Welcome to DrLouOnline

Rosemary asks Dr. Lou

Hello Everyone,

What makes you laugh?  Laughter can be great medicine.  I remember one of my clients said he would watch a half hour of comedy central every day as part of his treatment for overcoming depression.  Try it sometime!!

Thanks for sending in your questions and topics of interest.  The response has been great.

The first one comes from Rosemary.  She asks, “If most of my anxiety is fear-based, how do you make friends with the fear?”

This is a great question because the answer lies within it.  If you are friends with something, it implies that you are not afraid of it.  It also implies that you would be accepting.  When we are afraid we often avoid whatever we fear.  That makes sense right?  If I am afraid of snakes, I am certainly not going to buy a snake for a pet! Or should I?  If you were to buy the snake and learn to get close to it, take care of it and find things you like about it, your fear is likely to diminish.  By making “friends” with the fear you learn to accept it, perhaps even appreciate it. I’m sure if any of you are afraid of snakes, you are probably thinking, “Buy a snake! Are you’re crazy?”  However, the best known treatment for anxiety and fears is something called Exposure Response Prevention.  It is a form of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy.  The general idea is to create a hierarchy of fears.  For each fear you would apply various forms of strategies such as relaxation, distraction and cognitive restructuring in order to accept the fear and change your perception and ultimately reduce your level of fear.  Once your level of fear is minimal, through repeated exposure and preventing your typical response of avoidance and replacing it with acceptance strategies, then you can move onto the next level of fear in the hierarchy.  The key is applying the strategies and having the expectation that, “I will be okay”.

So to answer Rosemary’s question, you make friends with the fear by first deciding that “IT”, whatever “it” is, can and will be done. That becomes your goal. Most of the time when we are afraid we tell ourselves we “can’t” do something.  Therefore, once you decide on your goal, the next step is to notice what the negative comments we are telling ourselves and say the opposite.  So, “I can’t becomes I can”.  Next you need to break things down into achievable steps. One of the first steps might be to imagine facing the fear AND being okay.  Repeated exposure of imagining facing and being okay with the feared “IT” can be done several times a day.  Once you feel more comfortable while imagining yourself facing the fear and learning to tell yourself “I’m okay”, you will need to take a step “in vivo”.  In other words, you start doing “live” what you’ve been imagining doing.  Again, you break this down into as many steps as you need in order to make each step something you actually do.  If you fear speaking in front of people and practice imagining talking in front of a live audience the next step isn’t actually doing that.  You would break this down into telling one or two supports this is what you want to do.  A next step might be asking a few friends to be the audience.  Once you feel comfortable with a few people, you increase the number in your audience.

Rosemary, I hope this helps.  Let me know how you make out.


Leave a Reply