Tag Archives: fear

Fears and Courage

By Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN

Dance like nobody’s watching
Love like you’ve never been hurt
Sing like nobody’s listening
Live like it’s Heaven on earth

Chances are good that there is something in your life that you would love to do but you’re just too afraid. Perhaps you really want to go to the beach but are afraid to be seen in your swimsuit. Or maybe you want to finally pursue running for a political office but talk yourself out of this action, claiming your’e just being arrogant. Or maybe it’s something more modest, like asking the person you’d like to get to know better to join you for coffee, but you fear rejection.

One of the reasons the above is such a popular poster is because it speaks to the fear we all feel. There are very few among us who do not feel held back in one area or another in life because of fears.

Our fear is actually biologically based. The amygdala in an old part of our brain deve- loped to scare us into staying safe, avoiding risks, dangers or potential adventures. Why? The basic need for survival means we stay safe, secure and alive, at least long enough to procreate so the species will survive. (Remember we’re talking biology here.)

However, the need for freedom and fun/learning comes from the newer part of our brain. These drives contribute to learning, adventuring, and expanding beyond what is known and safe with amazing outcomes for the species and for each person individually. Leaving the comfort of your home enabled you to meet more and different people. You may have discovered how to fly without an airplane by risking down-hill skiing or sailing. And all of our technological advances resulted from brave and courageous people going beyond the boundary of what is safe, secure and known. (Remember the stories you learned about scientist whose ideas were/are criticized for pushing beyond what was/is known?)

Do you consider yourself a courageous person? Being courageous does not mean being fearless. Courage means taking action, stepping forward and speaking up in spite of feeling afraid!


Whether you consider yourself courageous or not, the fact is that you are courageos!
How do I know? Because you could not be living as long as you are, changing, growing and developing to where you are now, without taking risks, accepting adventures and going beyond your previous boundaries. Yes, you may have been frightened. But despite the fear you did it anyway. Remember this the next time you feel too frightened to do something new. You are a successful, courageous adventurer already!

Start improving your Mental Health & Happiness today by taking a risk, accepting the next challenge, stepping into the unknown even though you feel afraid. Change the story in your head convincing you that:

you can’t do it, he/she/they won’t like you
you’re not good enough you might fail.

Start telling your self new stories like:


At first, you may need to counter balance your fearful thoughts with the new, bold thoughts. When you practice enough, you will start replacing the fearful with the courageous more automatically.

Improving your Mental Health & Happiness means you will be:

Dancing whether anyone is watching or not
Loving ferociously and fearlessly
Singing while you listen to your beauty
Living in Heaven here on Earth

Grief, Sadness & Sorrow

By Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN

At this present moment a very dear friend of mine is experiencing the decline and impending death of both of her parents. For her in this moment it seems that these inevitable events are getting closer. Her immediate family, that includes her husband and daughters, are an incredible sources of love, strength and support. But sadly, as is true for too many people, there are other family members who are blaming, shaming and pointing accusatory fingers of guilt as a means of dealing with their own fear and pain.

Although not geographically close, a couple of us who are heart and soul sisters, not blood relatives, are able to be immediately present, comforting and supportive through texting. Who would have guessed that technical advances would lead to this extraordinary gift of presence.

We heart and soul sisters are able to offer the needed compassion not just because we love Annie, but because of our own personal experiences with the death of our own parents. For us the pain of losing our parents is still present, just not so immediate.

What place does grief and sorrow play in Mental Health & Happiness? Can you consider yourself Mentally Healthy & Happy even when feeling sad?

For me being Mentally Healthy & Happy means experiencing a full range of emotions: sadness AND joy, contentment AND dissatisfaction, fear AND faith, peace AND discontent, anger AND pleasure. Being Mentally Healthy & Happy means experiencing the negative emotions, and not staying stuck in them.


If developing and maintaining important, caring and connecting relationships with at least one person is a major contributor to our Mental Health & Happiness, then we are bound to experience profound feelings of loss when these relationships end or change. I still miss both my mother and father every day. At the same time I know that “death ends a life, not a relationship” as Mitch Albom writes in his book “Tuesdays with Morrie.” I continue to maintain a strong relationship with my parents many years after their deaths.

For me, Mental Health & Happiness means I have strategies to deal with my intense negative feelings. I do not fear these negative emotions pretending I don’t experience them. Nor do I need to stay stuck or lost.

Some of these strategies we are sharing with Annie right now are:

Planting both feet solidly on the ground
Taking 4 deep breaths, with eyes closed, arms open wide, expanding heart and gut space with deep inhalation and  blowing out fears, frustrations or just air as you exhale
As you open your eyes repeat your meaningful affirmation All is well, I am well, You are well and so it is that All is well. (Or whatever mantra you create that is meaningful and helpful for you.)

