Sunday, January 10, 2016

How Well Do You Handle Fear?

October 14, 2014

Have you ever been scared when doing something new in an unfamiliar environment?

In 1997-1998, I did my seminary practicum training at a Christian residential recovery program in San Jose. I was assigned to provide individual, family, and group counseling to addicted, abused or homeless women and their young children. I still remember counseling each person in her small dorm room. I will never forget conducting my first counseling group with me being the only Asian. Imagine me feeling stuck when one 19-year-old asked, "So, what is your drug of choice?"

The best answer I could come up with was that I was a workaholic for many years. She quickly commented how addicted to work was different from addicted to chemicals. Without words to defend myself, all I could do was to listen. That night, I wrote on my journal about the suffering I saw and the inadequacy I felt. There is no way for me to continue without God's help.

My supervisor Lorraine was a God-send. She helped me to apply what I learned in counseling classes one session at a time. As I listened to the women's traumatic stories and watched them struggling to rebuild their lives, I gained deeper understanding of why we needed a Savior, and the amazing grace of God. 

Lorraine was also my professor on a course called "Counseling Violence and Abuse," during class, she often reminded her students that we could do what we do only by the grace of God. That one year of practical training under Lorraine gave me the courage to continue with my 3,000 hours of internship required for licensure. Recently I attended a party celebrating Dr. Lorraine Hutchinson 20 years of teaching.

Do you feel inadequate at work, or as a spouse, parent, or adult child of your aging parents from time to time? Is fear holding you back from trying something different? Take this simple quiz to find out How Well Do You Handle Fear? 

At its best, fear is an instinctive, natural ability to help us survive. At its worst, it's that nagging voice inside our heads that heralds doom and disaster even before we get started on something. Fear keeps us from taking risks that might enrich our life or holds us back from doing some things we need to do. Do we experience new and exciting vistas? Get involved with that person or group? Accomplish something really great? Fear says, "Not on your life." To discover the role fear plays in your life, complete the following Thriving quiz.

True or False

Set 1

1. My self-talk is filled with can'ts, shouldn'ts and ought-tos.

2. I never talk about my fears. If I do, people will think I'm stupid or weak.

3. I often find myself thinking about bad things that might happen in the future.

4. I feel trapped in or avoid social situations where it might be difficult to escape if I wanted to, such as in a crowd or on the highway.

5. I tend to need approval from family or peers before going after dreams and goals.

6. Making mistakes publicly is horrendous; I just want to crawl away and hide.

7. I'd rather not get involved in a relationship because I'd have to surrender personal power and lose myself.

8. To avoid being rejected, I try to please people and take my own needs and desires out of the equation.

9. I often compromise in situations to avoid conflict.

10. A sure-fire way to end up disappointed is to want something too much.

11. When things seem to be going really well for me, I get uneasy that I'll do something to ruin it.

12. I find it difficult to express undesirable emotions such as anger.

13. When confronted by others, I feel "spacey" or disconnected from my body.

14. I'm so nervous about approaching my boss for a raise, I've never asked for one.

14. I'd rather just stick to what I know, even if it's not great, than risk change.

Set 2

1. I expand my comfort zone by taking a small risk every day, such as making one phone call or asking for one thing I want.

2. When I feel fear, I keep my mind on the details, not the Big Picture. I complete the report word by word, pay the bills one by one, see the group individual by individual.

3. I look to others to model courage for me. Their courageous behavior encourages confidence.

4. When something scares me, I get information, replacing fear with knowledge.

5. I visualize myself doing what I'm afraid to do; I see myself as graceful, strong and capable.

If you answered true more than false in the first set of questions, fear may be playing a bigger role in your life than you'd like. In the second set, a true means you're successfully employing strategies to master fear. If your fears are pervasive or severe, you may be suffering from an anxiety disorder, in which case you should definitely seek help. If your fears are not debilitating, but still get in the way of doing what you need or want to do, asking for help can make all the difference.

Are you terrified by something beyond your understanding and control? Can you imagine Jesus our Lord might want you to go through this scary situation for your own good? Like when he once said to his disciples, "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid." (Mark 6:50)
Author's content used with permission, © Claire Communications

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