Tuesday, February 05, 2008


We've all got fears, large or small, significant or pretty trivial, relating to things likely or unlikely to occur. For example, while I'm fortunate to have no major phobias, I am not comfortable with snakes. I can touch, or even hold, someone's pet serpent for a moment, but the idea of suddenly coming across a snake when hiking makes me squeamish, even if I know it's unlikely to be a poisonous one. Still, I do hike, so it hasn't got complete control over me.

A much larger, more significant and, sadly, more likely object of fear for me is the possible return of my severe depression. I know how wrenching, debilitating and even life-threatening that can be. I try to guard against making too much of the issue, but the thought of its return, or the feel of just a small symptom, can strike terror in me.

Play with this. . .
Write continuously for 20 minutes about something you are afraid of. It might be a tiny issue or a life-altering one. What is it? How does the thought of it feel emotionally and in your body? Have you ever faced this thing head-on? Would you want to?

Then write for five more minutes, considering: If someone were to help you with this fear, what should she or he do? Maybe reassurance is what you need. Maybe someone to hold your hand on that plane trip. Maybe a therapist or psychiatrist could help you gradually acclimate to a scary situation. For me, an occasional reminder before hiking that most snakes really are much more afraid of me than I am of them is probably what is called for. Oh, and maybe sturdy hiking boots too.

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