Remember that being Mentally Healthy & Happy does not mean that you are always cheerful, happy and full of sunshine. Being Mentally Health & Happy means that you know, create or learn effective strategies so that when the hard, challenging and stormy life experiences are part of your days, weeks or present moments, you take the time to learn and grow. This too shall pass is true. But imagine seizing even these moments to celebrate the full experience of your life?

My Conversion

by Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN

It was going to be a glorious vacation starting by renting an RV in Phoenix, then traveling to the Grand Canyon and Zion National Park, we would camp, hike and experience the wide, wild western part of our country. Our plan was to head back to Phoenix and return home two weeks later.

Three weeks later my husband, 9-year old twin sons and I were safely back in Rhode Island. We had lots of glorious photographs and fantastic memories. The only problem was my vacation included utter terror and abject fear. Did you know that there are no guard rails on the winding, steep high ways through the glorious National Parks of the Grand Canyon and Zion? Did you know that sitting in the front passenger seat of an RV means you are sitting in an incredible tall place where you can look down into the sheer drop so easily visible? Did you know that I am a very imaginative person who spent too many hours visualizing the mis-calculations of my husband’s driving that would lead to the death and distraction of us all? I begged, pleaded, yelled and finally got on the floor of the RV pounding my fists and kicking my legs in a full blown temper tantrum asking him to PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE SLOW DOWN!!!!

Several years later we were planning another similar trip in and RV, this time to visit Glacier National Park in Montana. In addition to all the planning, organizing and arranging necessary for the trip, I was determined to change my terrorizing ways. After all, no one else experienced the same panic that I had. My challenge was to manage my fear without trying to manage my husband who was a perfectly safe and competent driver. But how? I considered medication, but did not want to feel foggy, dopey and out of it for our family vacation. Then I remembered what I knew about behavior, and total behavior.

Our behavior includes acting/thinking/feeling/physiology-ing. These four component work in harmony and simultaneously. I also knew from my nursing background that the physiology-ing of fear is the same as the physiology-ing of excitement. The difference between these two total behaviors is the thinking component. Yes! I needed to change the imaginative story I was telling myself.

I practiced for weeks before our flight west to Montana. We’re going on an exciting adventure that will include new experiences and sights! I’m so excited! This became my mantra whenever I thought of our trip, whether I was telling the story to someone else or thinking and planning on my own. Once we got into the RV and started driving on the first highway, I changed what I told myself slightly. We are on our great adventure. I can’t wait for all the new experiences and sights! This is exciting! Every evening I wrote all I had experienced, seen and been excited about in my gratitude journal. I repeated this mantra as many times as I got “nervous” instead of excited. I repeated this every time I say or did anything exciting. I repeated this mantra frequently and often. I was having a great adventure.

Success! Taking control of changing the story I told myself allowed me to convert my terror and panic. I genuinely enjoyed a family vacation which was a great adventure, filled with excitement, extraordinary sights and wonderful family fun and experiences.

Negotiated Differences

By:  Maria E Trujillo alias Manual DeVie

It’s hard for me to believe I lived this story. My new level of mental health and happiness amazes me. Even though it may sound like an “infomercial,” but to this day being able to handle the scariest phone call of my life was worth every cent I paid for my choice theory psychology training!

prisonA fellow inmate from the same prison where my son was incarcerated called me at home. He told me my son owed him money for a tattoo he had given my son. If I didn’t send the money he said he was going to beat up my son.

To say that my scales were out of balance is an understatement. I felt powerless, then suspicious. I had become familiar with these kinds of scams. I also knew that if I let my emotions lead this conversation I would remain powerless.

The only thing I had control of was choosing my words and reactions wisely. I knew this man was trying to manipulate my emotions. He had an expectation of how a mom would typically react.

I chose an unexpected route. I chose some carefully posed questions to ask him, leading him to think about and evaluate his moneymaking scheme.

Oddly, and to my great relief, our conversation ended on friendly terms.


I had reached a new and unexpected level of mental health and happiness.

Why Worry – Be Happy

By Dr. Nancy Buck

Drag your thoughts away from your troubles – by the ears, by the heels, or any other way, so you manage it. —  Mark Twain

Most of what we worry about doesn’t ever happen. One joke exclaims: “Worrying works. 90% of what I worry about never happens.”

The problem is that worrying robs you of your present moments, your current life, the joy or sorrow of ordinary moments that are your current life.

Worrying keeps you from being mentally healthy and happy.

You are not to blame. Our brain is wired to pay attention to the scary things. Our brain needed to inform our ancestors that the pretty kitty just out the cave was a lion, not a potential house pet. Thus we began worrying about potential dangers. Worrying is a way to anticipate possible dangers so we can problem-solve our way around or through the problems.

But worrying can become a bad habit. Just like your tongue seems to go to the new broken tooth in your mouth involuntarily, worrying is a thought your mind keeps going back to, over and over and over again.

