The following are my notes on the first chapter of Freedom from Fear by Dr. Howard Liebgold. The text in italics is taken directly from the book.
The Three Most Important Things You Need to Know:
1. All phobias and obsessions, including yours, are curable.
2. You were born to have an anxiety disorder. You were born with an anxious predisposition or a biological sensitivity that led to your anxiety disorders.
3. You are not trained. I don’t look at anxiety disorders as terrible psychiatric problems. Rather, no one has trained you in how to effectively manage your anxiety.
“The next condition in the spectrum is panic attacks. These are defined as the acute onset (peaking within ten minutes) of abject terror. Dramatic physical changes and intense psychological fears of impending doom overwhelm the patient. The events are so terrifying that patients may endlessly ruminate about how they can avoid having subsequent attacks. My first attack occurred in a third year Shakespeare class and I spent the next thirty-one years trying to avoid the next one. The target symptom in panic attacks is fear of physical (somatic) sensations. Patients are afraid of having their heart burst out of their chest, having a heart attack, a stroke, cancer, multiple sclerosis, fainting, vomiting, brain tumors, and especially dying. They focus on and exaggerate the implication of any bodily sensation.”
Dr. Fear -Dr. Liebgold’s nickname, which stands for:
Dispute Reframe False Exaggerations Appearing Real
“Only expetiential victories- purposeful exposures to the thing one fears- cure phobic and obsessional fears.”
“…the most important part of any effective anxiety program is experiential desesitization. In real English that means learning how to safely and gradually creep up on any fear. “Experiential” means you can’t just think, imagine, or read your way to a cure. You must experience it in real life. The only way to cure any phobia or obsession is through repeated experiential victories. A victory is the purposeful exposure to the thing you fear. There are no shortcuts– the only way out is through.”
“The disease of all phobias and obsessions is avoidance. The first time you avoid something because of fear is when the disease begins. And once it begins, it has a life of its own and it keeps getting worse. Avoidance is rehearsing fear. Avoidance is magnifying fear. Every time you avoid, you are practicing negative reinforcement, a psychological phenomenon that unknowingly strengthens your fear. The cure? Non-avoidance.”
The above paragraph is so spot on I did a happy dance when I read it. It is so very accurate. It spoke to me and convinced me that Dr. Fear really knew what he was talking about. I knew in my bones that the above was true. He goes on to explain that much like habituating to being in cold water, so too can we habituate ourselves to panic situations. You will adapt, you will no longer feel uncomfortable and anxious because the anxiety will go away. If you leave the anxiety producing situation you are letting the anxiety win. Furthermore, it often generalizes to other unrelated situations. I can attest to this.
Meet your Boo
Dr. Liebgold obviously had a sense of humour. He dubbed the scare voice in our heads a Boo. We all have a Boo. It basically ruins your life by perusing your environment and pointing out the very things you don’t want to find.
It has three characteristics:
1. It always lies.
2. It always exaggerates.
3. It always catastrophizes.
The Boo has ONLY two weapons:
1. The WPTs- What will people think.
2. The what ifs- The imagined catastrophes generated by this heinous villain.
This chapter is chockfull of useful and interesting information but what I’ve shared above is what I decided to be the most important points to keep in mind as I work my way through the book. I have read over 65% of the book but as Dr. Liebgold says, repetition is important and should be done often. Starting from the beginning and reviewing my previous notes serves as further reinforcement.
Homework is next.