Category Archives: Fear

Fear: Part 1

by Barnes Boffey, Ed.D

Director of Training, Aloha Foundation… www.alohafoundation.org

When I hear people saying that I am “overwhelmed by fear” or “I can’t face the fear,” or “the fear is terrible,” I know they are only making things worse by the manner in which they are perceiving “fear.” They have a perception that there is something called “fear” out there and that that fear is somehow attacking them or burdening them by coming into their lives. Fear is not outside us; fear is inside us. Fear is an emotion we create when we look at the world and begin to tell ourselves stories about what we see. “I won’t be ok,” I’ll never figure this out,” “I’ll lose what I have and not get what I want,” are all messages that create the emotion of fear with in us.

If we can begin to own the fear and understand we are creating it, we can take steps to change what we are doing rather than trying to change something outside us which was never at fault to begin with. We can stop dealing with fear as though it is a commodity and some kind of external entity, and start telling ourselves things like.” I am creating a lot of fear in this situation.” or “When I look at the future, I start to fear what might happen;” we can begin to take more effective control of our emotional state. This does not mean that we can just easily change from “fearing” to creating other emotions like “faithing,” or “being brave” or being courageous with the snap of our fingers, but we can begin the process and decrease the amount of fear we are creating.

Fear is not an irrational emotion. What is often irrational and destructive is the amount of fear we create in situations which are not as threatening as we think they are. There are “healthy fears” and “unhealthy fears.” Trying to determine which is which and then create the appropriate amount of fear is never easy, but always worth it.

Stigma? What stigma?

By Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN

Happiness is the highest form of health. — Dalai Llama

Once upon a time there was a belief that people with mental illness were looked down upon, seen as having character flaws and an willingness to work hard enough to fit in and get along. So the powers that be (who are those people?) decided that there was a big stigma for people suffering with mental illness and that the stigma prevented people from getting the help that they needed. These folks considered what could be done to eliminate this stigma. The hope was that making a change could mean that more people might be more willing to get needed help.

How could this be accomplished?

Change the name of mental illness to mental health!

Yes, that’s right. The depth of the solution was simply to change the words used to describe the “condition.” What happened is that the words mental health are now used to describe mental illness or mental disturbance. AND there is still a very large stigma attached with these words: mental health.

canstockphoto13026221Mental health is now understood to mean mental illness and mental disturbance. People are still seriously slow, reluctant or completely refuse to get the help they so sorely need. Associating the words “mental health problems” with the many mass shootings does not help either.

There are some serious aspects to the complex issues regarding mental illness needing to be addressed not the least of which is stigma. The  entire “science” of mental illness is seriously questionable. (Want to understand this more? Please refer to the extensive research and study  in the books by Terry Lynch and Robert Whitaker.*) The National Institute of Mental Health – please read this as The National Institute of Mental Illness since what is described on their website is a wide range of mental illnesses, and nothing about health – has finally acknowledge that there is no “chemical imbalances in the brain” for those suffering from mental illness. Brain chemical imbalance was a false claim started by drug companies as a marketing ploy — and sadly a very successful campaign.

The irony is that present times insist on evidence based practices. And yet the preponderance of research, done by the psychiatric community and drug companies themselves point to the evidence that medication has temporary, short term positive results ending with long term disasters for people’s lives. (Again please refer to the books cited at the end of this article. Rick Hansen made note of this during his recent interview on Mental Health & Happiness 2015 Summit).

Changing attitudes, beliefs, and stigma about anything is not an easy process. Making these kinds of changes for mental illness is no exception. Much more needs to be done rather than the simple solution of changing a name. (The recent upgrade for mental health is the change to call it behavioral health.) Changes that include honest representation of what is known and not known about mental illness would help. Sharing honest information about the short term and long term effects of medication would also help.

And there is one more action that each one of us can take. Stop using mental health or behavioral health when what you mean is mental illness and mental disturbance. Making the term mental health interchangeable with mental illness has done nothing to eliminate stigma. But if we all start using the term Mental Health & Happiness to mean just that perhaps people suffering with mental illness and mental disturbance will have a goal to aim for.

As the Dalai Llama tells us Happiness is the highest from of health.