The great news is that we have control over what we think about. No one can make you think of anything that you do not want to. Victor Fankl gave us the most profound example of this reality in his book Mans Search for Meaning. As a prisoner in the Nazi concentration camp he realized that his captors could never control his mind or his thoughts.

If this was true for Frankl in the most severe circumstances, it can be true for you as well. But it will take vigilant practice on your part.

Step 1. Pay attention to what you are thinking about. You need to catch yourself thinking the worrying thought as it is happening:

  •             What will my future be with this diagnosis? Will I live? Will I be in constant pain?
  •             She doesn’t love me anymore. What will I do? She doesn’t love me anymore.
  •             How can we find the money to meet our obligations? Will we lose our home?

If you don’t know what your repeated worry is, start listening to your thoughts. It might help to write your worries down so you will recognize them when they chime into other thoughts taking over all the room in your head.

Step 2. Decide ahead of time what you are going to “switch to” when you find yourself going back over and over again to your worry. For some this can be a meditative image, seeing the scene with great detail in vivid colors. Or you might sing a song, especially one with up-beat lyrics. Or you might repeat a favorite affirmation, or prayer. Practice this alternative thinking now, while you are not worrying. Practice, practice and practice this some more.

Step 3. When you catch yourself worrying, “switch to” your alternative thought.

Step 4. Repeat as often and frequently as necessary.

With practice you will decrease your worrying time allowing room for other, brighter and better thoughts. You can develop a different and better mental health and happiness thinking habit.

However, for you champion worriers, you will need to keep up this practice as new worries will replace old worries that you are letting go of. You need to practice, practice, practice switching your thinking until it becomes a new habit, replacing your habit of worrying thoughts as your new touch stone.

Don’t worry. Be happy.





Feel what you’re feeling!

 By Dr. Ken Larsen

Helping a person get free of the sometimes paralyzing phantom of fear conjured up by their own imagination is a wonderful thing to experience.  Mental health and happiness requires us to come to grips with the reality of the difficult things in life.  Recently I heard a phrase that seemed to be very wise.  The phrase was “urge surfing.”  This phrase describes how a feeling that we don’t want, like a craving or an unwarranted fear, comes at us like a wave.  What can you do to stop a wave?  You can’t. You can watch it rise up and then ebb away, like the receding tide.  This requires us to have the courage to feel what we are feeling so that we can learn how to deal with it.

When I was still practicing dentistry I would often invite a patient to “fegirl2el what you’re feeling.” I was looking to bring them to an awareness of what is actually happening in the here and now.  I wanted to help the person to not think about what they were afraid they might experience and focus on what was actually happening in the present reality.  Sometimes I would simply touch the person and ask them what they felt.  They would then report what they felt from my touch.  I would then invite them to stay in that place of awareness, total focused on what is happening here and now.

This often preceded the dreaded “shot” of local anesthetic.  It is so satisfying to be with a person who is able to shift from their fearful thoughts to being here now, experiencing what is actually happening and not what they are afraid might happen.  I would then ask them to focus on what they are feeling so completely so they can describe it to me afterwards.  I encouraged them to be as detailed and precise as they were able.   The clincher came when I asked them after the experience what they felt.  The usual responses were “I didn’t feel a thing,” to a “I felt a little stick and some pressure.”  We then talk about the experience.  I usually say something like, “Was that a manageable experience?”  And most often they answer with something like, “It wasn’t at all what I was expecting,” or “it wasn’t anything like I was afraid I’d feel.”

More and more we are learning that our thinking patterns are what are disturbing to us.  This bit of wisdom:   Pain x resistance=suffering  speaks to how ineffective it is to resist what we feel.  We can’t make it go away, and we make it worse by trying to fight it.  What we resist persists.

Falling Apart

By Dr. Nancy Buck

My life was falling apart. My husband of 24 years left, saying he wasn’t sure he wanted to be married to me anymore. He needed time on his own to figures things out. My twin sons had left for college. The family dog ran away.

I was alone in our home, but there was no more “our” or “we.” Was there even a home anymore?

I didn’t know what to do. Crying didn’t help. Talking with my sisters and friends gave me only temporary relief.

Day after heart breaking day, the sadness, isolation, failure and oppression was unbearable.

My lifeline, it turned out, was my journal. Every morning I wrote my three morning pages. Every evening I listed five things I was grateful for. Most days my gratitudes consisted of:

1.    I am breathing in

2.    I am breathing out

3.    I am breathing in

4.    I am breathing out

5.    I am breathing in and out

The lessons I learned during that time were many. The most important lesson was to keep breathing no matter what.

You never know what might happen next, what internal strength will be discovered, and what gifts will be revealed in the next moment.

And if you don’t keep breathing you never will know.

So keep breathing, in and out, in and out, in and out.