Different functions of anxiety
It's fascinating to see how experts from differenct perspectives differ and converge in their views. Both Jessica Broitman and Jim Pretzer agree that the function of Gary's anxiety is a central issue of the case. Both agree that his anxiety and overwhelming worry is unrealistic and dysfuntional. However their explanations are very different although they may sound similar. Jim Pretzer assumes that Gary tries to prevent disaster. In a very general sense this covers also Jessica's theory. But the nature of the disaster is very different. Although Jim doesn't make it explicit he seems to assume that Gary wants to prevent making mistakes, losing his girl-friend, being a complete failure. So the disaster is closely related to his own actual situation and future goals.
Jim argues more on the ground of the general, innate function of anxiety while Jessica's point is different: Gary actively produces his worry, he actively although unconsciously makes himself anxious because he believes that his parents want him to do so. This has nothing to do with the general function of anxiety, and in fact, any emotion or motive or behavior could replace anxiety if Gary had experienced this as endangering his parents.
Gary is always worried, is always unsecure, and asserted whatever convidence he has comes from his girl-friend. He always feels tense, has sleeping difficulty and has problems with IBS. This gives me the picture of an irritable, anxious child, unable to control itself, dependant and still incontinent sometimes.
My impression is that this was the way Gary believes his mother want him to be (and also his sisters). He may have inferred from her behavior that:
- He shouldn't be a man or behave as a man
- He shouldn't be independent and act autonomous
- He shouldn't be strong and successful
- He shouldn't be in control.
I am not familiar with the US school system, so I don't know at what age his school problems occured. My guess is that becoming a man was the problem. So he puts himself down in order to prevent his mother's negative reaction. Most of his symptoms could be explained in this way as a compliance with his mother.
But he may also have inferred from the behavior of this father that
- He shouldn't share things with his father.
So his original wish to be a man like his father and to stay close to his father could only be realized as an identification with a workaholic who never believes in himself.
"I never really got to know the man" can therefore be understood both as an identification with this unknown and distant man and as a compliance with his mother, who was always down on men.
Jim's attempt to help Gary, to show him how to be in control, to share things with him, to let him be close to him, to give him instruments that help him to cope with difficult situations, to support his goals including becoming more successful and so on must have been very helpful in disproving Gary's pathogenic beliefs outlined above.
Reto Volkart, Zurich, Switzerland