Thursday, February 5, 2009

Several years ago I read a book by a PH.D. Psychologist, Dr.Susan Jeffers, called "Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway." I have suggested this book to many people that I have seen over the years in my private practice as a Psychologist.

There seems to be a widespread avoidance of feeling our fear in our culture. I have heard people say "I am afraid to feel my fear." My belief, similar, to Dr. Jeffers, is that we need to reconnect with our fear. We need to feel our fear and do it anyways. I believe that we avoid making decisions that might require us to feel our fear. For example, a woman who is unwilling to make a decision to leave her abusive partner may be afraid that he will retaliate against her or she may be afraid to be on her own financially or emotionally. Or a young man may be unwilling to leave a dead-end job because he is afraid that he will not find another job or he is afraid to try something new. A man who suffers from depression will not go to the doctor to have his condition confirmed because he is too fearful to have to deal with the potential diagnosis. A young person may be unwilling to leave home because they are very dependent on their parents and venturing out on their own is just too fearful. They may fear that they cannot make it on their own. And this fear is justifiable because the truth is that this person may not be able to make it on their own. They may in fact fail to live independently. So I believe that we avoid making decisions and choices for ourselves because we also fear failure. Why do we have such a fear of failure in our culture?

I have avoided facing my failures, focusing instead on the things that I have done well. Or at least when I have viewed my failures, I have done so with a lot of self-judgment about what I could have or should have done differently. It was not until recently that I realized that I was living a fairly constricted and safe lifestyle that did not leave a lot of room for taking many personal and professional risks because I was so afraid of failing. Life started to feel really safe and also very dry and deadening. So I set about facing my past failures and as I did this I started to live life more fully and I started to take more risks and as I did this, I also learned that I could fail and pick myself up and dust myself off and start again.

There is probably not a person on this planet that has not had their fair share of failures. Now, when I say that I have failed, I do not say this with anymore with any sense of judgement. I do not judge my failures now, rather I allow and express the feelings of sadness or other feelings that often accompany the acceptance of my failures. I loved hearing Barack Obama taking responsibility last week for his mistakes in handling the tax controversy that led to Tom Daschle's withdrawal as Obama's nominee to be health and human services secretary, saying, that "I screwed up." These three words were music to my ears. We finally have a president that is willing to admit that he made a mistake. It is such a liberating notion that someone in his position of power could actually acknowledge his mistakes/failures. He is modeling a new way of being through his admission of failure. Once we admit our mistakes and start taking personal responsibility for our part in whatever happens, only then, can we change. We cannot change when we blame someone else for what happened to us, this just keeps us safe and stuck and pointing our finger at someone else. A personal teacher of mine once taught me that when you point a finger at someone else, there are three fingers pointing back at you.

We cannot expect our partner, if he or she is abusive, to stop abusing us. We must take action to protect ourselves and leave the relationship if we do not want to be abused. We cannot expect our depression to lift unless we take some action to go to the doctor to have our condition diagnosed and to get medication if that is what is best for us. And I have been clinically depressed, so I know from personal experience the energy that it takes to get up and get dressed and get yourself out there to get some help. So for those of you who are saying 'oh she makes it sound so easy or she has no idea what it is like to shut yourself off from the world,' well I do. And I also know how good it feels to have faced my fears and left the sanctity of my home and to be on the other side of depression. If we are young and we have moved out of our parents' home and we are struggling to make ends met, maybe, we need to admit our failure and ask ourselves what do we need to do now. And maybe this includes moving back to mom and dad's home or maybe this involves getting a part-time job to pay the bills. Whatever action we decide to take must be done by feeling our fear about changing and do it anyways.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

This is my first posting on my blog and I wanted to share with you an article that I read recently about a teen who overdosed on pills while a webcam followed his every move live over the Internet.
This young 19 year old, Abraham Biggs, had written that he was in love with a girl and he posted a suicide note saying that he did not feel worthy of her and he stated that "My life has all been meaningless". Then , a webcam caught him swallowing a handful of pills. He then lay down on his bed while the overdose of benzodiazipines and opiates worked their way through his system. He was apparently taking medication to treat his bipolar disorder. This college student was found dead 12 hours later after first posting his suicide note.
What is so distressing about this incident is that approximately 1,500 people tuned in to watch this event unfold. In fact, many people wrote to Abraham as he lay dying, saying things like "Stop giving the attention whore what he wanted". Finally someone called into the website's moderator and the police were called, but it was too late. Apparently Abraham had tried to kill himself before and so many people on line believed that he was crying wolf and did nothing to intervene.
I remember as a young and naive Psychology major studying a phenonmenon known as 'bystander apathy". To study this issue, graduate students conducted experiments where they had a man fall over on a busy downtown street and pretend to be dying. The experiementers' results indicated that everyone simply walked over the man or walked around the man and no-one stopped to help the man in distress. The reasons that people cited for not stopping to help the 'dying' man was they did not want to get involved because they may be blamed for contributing to the death of the man. Some people said that they thought that the man was faking his illness. Some people did not even see the man lying on the ground.
I felt sad as I read this article about the death of this young man and wondered aloud if I would have done something had I seen his suicide unfold on the internet. I would like to think that I would have called in and alerted someone or would I too have thought that he had staged his suicide and merrily gone along my way.
Have a Happy Holiday season and if we see someone in distress over the holiday season, perhaps we could stop and see if they need our help.