Obsessive thoughts – Example case story*

* This story has been invented for illustrative purposes only. It does not describe any real person.

I will tell you a story about a young woman – Mary, who wanted to have a baby, although she was somewhat scared with such an idea. After some time of trying to become pregnant, she and her husband finally succeeded. She was pregnant and gave birth to a sweet little girl. One day, not long after the birth, she noticed she had some terrible thoughts, for example of getting rid of the baby, of leaving her in the woods, or of harming her in various ways. On the other hand, she truly loved her little daughter, so she was extremely scared of the thoughts she kept having. She felt ashamed of these thoughts, so she did not mention them to anybody, including her husband and best friend.
After a time, she began checking every now and again if everything is all right with the infant, if she is not getting sick, and began to have nightmares about loosing the baby due to various reasons, like some accidents, diseases, etc. After some weeks, she was afraid to fall asleep, as the nightmares became to torment her almost every time she went to bed. She slept less and less, tried some sleeping pills, but even if they enabled her to fall asleep, she still had nightmares and woke up every now and again. She was getting more and more exhausted due to lack of sleep and was loosing energy on keeping those scary thoughts at bay, as she did not want to feel she was a bad mother.
Finally, she was so worn out that she decided to look for help. She called a local psychotherapist and set up a consultation. She was somewhat uneasy, first, because it was her first visit to a therapist’s office, and because she did not know what to expect. She was also anxious about what the therapist can think of her, due to her thoughts…
During a few initial visits Mary learned that such thoughts can happen when she does not accept some natural negative emotions that come along with the birth of a baby. She did not realize that it was natural that she could have felt overburdened with daily duties. The baby, although sweet and beautiful, was very demanding and required to be with her all the time. Mary did not have any time for herself.
Moreover, after talking the whole situation over, Mary and her therapist came to the conclusion that she could have felt somewhat left behind and lonely, because her mother had left her and went abroad, just after she learnt her daughter became pregnant. Mary subconsciously linked the fact of having a baby with her mother’s departure and felt as if it was because of the baby’s birth that her mother left her. Although those two facts had little in common in reality, Mary felt exactly this way and subconsciously it may have seemed to her that if she gets rid of the baby (in her dreams the baby had accidents, was dead; and in her thoughts during the day, she was leaving the baby in the woods) her mother would return and she would have a relationship with her back again. Besides that, because of such an imaginary situation, Mary unconsciously blamed the baby for her mother’s departure and her resulting loneliness. This is why she kept having aggressive thoughts towards her infant.
When this pattern of unconscious imagination was identified as therapy progressed, Mary realized that it was not as much true as it seemed for her. Only then she was able to actively contact her mother, she began calling her more often, and even if the mother would not return from abroad, where she already worked, the mother and daughter relationship improved a lot. Mary told her mother about her feelings of missing her a lot, and the mother realized that she actually was a little jealous about Mary, because when she herself gave birth to Mary, her situation was much worse, she did not have a good job, and she did not get along with her husband – Mary’s father as good as Mary now would with her husband. It turned out that although there was a grain of truth in Mary’s fears of her mother leaving her because of jealousy and not being able to stand such feelings, her fear was much bigger than the actual situation indicated for.
Mary stopped being angry with her infant so much. This, in turn, set her free her from being afraid of losing her little daughter, because she no longer unconsciously wanted to get rid of her.
She also began to experience more happiness in all of her relationships. She was more open to her husband, because she was no longer so sad and worried with the terrible thoughts. Being more relaxed about the baby, she was able to devote more quality time to her.
When she stopped being so obsessive about loosing the baby, she was able to go back to some of her work and hire some part-time nanny. This, in turn, gave her more energy when she was back home, because she was able to contact her colleagues and see more adult people on a daily basis, as opposed to spending all of her time with the baby alone.
As therapy progressed, she was becoming more relaxed and self-confident. The thoughts about harming the baby vanished, and even before they disappeared completely, Marry was no longer scared of them, as she knew they may sometimes happen to anybody under certain circumstances.
Although the problem Mary came to the therapist with was solved after a few months of therapy, she decided to continue on with psychotherapy, because she noticed that therapy gave her many more benefits, apart from dealing with the obsessive thoughts.
She realized that therapy gave her new perspectives and ways of thinking and perceiving virtually all of her areas of life, relationships, and herself. She noticed that this incident of scary thoughts, which prompted her to look for help, created the beginning of new discoveries and ways of perceiving the world.

Agnieszka Guzowska

psychologist, psychotherapist

I am a psychologist and a psychotherapist. I am trained in psychodynamic psychotherapy. Having completed a 4-year long postgraduate training in the psychodynamic approach I received my diploma of a psychodynamic psychotherapist. Currently I am am broadening my knowledge and skills in psychoanalytic approach.