Experiences in the conquest of neurosis by Morita Therapy


Afflicted by anthropophobia (ereuthophobia)

By Ms. Takeko Muromoto

I suffered from anthropophobia just before my graduation from junior high school. My most serious mental disorder was ereuthophobia (blushing phobia). Besides ereuthophobia I had a fear of meeting others' eyes and a number of other phobic symptoms related to interpersonal relations. For example, I could not speak in public or empathize with others. I found it difficult to go shopping (though I am a housewife), and I couldn't dine with others or with my own family.

The start of ereuthophobia

My fear of blushing started in 1952. I graduated from a university and got a job in a hospital in Osaka. Soon I was assigned to a department where high-level research was carried out. The assigned work space was shared with a physician who required a great deal of attention. I was very much concerned about whether the doctor liked me or not and how much he appreciated my efforts; I worked very hard. Hoping that I could be a helpful partner of my chief, my tension became greater and greater. Sometimes I had the feeling that I was not myself, playing a role. I must have suppressed my feelings.

One day, I heard from the doctor that there had been a burglary in the hospital. In a moment, I became conscious of my blushing. Such blushing agitated my heart without reason, and anxiety suddenly flooded through me. I imagined that my blushing betrayed my faults and I had lost value as a person. After that I was stuck in the mud of ereuthophobia, what you might call "blushing hell".

Wondering if I am abnormal

The doctor advised me to consult a social work case worker in the hospital. So I went to a case worker's office for advice. However, I was not quite aware of my real mental condition after all. The more I tried to avoid blushing, the more aware of it I became, the more I blushed terribly. Such a tendency was especially distressing in public or in a situation where I felt tense. My distress was centered around the thoughts: "I cannot get myself under control. I wonder if I am abnormal."

After the above event, I continued my job somehow. However, when I was alone in the research room, I was in constant fear that anyone would come into the room soon. In those days, my mental condition was such that it was hard for me to live, but I could not die.

Just then, I learned about the existence of Morita Therapy from the book "How to Cure the Fear of Blushing" (written by Shoma Morita and published by Hakuyosha).
Expecting recovery I left Osaka at once for Tokyo in order to consult an expert at the clinic referred to in the book. Their advice was that I should be hospitalized or get counsel by means of diary guidance. Realizing that a prompt cure was impossible, I was utterly disappointed and went home.

Later on I quit the hospital, and I married for peace of mind.
However, it seemed that the marriage was not a means of living at peace, either.

After the birth of my baby, my anthropophobia continued. Even in my daily life, playing with my child outdoors or taking the child to the hospital was distressing. It was also painful for me to associate with the neighbors and to go shopping. However, while trying to run away from life and keeping my misery in mind, I fulfilled the minimum requisites for my life one way or another.

Back to the painful days all over again

When my child-rearing duties were stabilized, I decided to work outside the home in my spare time. I had two different part-time jobs. However, I soon had such strong anthropophobic symptoms that I hit a dead end and was obliged to quit my jobs. Finally I selected a single job that could be performed at home, except that I had to go to the office once a month. Even when going to the office once a month, I left my house late so that I would not meet any of my colleagues on the way. On the way home, I would take the train after my colleagues' train.

On the way home one day, though I must have reached the station at the usual time, I heard the voices of my colleagues chatting gaily on the train platform. I promptly entered the nearby women's restroom to avoid them. I was tired of such behavior and went home with miserable and sad feelings. In those days I was always in the dilemma between the desire to work and get along with others and the inability to do such a thing. I kept thinking that if it weren't for these symptoms, I could have led a life as I wished and made further progress.

So with the intention of curing my fear of blushing I tried hypnotherapy and read books written on "How to create a fearless mind". I read in a book that hunger was useful for neurosis. I dropped in a book store to buy a book on fasting and saw a book on "Morita Therapy" there. The book was titled "An Introduction to Morita Therapy." It was written by Keiji Mizutani and published by Hakuyosha. Thanks to this book, I became a member of the Life Discovery Society (A self-help group for learning Morita theory) when I was 39 years old.

Finding my true character

As I learned about Morita Therapy at the monthly meetings of the Life Discovery Society I gradually discovered that my mental condition was by no means abnormal. The anthropophobic symptoms such as being ashamed to blush, being conscious of other's eyes, and being apprehensive about other's opinions may be just what anybody undergoes at times in daily life. They just pass away without getting stuck in consciousness. Persistency and perfectionism are inherent in my character. Because I was ignorant about the facts of human nature I tried to get rid of discomfort and dropped into that spiral of attention and sensitivity. The result was an obsession with my symptoms. I could at last understand the mechanism of neurosis.

How to live taking things as they are

However, mental symptoms become habits over time; they develop like conditioned reflexes. My anthropophobic distress remained unchanged.

What saved me from my neurosis was the notion in Morita Therapy of taking things as they are (accepting reality as it is). Instead of making effort to cure my symptoms I turned my efforts 180 degrees to doing what needs to be done day after day with the symptoms left intact. As a housewife my duty is to do housekeeping so carefully that my family can live comfortably. Unskillful at shopping, I must consult my shopping memo until I purchase all of what is needed. I also attend PTA and neighborhood association meetings. I go to work promptly. These are the minimum requirements with which I started.

Morita Therapy requires that we achieve our objectives whatever our existing mood. Action must be taken to achieve the purpose in a natural way, and this must be repeated again and again. By repeating this action in my life over and over, I have had a complete change of mind. This mental revolution appears to resemble an ice cube being melted. The ice cube stays at a temperature of 0 degrees C. while it is melting, but after it has completely dissolved its temperature will rise gradually.

As usual with this therapy I had great difficulty putting it into practice in the initial stage, but once I began having success achieving my goals I cried out with joy. I could be genuinely pleased with even small successes. I came to believe that I could do something about these chronic symptoms. To be sure, sometimes I felt depressed. But those depressed times taught me that I must accept my present mental state with symptoms, that I cannot live life any other way.

Furthermore, this way of life isn't only intended to conquest mental disorder; it leads to the discovery of one's true self. For example, one must learn to live with one's own unpleasant characteristics. One can life in a way that fits oneself. Of course, "to live life as it is" continues to be necessary in the future; it is a task to be performed the rest of my life.

Toward a solution together

As mentioned above, I now participate in the self-help group of neurotics called the Life Discovery Society learning Moritist thought. Thirteen years have already passed since I began to participate. This activity was my chance to gain basic knowledge about human relations and social interaction. Looking back I see that because of my anthropophobia I lived in an egoistic manner only focusing my attention on myself. I did not know how to help or please others, but always paid attention only to other person's evaluation of me.
So as a leader in the Society meetings I could learn about social relations and develop social skills. Now I understand the Morita way of living better than before, but my desire to do even better is strong, so I think I will continue my study of Morita theory in future.

Judging from what I have so far described, it may seem as though I recovered on my own. It is not easy to overcome neurosis alone. As for me, with the help of my counselors and many companions, I was able to live through the distress of neurosis. Meanwhile, I am inspired by the members my juniors who are learning sincerely even while they have much distress. There was a time when I wondered how nice it would be if I could die, but now I am happy at having received an offering of life, wishing to live out my allotted span. I am now spending my days together with my companions who are recovering thanks to the activities of the Life Discovery Society.


Copyright (C) 1999-2009 The Mental Health Okamoto Memorial Foundation