*Depression Delusion, Volume one: The myth of the Brain Chemical Imbalance, Terry Lynch

Anatomy of an Epidemic, Robert Whitaker

Mad in America, Robert Whitaker

Crisis Intervention

By Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN

Do you know what to do during a crisis? The crisis can be as simple as an overflowing toilet, or as perilous as receiving life-threatening health news with many other possibilities in between.

Here are a couple of definitions for crisis. A crisis is defined as a time when we are faced with some circumstance, news, or event that we have never been faced with before. A crisis can also include being faced with an event, circumstance or news that is similar to a previous experience, but our usual problem solving and coping strategies don’t work to solve the problem.

If you’ve ever had the unhappy experience of an overflowing toilet then you probably already know how to cope. But what if your usual strategies and problem solving steps don’t work? Now your toilet continues to overflow, pouring out more and more water so that your bathroom begins to flood. If you don’t know what to do besides what you have already done and you still are not having success dealing with the water and impending flood then you are in a crisis.

The Chinese symbols for our single English word crisis are two side by side symbols meaning opportunity and danger. In other words, a crisis is a potentially dangerous time AND a time where opportunities for change are most pregnant.

moneyworries-17561129

Normally when a person is faced with a problem that is not solved using their usual strategies, or a new problem needing some resolution and solution there is also an increase urgency to act quickly! This urge to DO SOMETHING NOW in fact can be counter-productive during a crisis. But it is hard for your logical mind to over rule you emotionally driven desire for quick action and positive results!

A crisis ends in one of three ways:

  1.               A person may be no better off, nor worse off once the crisis has resolve.
  2.              Or a person may be better off with improvement in herself, her life, or both once the crisis has resolved.
  3.              Or the quality of a person’s life may be worse following the crisis than it was before the crisis began.

Here are some simple (but not necessarily easy) steps to follow when you are faced with any crisis:

  1. SLOW DOWN! Take enough time to breath in and breath out for at least 30 – 60 seconds, telling your self to go slow. There are a few times and crisis when                       taking quick and immediate action is necessary. But there are far more problems         and crisis where there is enough time to go slower and slowly with more                           beneficial results and outcomes.
  1. Clearly define the problem. This includes clearly defining how the world would be if the problem was solved.

                                    What do you want? 

  1. List all steps you have already taken to solve the problem and have the world as you want it to be.

What are you doing now to get what you want? 

  1. Evaluate the effectiveness of these present problem solving strategies.

Is what Im doing working? 

  1. Brainstorm ALL possible additional solutions. Get help from wherever you can if you can think of no additional options.
  1. Choose the best options from the brainstorm list and make a plan to solve the problem and achieve your hope for results using other strategies and solutions.
  1. Evaluated the effectiveness of new plan.
  1. Repeat steps 5-7 until your problem is solved, or your crisis is resolved.

Aiming to resolve the crisis where you are at least as Mentally Happy & Healthy               as you were prior to the crisis is the minimal goal.

This simple (but not necessarily easy) process will help to solve many problems and resolve many crises. You can test this out by simply reviewing a recent problem that you solved or crisis that you handled. Aren’t these the very steps that you took?

Are you facing a present problem or crisis? Try following the above strategy and see if it actually is helpful.

There is one more blog to be written offering more ideas and help when dealing with a crisis or problem. This will include a few more strategies than this step-by-step process.

For now see if you can improve your Mental Health & Happiness by using your coping strategies to help decrease your upset enough to follow this process. Then follow these steps.

Run from the fire or reach for the stars

By Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN

What best describes you?  Do you run from the fire or reach for the stars?

When you spend your time running from the fire the energy propelling you is sourced from fear and pain. You are attempting to avoid getting burned, or alleviate the pain and fear of more pain. In order to keep going on this path you need to keep “re-fearing” yourself by reminding yourself of what can and may happen. It is stress, fear, and a whole lot of negative energy detracting from your Mental Health & Happiness that’s propelling your action.

meme-reachforstars

When you reach for the stars the energy propelling you comes from inspiration. This means you’ve identified what you really want, what your quality world picture or pictures are. You are driven with inspired energy. This doesn’t mean life is stress free but it does mean the energy is uplifting and hopeful, filled with possibilities of dreams coming true. This energy keeps you going, enhancing your Mental Health & Happiness.

