Home » Blogs » Psychoanalysis Now » A Simple Method to Help You Relax

A Simple Method to Help You Relax

e8209a58574a5ae9_640Do you stay up all night brooding over things? Do you spend each day, every hour on the half hour, regretting something you said or did? Do you worry about not having enough money, whether people like you, or if you will be able to perform up to your expectations? Do you agonize about why you are not where you want to be in life?

There is a method for stopping this destructive process. I call it the Step Back Method.

Step back—that is, sit down in a comfortable chair, close your eyes, and think about how you’re operating. It’s a kind of meditation. Think about what you’re doing to your health. Think about whether worrying about something is going to solve the problem. Think about whether brooding about what is bothering you will make it go away. Think about whether regretting things will resolve them. Think about whether obsessing about whether people like you or agonizing about your situation will improve your life. Think about if worrying about how well you will perform will help you perform better.

Then step back and think about the health factors. Think about what your constant worrying, regretting, obsessing, agonizing, or brooding is doing to your body. Think about what it is doing to your heart (high blood pressure), stomach (acid reflux), sleep (low energy, negative thinking), brain (memory loss) and general health. Think about how the chronic stress is affecting your immune system. Think about how much stress you are conjuring up. Stress is linked with all diseases.

Imagine yourself getting older, more and more riddled by stress-related diseases and disorders. Imagine yourself with heart disease, Alzheimer’s, acid reflux, arthritis, type 2 diabetes, or various forms of cancer. Imagine how constant worrying is causing the acid in your stomach to spew into your esophagus and slowly bring about cancer of the esophagus. Imagine how constant worrying causes you to smoke too much and line your stomach with black, ugly tar, leading to cancer of the stomach.

Imagine yourself agonizing to the point that your blood pressure builds and you end up with a blockage of your coronary artery. Imagine getting chronic headaches that lead to a stroke. The more graphic your imagination, the better.

When you think about it you will begin to realize that all worrying, brooding, agonizing, regretting and wondering is nothing but a form of addiction that is harmful to your body. It is only making things worse. It is doing nothing to alleviate your situation.

When you step back, you begin to develop a rational ego. A rational ego is different than an irrational ego. An irrational ego is an addictive ego that does what feels good. It feels good, almost comforting to brood, worry, agonize or obsess. It fills the time. It provides an illusion of doing something, but it is only a form of destructive busy work. A rational ego is constructive. It focuses on what will truly make things better. It focuses on solving problems, not agonizing over them. The irrational ego wants to die. The rational ego wants to live.

Now use your rational ego to think about how to solve the various problems that you have been brooding about, worrying about, agonizing over, or regretting. Think of actual problems and actual methods for solving or resolving them.

The rational ego is a mental muscle. You have to use it over and over to make it stronger. It is much easier and much more immediately gratifying to use the irrational ego. The more you develop your rational ego muscle, the better you’ll feel.

Do this Step Back meditation as often as you can; ideally it should be done twice a day. Sometimes when you step back, frustration, hurt or anger will come to the surface. Let it out with a cry or a yell into a pillow. Let it all out. Then continue to sit or lie back and let yourself calm down. You’re rational ego says, “Don’t agonize about things, do something about them.”

Step back. Live.

A Simple Method to Help You Relax

Gerald Schoenewolf, Ph.D.

Gerald Schoenewolf, Ph.D. is a licensed psychoanalyst in New York and has been practicing for over 37 years. He works with adults, couples, families, adolescents, and children. He has graduated from three psychotherapy institutes and received a Certificate in Psychoanalysis from the Washington Square Institute in 1981. He has been an Adjunct Assistant Professor of psychology at the Borough of Manhattan Community College since 2002 and has authored thirteen books on psychotherapy and psychoanalysis as well as four novels and a book of poems and drawings. More recently he wrote 20 screenplays (winning four first-place awards at festivals) and produced and directed two feature films.

No comments yet... View Comments / Leave a Comment



APA Reference
Schoenewolf, G. (2015). A Simple Method to Help You Relax. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 19, 2020, from


Last updated: 16 Sep 2015
Statement of review: Psych Central does not review the content that appears in our blog network ( prior to publication. All opinions expressed herein are exclusively those of the author alone, and do not reflect the views of the editorial staff or management of Psych Central. Published on All rights reserved.