again. They were obviously frustrated because therapy had worked for them, and they had put in motion changes in their lives to overcome the sources for their symptoms.
I would first remind them that they had been successful not because they changed their personality, but that they had come to realize conflicts and issues in their lives and they had learned to change their self-sabotaging behaviors and how they dealt with people… taking greater control of their lives.
Then I would have them tell me what was going on in their lives when they felt a tinge of anxiety the old symptoms returning. It never failed, that the longer we talked, something would come up, some conflict or issue. Once it came out of their mouths, they would realize that this was the trigger. We would talk about these as minor set-backs, and remind one another of all the positive changes that the client had made, but also realize that when the mind is focused on moving forward, there is less time to dredge up negative thoughts. Also important to remember is that you cannot change another person or control what they say or do, only control how you respond.
Gene Benedetto, Psychologist Emeritus, Coach