Some say when setting your goals you should ask yourself if your goal is realistic. Hmm, seems like that question contains not only realism but also doubt and potential fears.

Imagine if Columbus had asked himself if his dream of finding a shorter sea path to the Orient was realistic. Imagine what Martin Luther King might have done differently if he had asked if his dream was realistic. Imagine what might have happened if Rosa Parks asked if sitting in the white section of the bus was a realistic or good idea. Had any one of these people been driven by their fear instead of their dream to reach for the stars our world would be very different.

Imagine how your life could change if you reached for your star, inspired by what you want rather than what is realistic. If you are willing to let dreams inspire you rather than relying on an internal energy to avoid fear, not only will your Mental Health & Happiness improve, you just might change the world too.

Creativity & Madness

By Michael Rice, LISAC, CTRTC

The 1960 movie, “The Magnificent Seven” was a box office hit staring Yul Brynner, playing the role of Chris Adams, and Steve McQueen, playing the role of Vin Tanner.  In one of the scenes, actor Eli Wallach, playing the role of Calvera, a Mexican bandit who was terrorizing a Mexican town’s inhabitants, asked Steve McQueen:

Calvera: What I don’t understand is why a man like you took the job (freeing the town) in the first place, hmm? Why, huh?
Chris: I wonder myself.
Calvera: No, come on, come on, tell me why.
Vin: It’s like a fellow I once knew in El Paso. One day, he just took all his clothes off and jumped in a mess of cactus. I asked him that same question, “Why?”
Calvera: And?
Vin: He said, “It seemed to be a good idea at the time.”

How many times have you found yourself having done something that afterwards you asked yourself, “Why the hell did I do that?”  Looking back on it, you are amazed that you would have chosen to have done such a thing.  Your thoughts might be:  “Boy, was THAT ever stupid,” or “I can’t believe I did that.”

I recall a time many years ago when I dove head first into a water fountain in the town’s roundabout while wearing a 3 piece suit.  I wasn’t in conflict or frustrated at the time.  I was merely under the influence.  Alcohol can make one really stupid. After landing on my head and sitting in a lot of water with blood running down my face, I never once thought it was a good idea at the time.  I just always wanted to do that after years of driving around that fountain for years.  However, I do recall thinking to myself after I did it, “What a (blanking) dumb thing to do.”But that’s not the kind of dumb choices I wish to describe.

I’m referring to the times when you were under extreme duress and felt like you had no place to turn.  A few examples might be:  Going through a divorce or breakup; losing a job with no prospects for work due to your age; the death of a child or some other loved one; feeling you can’t please someone who is putting demands or expectations on you; someone who is behaving in a way in which you disapprove; someone dear to you who is nagging, complaining, blaming, criticizing, threatening, punishing, or even bribing you to get you to do something they wanted you to do that you didn’t want to do or didn’t know how to do it.

The reason why you may have ever done something “crazy” was because, at the time, it seemed like a good idea.  When faced with a particular situation in which you have no prior experience, and after all your efforts to resolve it with all of the tools you have learned to use in the past have failed, you get creative. . .  you devise new ways to resolve your unhappiness that you have never used before.  Your unhappiness may be so frustrating that any new idea that you devise, regardless of how insensible it may be, seemed like a good idea at the time.  Everything you had tried, so far, was unsuccessful in making your perceived unhappy situation match the happy image of what you wanted in your Quality World.

When we run out of choices, we create new choices.  

Many times, we look back on those choices and say, “That was a really dumb thing to do.”  But at the time, in your frustration, it made perfectly good sense.  You had to try it.  You never thought of it before.   Maybe, just maybe, it would work.  Then to make it even worse when it failed, someone says to you, “Just what the hell were you thinking?” canstockphoto0527001

Being too embarrassed to admit to our perceived stupidity, we reply, “Sheesh.  I don’t know.  I must have been out of my mind,” to which the other person is more than happy to agree.  But now, we have an excuse.  We were temporarily out of our right mind and not stupid.

