Fear and Other Uninvited Guests: Tackling the Anxiety, Fear, and Shame That Keep Us from Optimal Living and Loving

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Harper Collins, May 11, 2004 - Self-Help - 256 pages
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Unhappiness, says bestselling author Harriet Lerner, is fueled by three key emotions: anxiety, fear, and shame. They are the uninvited guests in our lives. When tragedy or hardship hits, they may become our constant companions.

Anxiety can wash over us like a tidal wave or operate as a silent thrum under the surface of our daily lives. With stories that are sometimes hilarious and sometimes heartbreaking, Lerner takes us from "fear lite" to the most difficult lessons the universe sends us. We learn:

  • how a man was "cured in a day" of the fear of rejection -- and what we can learn from his story

  • how the author overcame her dread of public speaking when her worst fears were realized

  • how to deal with the fear of not being good enough, and with the shame of feeling essentially flawed and inadequate

  • how to stay calm and clear in an anxious, crazy workplace

  • how to manage fear and despair when life sends a crash course in illness, vulnerability, and loss

  • how "positive thinking" helps -- and harms

  • how to be our best and bravest selves, even when we are terrified and have internalized the shaming messages of others

No one signs up for anxiety, fear, and shame, but we can’t avoid them either. As we learn to respond to these three key emotions in new ways, we can live more fully in the present and move into the future with courage, clarity, humor, and hope. Fear and Other Uninvited Guests shows us how.


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Page 12 - When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.
Page 87 - ... other than a distant relationship with my father. Never did I so fully appreciate the power of resistance as when I proceeded to behave differently in this entrenched triangle. I vividly recall my starting point — a memorable visit from my parents in 1979, shortly after the birth of my second son. My mother was washing dishes in the kitchen, busily elaborating on my father's most recent manifestations of immaturity and insensitivity. My father was entertaining my husband, Steve, in the living...
Page 84 - Mother, may I go out to swim?" "Yes, my darling daughter. Hang your clothes on the hickory limb, but do not go near the water." I wonder whether the Senator from Maryland has any views on this point, or indeed whether his proposed legislation would authorize the AID administration either to furnish devices or to furnish funds for the manufacture of devices overseas. Mr.
Page 169 - Freud himself (1940) recognized the horror that the vulva inspires and recalls a passage from Rabelais in which the exhibition of a woman's vulva puts the devil himself to flight.
Page 91 - HVJW crinkled and stained. But this was not possible! I examined the papers on the floor surrounding it and they were in perfect condition. I looked up at the ceiling directly above, half expecting to see a leak, but no leak was to be found. I stood staring at the bond in stunned disbelief and recalled my father's final words to me at the airport. Had the heavens dripped chicken schmaltz on his bond? I rushed downstairs, bond in hand, where a friend was drinking tea in the dining room. She is almost...
Page 89 - Recently, I visited my parents in Phoenix, following news that my father — who prides himself on reaching the age of seventy-five without even a sniffle — had suffered a mild heart attack. This unexpected and unwelcome reminder of my father's mortality heightened my awareness that my parents were old and would not be around forever. During the visit, I felt especially loving towards them both and I was inspired to engage in a bold and courageous act. Actually, bold and courageous acts were the...
Page 88 - And so it went. I had rehearsed the conversation in my head many times. Nonetheless, it felt like nothing short of treason. "I'm going to give her cancer," I announced to my husband that evening. My mother was not struck dead by my words, although she did have a predictably dramatic reaction, as she proceeded to test out whether I could be induced to reinstate the old pattern. The next morning, however, she appeared at the breakfast table looking cheerful and relaxed, having obviously enjoyed a good...
Page 91 - Had the heavens dripped chicken schmaltz on his bond? I rushed downstairs, bond in hand, where a friend was drinking tea in the dining room. She is almost thirty years my senior and wise in the ways of the world. "What is this?" I demanded of her, as I thrust the stained bond under her nose. My friend looked and sniffed — and then made her diagnostic pronouncement. "It's cat urine," she said blandly. And so it was. My sons had left the front door open and one of the neighborhood cats that graced...
Page 87 - ... different from, and greater than, the usual forms of resistance described in the literature on the family. A cosmic countermove issues from the gods themselves when we dare to disturb our universe or invite our clients to do the same. The case in point: my own family. When I began working with my coach, my long-term goal was to establish an emotionally close relationship with both my mother and my father. Before this time, my relationship with my mother had been at my father's expense in that...
Page 92 - ... moral to my story: Dare you disturb the universe? Remember that multigenerational work is only for the boldest among us. Do not begin the journey, unless you are prepared to answer to the gods themselves! As for my father, he took the news with surprising good humor. Perhaps — although I may be wrong — I detected a tad of relief in his voice. Be it chicken schmaltz or cat pee ... it is reassuring to know that some things never change! — Dr. Harriet Lerner Dr. Harriet Lerner is one of the...

About the author (2004)

Harriet Lerner, Ph.D., is one of our nation’s most loved and respected relationship experts. Renowned for her work on the psychology of women and family relationships, she served as a staff psychologist at the Menninger Clinic for more than two decades. A distinguished lecturer, workshop leader, and psychotherapist, she is the author of The Dance of Anger and other bestselling books. She is also, with her sister, an award-winning children's book writer. She and her husband are therapists in Lawrence, Kansas, and have two sons.

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