What is your secret worry? It is quite “normal” to have at least one. Not long ago I listen in while a well-known psychiatrist interviewed over a hundred men and women. They weren’t “mental patients”, they were average, intelligent, cooperative peole who volunteered to answer questions in assisting the psychiatrist in a particular study.
Oddly, every one of these average persons, in the course of the interview, referred unconsciously to a secret, nagging fear. Jotting these down, I found that without exception these fears were of nine varieties.
If your secret, nagging fear, torment is one of the Big Nine Fears that follow, the chances are that you are torturing yourself needlessly. You are not worrying so much about actual disaster as about your won ability to meet it. These worries turn out to be mirages when you are both mentally and emotionally equipped to face them. Step up, then, and meet the nine big fears – and learn to face them down.
1. Fear of illness, pain. I have watched this particular fear undermind the happiness and emotinal stability of hundreds of people.
Some patients, exceptionally neurotic, are always imagining themselves the victim of some mysterious, obscure disease. a great many others harbor a morbid dread of cancer, syphilis, diabeates, H1N1, paralysis, or “heart troubles”.
I recall the case of one woman whose entire life was shadowed by the certainty that she was doomed to die of cancer. The mere mention of the word, the slightest sensation of real or imaginary pain, or even a story about a person “with only a year to live” was enough to send her into a panic.
For years she refused to have a medical examinatin because, as she said, she “couldn’t bear to hear the doctor pronounce her doom. On the one occasion when her daughters coerced her to have an examination she accused them for months afterwards of keeping the doctor’s true verdict from her.
Had she forced herself to have a periodic check-up, not only would her own life have been much more well balanced but her husband and children would not have been cheated out of the peace and happiness that was rightfully theirs. (And they would have the memory now of a cheerful, happy person instead of the whining, neurotic woman who died, a few months ago, at the age of eighty-four, of bronchial pneumonia)
If you find yourself contracting a morbid fear of illness, get a physical check-up immediately. And remember that the “year-to-live” stories are grossly exaggerated; and the “patient-must-not-be-told” yarns as sheer fiction. Ask any doctor, if you don’t believe it!
Fear of pain can be conquered for the most part, too, if you take yourself firmly in hand.
Make a list of the worst things that have ever happened to you-the six things that would be the most difficult for you to live through again. If you are like most people, you will find that the hardest things in your life have nothing to do with physical pain. If you keep this in mind, pain won’t seem such a terrible ogre after all.
2. Fear of loss of Job; economic insecurity. If you break out into a cold perspiration whenever you get a summons to the boss’s office, you have a severe case of “job-losing jutters” that is probably actually impairing your efficiency. This particular disease most often attack those who try to make their jobs fill their spirtual and emotional life. The best cure is to work hard at your job while you’re working and then forget about it during your leisure time.
Sarah K. was an efficient, hard-working young woman who had worked herself up from a job as messenger girl to a positon as secretary to the president of a large company. She became so intent on keeping her enviable job that she lost interest in all her outside activities. She dropped out of gym classes, refused invitations, conceled her vacation reservations, lecture and concert series, stopped taking part in church activities.
Her whole life became so centered in her job that she was tortured by fanciful forebodings if her employer so much as forgot to say “good morning” to her. She worried so much over trivial things that her work actually began to show signs of apparent negligence. She might very well have lost her position had not her employer sensed the cause of the trouble and put her on the right track again.
Remember that an efficient, conscientious, relieable employee is seldom without a job. Make yourself into that kind of a workperson and stop worrying.
3. Fear of loneliness. Last week I had a frantic telephone call from an acquaintance- a widow approaching her sixtieth birthday-who was in a mental turmoil becasue she had “fallen in love” with a man half her age! She realized that the discrepancy in their age presented an almost insumountable barrier to martial happiness and she didn’t know what to do.
She had no hobby, no particular interest, and had never felt the necessity of cultivating friends because her husband’s dynamic personality had always kept their home full of interesting people. Now that she was widowed , her fear of loneliness had run her up an emotional tree and she didn’t know how to get down.