I am often asked, “what about those people who keep doing crazy things over and over, like Obsessive Compulsive behaviors, anxiety, depression, schizophrenic behaviors of hearing and seeing things that aren’t there?”  People do what works to ease their unhappiness, in some way or another, or they wouldn’t do them.  You just don’t see the how or the why of it.

These behaviors serve to ease their frustrations, even just a little bit, because they have learned that if they didn’t do them, their unhappiness and frustration would be much more intense than it is. Their seemingly crazy behaviors are the result of their creativity to find something that works.  All they know is that when they do them, they feel better than when they don’t do them.  Whatever their unhappiness or frustration is, it is something that is occurring right now, in this present time.  And if it has been a long term pattern of behavior, it will be found to have roots in an unsatisfying relationship with someone important to them.  Very few situations arise in our lives that lead to depression or anger that don’t involve conflict with someone important in our lives (including conflict with ourselves).

Remember your state of mind when you chose to do something that seemed like a good idea at the time that now, in retrospect, was totally out of character for you to have done?  More than likely, your frustration at that time didn’t last for any long term of several months or more and you got your senses back.  But think about the person whose frustration has been an ongoing for many months or perhaps years.  The behaviors that you see as mental illness in others are no different than the behavior you exhibited during your own frustration.  The only difference is that you may have found a more socially acceptable way to deal with it than they have.  While you may not hear voices, hallucinate, or shoot people, you may be depressing, anxieting, obsessing, bipolarizing, and/or resorting to drugs, alcohol, indiscriminant sex, gambling, or excessive spending.

Regardless of the behavior, it is still the result of a person’s creativity to deal with unhappiness and frustration of trying to control things that are beyond their control.  It will mostly be the result of an unsatisfying relationship with an important person in their life. When someone fails time after time to get their happiness needs met, they discover or create the first behavior that affords them some modicum of relief.

Once a person comes to the reality that there is nothing they can do to change another person and they eventually accept their situation as “it is what it is,” and by no longer trying to get what they can’t make happen; by no longer wanting what it is that they have been striving to make happen will they no longer have a need to rely on the behaviors they have developed to ease their frustration and unhappiness.

Who was/is the person with whom you were/are not having the relationship that you wanted to have when you jumped into the cactus patch?  You weren’t (aren’t) mentally ill.  You were/are not as mentally healthy as you could be. You were emotionally upset and seeking relief or resolution.  Since there is no medical, bio-pathological cause of what is being labeled as “mental illness,” there is no pharmaceutical cure for unhappiness.    Change what you want or change how you behave when you don’t get what you want.  There are no other successful or effective ways.

 

Kindness

By Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN

Kindness is a language which the dumb can speak, the deaf can understand C.N. Bone

Today Im feeling overwhelmed. The news tells us of an angry man who states he was not raised by racists, but independently found answers on the Internet that led him to believe killing people because of the color of their skin was the answer to the worlds troubles. Perhaps it is reasonable to surmise that he believed this would be the answer to his own personal troubles.

Almost immediately the news tells us that family members of the slain nine who prayed with this young man before he shot them in cold blood have forgiven this man. This is such an extraordinary act of love and kindness that it is beyond my imagining.

What follows this act are the same arguments in todays news headlines, just are they have been so often:

People cry out for gun control!

We need more focus on mental health issues! (Please read this as mental illness, not mental health.)

If the people had carried guns in church this never would have happened.

What do you mean we have race relations troubles? This was an isolated case!

Amazingly there has also been swift action in many southern states. The confederate flag is being removed from public and government office buildings and spaces. Even Walmart is removing the sale of products that display this flag.

One small step. Years and years and years for this action to become a reality.

Could it be that this is an act of kindness? Is it possible that some are changing their opinions and points of view?

My own personal solution, the strategy I turn to for help with my personal Mental Health & Happiness right now is to search for and discover all the many acts of love and kindness committed by many people. My search includes the citizens of South Carolina as well as in my own city. There are people I meet and greet daily who are loving and kind toward me and others.

My challenge is to regularly commit acts of love and kindness. When others are looking to see where there are people committing acts of love and kindness, not acts of hate and terror, I want to be one of the people they discover. I want to help spread more love and kindness in the world.

