Dear Dr. Norquist:
I know you've written about fear before. I have so much trouble dealing with my fear. I hope you'll be willing to answer another question about it. It plagues me to one degree or another almost everyday. I was fearful all the time after Sept. 11, and now after those pipe bombs in Iowa, my fear is intensifying again. Just getting the mail makes me anxious (of course I haven't forgotten about anthrax). I worry that my kids will pick up on my fears. What can I do to manage my fear? Is it possible to get to a point where I could live life without this almost debilitating fear?
Dr. Norquist responds:
Fear and love are the two basic types of emotions we experience in life. In their new book "The Heart of the Soul," Gary Zukov and his wife Linda Frances put it in this way "There are two types of classes in the Earth school--classes about fear and classes about love." Fear serves an important purpose in our lives, it serves as a contrast to love. Just as darkness makes light shine more brilliantly, fear can be useful in motivating us to grow in ways that lead us to develop our ability to experience love and joy. The experience of fear is not the problem. It is what you do with your fearful feelings that determine whether it enhances your life or constricts your life. Remember courage is like a muscle that is developed through facing and moving forward through your fears. Courageous people are not lacking in fear, they just deal with their fears differently than those whose lives are constricted or shut down because of their fear.
Your habitual approach to life, it seems, is one of fear and apprehension, and worry about what troubles or tragedies or painful experiences life will offer you next. Could you imagine a different approach, one where each day or new experience is seen as an adventure, or a challenge that will further your growth? The Sept. 11 trauma has shaken most of us to the point where we can no longer just assume that our current life will go on indefinitely, undisturbed by terrorist trauma or tragedy. We all have the opportunity to use this experience to learn to become more skillful warriors, doing battle with our fears, and learning to use them to stimulate our growth. Think back on the past situations that were difficult and fearsome. How did you deal with it? The fact is, if a situation that we worried about actually occurs, what we discover is that we handle it. Whatever it is, we move through it, handling it to the best of our ability at the time. This you can trust about yourself. So practice letting go of worrisome thoughts as soon as you notice their presence in your mind. Remind yourself that whatever happens, you will deal with it in the best way possible at the time that it occurs. Practice calling on that lighter, more positive, part of yourself, that experience of yourself where feelings of love, compassion, courage, hopefulness, and creativity live. Become skilled at detaching from any negative, fearful, judgmental or helpless thoughts or feelings that arise. In this way, you will be developing your warrior skills in managing life. Trust that life is not haphazard.
Try to see how all that happens in your life is perfectly matched to the challenges that you require to grow into your wholeness and to heal from emotional scars and injuries that impede this growth. In this way, you can change from your apprehensive view of life to seeing life as a challenge to be experienced and enjoyed.
Dear Dr. Norquist:
I'm a freshman in college and it seems like most of my friends always want to go to keg parties and hang out and drink. Sometimes I drink with them, but then I feel guilty and worried afterwards thinking about my dad. My father is an alcoholic and I've been told that I shouldn't drink at all. It's hard to avoid alcohol here, but I don't want to follow in my father's footsteps either. Any advice or support you can give would help. Thanks.
Dr. Norquist responds:
You are right to be wary. Children of alcoholics are at four times greater risk of developing alcoholism that children of non-alcoholics. Children of alcoholics appear to inherit a unique biological response to alcohol. Research shows that compared to children of non-alcoholics, children of alcoholics response to alcohol with less feelings of drunkenness, and with improved hand-eye coordination and improved muscle control. This gives the potential alcoholic the biological message that alcohol is good. It would be best if you could abstain from alcohol completely. Armed with the above statistics, try explaining to your friends your reasons for abstaining. If you cannot make the commitment to abstain, restrict your drinking to no more than two drinks once very four days.
(Dr. Sallie Norquist is a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice and is director of Chaitanya Counseling and Stress Management Center, a center for upliftment and enlivenment, in Hoboken.)
Dr. Norquist and the staff of Chaitanya invite you to write them at Chaitanya Counseling and Stress Management Center, 51 Newark St., Suite 202, Hoboken, NJ 07030 or www.chaitanya.com or by e-mail at email@example.com, or by fax at (201) 656-4700. Questions can address various topics, including relationships, life's stresses, difficulties, mysteries and dilemmas, as well as questions related to managing stress or alternative ways of understanding and treating physical symptoms and health-related concerns. Practitioners of the following techniques are available to answer your questions: psychology, acupuncture, therapeutic and neuromuscular massage, yoga, meditation, spiritual & transpersonal psychology, Reiki, Cranial Sacral Therapy, and Alexander Technique Ó 2002 Chaitanya Counseling and Stress Management Center