Never blame “circumstances” if you find yourself getting lonely. The world is full of friendly people and interesting things to do if you are willing to take the trouble to develop them.
Build yourself a “savings-account” of friendships and hobbies and interests and you never need fear that you’ll be lonely. And you’ll never need to snatch at substitutes for happy living .
4. Fear of behavior of marriage partner, children, or relatives. Before you get yourself in a dither, you had better make sure that it is your problem you are worrying over and not someone else’s! It’s surprising the number of people who borrow trouble.
If you have really tried to be a good husband or wife, there isn’t much cause for you to worry about that “other man” or “other woman” who probably exists only in your imagination or in the gossiping prattle of a trouble-maker. Remember that no man is gong to give up a cheerful, pleasant home and considerate wife without a wrench; no woman in her right senses will walk out on a thoughtful, kind husband.
Most chidren turn out all right, after they have made a few mistakes. Remember that no parent can take the place of experience, so don’t get upset if you see your offspring take a few spills.
If you find yourself constantly brooding about your family, better give yourself a good overhauling to see if you aren’t rather secretly enjoying your martyrdom to your family.
A very wise philosopher once said that there is no problem of human relationships that cannot be worked out with time, patience, love, and prayer.
5. Fear of public opinion . A young friend of mine, who teaches in a midwestern farming community, tells the amusing (and pathetic) incident of two neighbor women in her district who for years have been waging a weekly war regarding their Monday morning laundry. The weather may be stormy, either of them may be ill, but each of them crawls out of bed before dawn to see if she can’t beat the other hanging out the wash. Yes, they still use their cloth line.
It is fully as pathetic, though not quite so amusing, to see people going into debt trying to “put on a good front”; to see people working beyond their strength and ability to get somewhere professionally in order to “show the other fellow.”
Stop torturing yourself with what people “may” think! Remember that no matter how hard you try to impress people, you can’t make much of a dent, because people, being human, are still going to go on being much more interested in themselves than they are in you!
6. Fear of old age. People who have reached the end of a lifetime of successful living will assure you that every age has it compensations and that the end can be as happy as the beginning, if one has learned to live each day fully.
A little woman in her upper eighties told me, with eyes twinkling, that she did hope she’d still be able to enjoy things when she “got old”! With a philosophy like that, one need never dread birthdays!
7. Fear of closed places, cats, darkness, etc. There are dozens of phobias that are now recognized and effectively treated by qualified psychiatrists. Most of these fears can be rooted out in a few minutes and , fortunately, the public is fast acquiring a common sense attitude toward mental illness. There is no more stigma now is going to a psychiatrist to get some quirk straightened out than there is in going to a dentist.
8. Fear of insanity. You have heard it so many times that it has probably lost its meaning for you, but it is still true: people who think they are losing their minds never are!
Everyone is afflicted at times by absent-mindedness, inability to concentrate, temporary fixation or compulsions, and sensations of impending disaster. If you find yourself bothered by any of these symptoms, you can laugh it off as being perfectly normal; if they persist, your psychiatrist, physician, or spirtual adviser can probably staighten you out in short order.
9. Fear of death. Probably the most universal and deep-rooted fear is a morbid horror of death. To some people, such fear comes only occasionally with an all-gone feeling in the pit of the stomach; to others, even some with a strong religious faith, it is a horrible blackness forever ahead of them.
If your fear of death is shadowing your joy of living, talk it over with your doctor. He will tell you that in every case, once beyond a certain point, the human body and human emotional mechanism welcome death simply and naturally. Peiole who have been near death testify that the “going over” would have been pleasant and easy. A returned Army chaplain told me that in the face of death, soldiers were conscious of nothing but a deep sense of peace.
Don’t worry about dying. You’ll be ready for it when it comes-and, in the meantime, it’s lots of fun t live!
Get rid of that secret fear, whatever it is. Don’t let it twist and warp your living.
And don’t ever forget what Benjamin Franklin said: My life has been full of many worries-most of which never happened.