For me, love and kindness are the answers to the worlds troubles. For me, love and kindness are the answers to my own troubles. For me, love and kindness are the direct path to Mental Health & Happiness.

Choose FEAR or Love

By Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN

choicesRight now, at this very moment I am standing at a crossroads. As I look in one direction I see doom, peril and potential ruination. In the other direction I see nothing. It’s as if vaseline is over my eyes and I cannot see anything except blurry blobs of ill defined shapes and sizes.

I blame myself for being in this predicament. If I had done a better job of paying closer attention perhaps I could have taken steps to avoid arriving at this particular spot in my life’s journey.

Hold on though. I am not a careless person. Each decision I’ve made along the way was based on doing the best I could at the time with the information that I had. Hmm . . .

I’m discovering that too frequently I blame myself for circumstances, events and outcomes that were not dependent only on my actions or inactions. If blaming is among the deadly habits that contribute to the deterioration and destruction of relationships, how does my blaming myself help me? Hmm . . .

Am I willing to dig a little deeper? Instead of going to self-blame can I better understand my frustration, anger and confusion?

Upon further reflection and some helpful meditative reading I discover that I’m full of fear! If I wasn’t afraid would I be stuck at the crossroads?

Here are some discoveries that have helped me:

FEAR = thinking + time. Decrease either and fear disappears

                                    F.E.A.R. – FORGET EVERYTHING AND RUNor

                                                     FORGET EVERYTHING AND RISE

                                                                                    (Thank you Dave Romanelli for this idea

Happy is the new Healthy, 2014)

What if I face my crossroads, my potential peril, doom or ruination with love instead of fear? Now what?

Yes! Yes! Yes! The choice of direction is clear even though the clarity has not eliminated the blurred and unclear road before me. With love as the guiding light and my total behavior of loving in every step I am propelled forward with confidence and competence.

I choose LOVE and with that choice my Mental Health & Happiness improves. Even though the present “bump in the road” felt more like an overwhelming and insurmountable mountain, with each loving step I am able to continue moving forward.

Are there areas in your life where you’re choosing fear instead of love?

 

Boundaries

By Paulette Murray, Post Grad Degree DCU, Ireland, OL Degree, Ucc Ireland

Boundaries are the way I know where I stop and you begin.
We need boundaries in every relationship.
To live in a relationship without boundaries is like trying
to drive down the freeway with your eyes closed in a snowstorm.
                                                            Marie Fortune

Years ago as an anxious parent of my young children I was afraid to have boundaries between myself and the people I loved most in the world. My fears were all about what ifs.

What if having boundaries meant that I didn’t protect my children? Did having boundaries mean that I wasn’t a good Mum? What if my children got hurt? What if  I neglected to know everything necessary to keep these precious children safe?

Until I learned how to meet my needs in an empowering way I felt as though I was driving down the freeway with my eyes closed in some very cold snowstorms.

Now, in the present as my fourth child is leaving the nest heading to University for the first time I’m glad I finally gained the courage and knowledge to create healthy boundaries between me and my children.

canstockphoto14163467How did I do it? It took a lot of self control and a lot of mindful breathing to control my anxieties.

I let them lead. I supported each as independent choices were made.

I listened to disappointments when one child didn’t get what he wanted, or when another was unhappy when someone behaved differently from how she believed he should have.

I let them learn. I allowed them to grow and become the truly mature young adults that they have chosen to become.

I learned to trust in me and them. As a result they in turn have learned to trust themselves.

Now our eyes are wide open.  Now we are driving down the freeway  of life gazing at the beautiful landscape that is our family and our family’s journey.

Comparing your insides with others’ outsides

by Dr. Ken Larsen

insides_kenI’ve been with Toastmasters for a couple of years.  One of the most frequently reported reasons for joining Toastmasters is to overcome the fear of speaking in public.

After hearing person after person report the same fear, I began to see this as a “normal” response.

Then when I see the frequently reported hierarchy of fears, with public speaking ranked above death, I am once again convinced this is a normal reaction.

Don’t misunderstand me.  Just because I see it as “normal”, (which is actually a statistical term not a psychological description,)   I wonder just what causes this nearly universal terror that seriously afflicts the mental health and happiness of many.  Especially five minutes before giving a talk in front of others.

I have a suspicion, however, that one cause of this terror is the conviction that to be afraid of public speaking is NOT normal, and it is a sign of weakness or some character flaw.  This is often triggered by seeing an apparently confident speaker seem immune to stage fright, giving a relaxed talk with no evidence of nervousness.

This is what I call comparing your insides with someone else’s outsides.

The fact of the matter is we don’t know what is going on inside the seemingly confident person.  I remember Johnny Carson talking about his anxiety before giving his nightly monologue.  And this was after decades in broadcasting.

Bruce Springsteen talks about using the energy of the pre-performance jitters to push his performance to a higher level.

I believe that once we accept the fact that just about everyone else has the same butterflies before a performance, we can settle down, accept our jitters, and move on.

Buddhists have an interesting insight into suffering from an affliction.  There is the affliction itself, such as fear of speaking, and then there is what is called “the second arrow”.  This second arrow is when we add to our affliction by thinking of ourselves as weak, or inferior, or in some way different than the rest of our species.

If we will choose to avoid this “second arrow” of self-blame, we can focus on doing what others have done before us.  Feel what you’re feeling, understand it for what it is, and then move beyond it.

This is an important part of our ongoing quest for mental health and happiness.

It’s Scary Out There

By Michael Rice

scaryoutthere_mikericeSeveral years ago, when I had become a first-time parent, my son of age 4 was going through that stage of development that Judith Viorst refers to as Separation-Individuation.   Chris had already learned the first separation stage when he learned how to walk and was able to go where he wanted to go and not where others wanted him to go.  He had also learned a few years prior how to say “no” to indicate his own wants.  Yet he was still not very much aware that he needed his parents in order to survive.  He wanted to test his independence.

One night, as I was putting him to bed, he said something, which I don’t precisely recall, that indicated that he wanted to go out in the world on his own.  It was just a matter-of-fact statement he made and not one of defiance or anger.  I played along with him and asked, “Are you sure this is what you want to do?”  In his little boy voice and a nod of the head in replied, “uh huh.”  So I got his little travel case out of his closet and he and I began to pick out the clothes he thought he might want to pack for his trip out into the world.  He was very serious and seemed determined to follow through on his desire to find his own way in his own world.

We headed for the front door.  It was night so I turned on the porch light and opened the door.  Continuing to play along, I said, “Be sure to let us know where you will settle down and if you need anything, just ask, okay?  Write or call us when you find work.”  He stepped out into the darkness and I closed the door behind him yet keeping an eye on him where he couldn’t see me.

He looked around without looking back and it began to dawn on him that he had nowhere to go and no way of getter anywhere.  He sat down on the porch stoop next to his little suitcase and just looked out into the darkness for several minutes.   At the same time, I was struck with a terribly sad emotion relating to exactly what he must be feeling at this moment:  Fear and the sudden realization that he didn’t have anyone to help him as he looked into the dark abyss that awaited him. He was alone. . . a dreadful feeling for a very young child.  I was feeling it too.  He was learning that he wasn’t quite as separated and individuated from his parents as he thought.  And I, too, was realizing that I was feeling the fear of becoming separated from him . . . and not willing to do so.

I opened the door and said something to the effect of, “It’s pretty scary out there isn’t it?”  He agreed and I said, “Why don’t you come back in where it’s not so dark and scary.  I’m glad you came back.”  He came back in the house and we went back to his bedroom and I got him ready for bed and tucked him in.  I was sure glad to have him back home even though I knew he wasn’t going to go very far.

While it has been over 35 years since this happened, I remember it like it was yesterday.  In fact, I couldn’t help but recall the emotions I had at that time while writing this story.  A lump came up in my throat and tears welled up in my eyes.

Several more stages of separation-individuation occur in development that includes adolescence, college/military, and marriage and families of their own.  While it is true that our children grow up too fast, the best memories tend to be those that we have from the early years with them.  Those memories and our children are marvels to behold that will always bring joy and recollection of happy and loving times.