Cover image for Fear and other uninvited guests : tackling the anxiety, fear, and shame that keep us from optimal living and loving
Fear and other uninvited guests : tackling the anxiety, fear, and shame that keep us from optimal living and loving
Lerner, Harriet Goldhor.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : HarperCollinsPublishers, [2004]

Physical Description:
xii, 238 pages ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
BF575.F2 L47 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
BF575.F2 L47 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
BF575.F2 L47 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
BF575.F2 L47 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
BF575.F2 L47 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
BF575.F2 L47 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
BF575.F2 L47 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



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.

Author Notes

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

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

?No one is immune to the grip of anxiety, fear and shame?the ?big three? that muck up our lives,? observes Lerner (The Dance of Deception; The Dance of Anger). But such emotions shouldn?t be crippling, she says. Instead, the psychologist and relationship expert suggests studying the pros and cons of these inevitable feelings. For example, anxiety over hurting a friend?s feelings can keep us from bluntly offering unsolicited advice, or, at the other extreme, keep us from speaking up about something we feel passionate about. In conversational and often witty prose, amply dotted with personal anecdotes, Lerner advises readers how to achieve a balance between healthy and life-consuming fears over rejection, public speaking, body image and physical suffering, among others. In a chapter devoted entirely to ?Your Anxious Workplace,? the author shares her pain on discovering that her co-workers considered her a ?problem??her personnel file was fat with complaints about her attitude toward paperwork and tense relationship with other psychologists. Breaking down the office ?system,? she realized that she was an ?underfunctioning? part, adding stress and creating opportunities for ?overfunctioning? staff to both save and resent her. To confront fears, Lerner suggests stepping back and taking responsibility, thoughtfully considering the issue and engaging rather than disconnecting with the surrounding world. Readers looking for a ?quick fix? will not find it here (Lerner purposely sidesteps any oversimplified solutions to conquering fear); rather, they will find a mindful and highly readable meditation. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

Library Journal Review

In these two programs listeners are encouraged to recognize that anger and fear invite the individual to practice self-care without blaming or shaming others. Yet, when in the grip of these emotions, people often react in ways that perpetuate the situations that first triggered them. Lerner explains how to recognize this behavior, evaluate consequences, and make changes if desired. In both books she stresses that solutions are found only when individuals focus on and make changes in themselves-not when they try to control or change others. In Dance of Anger, the author offers more solid examples of why women react with self-defeating behaviors when they are angry. In Fear, she describes how to recognize the differences among fear, anxiety, and shame but offers fewer specific strategies to deal with them. Lerner reads both works adequately, but she lacks the polish of a professional narrator. Dance of Anger is highly recommended for self-help collections; Fear is an optional purchase.-Kathleen Sullivan, Phoenix P.L. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Fear and Other Uninvited Guests Tackling the Anxiety, Fear, and Shame That Keep Us from Optimal Living and Loving Chapter One Why Can't a Person Be More Like a Cat? "Fear stops me from doing so many things," a neighbor confided when I mentioned the subject of this book. Then, without further ado, she launched into a description of her coworker Carmen, a woman who exuded such a deep sense of calm, joy, and peacefulness that everyone wanted to be around her. "Carmen never feels fear or other negative emotions. She's always in the flow of the present moment. She really lives each day to the fullest." My neighbor paused to catch her breath, then exclaimed: "I would do anything to be like Carmen!" She spoke so earnestly, her voice ringing with italics, that I restrained myself from suggesting that maybe Carmen had multiple personalities and that one of her alters might be sitting mute in some corner having wall-to-wall panic attacks. But I did tell her this: The only being I have ever known who was entirely free of fear and always "in the flow" was my cat, Felix. When Felix was alive, I aspired to be like him, much as my neighbor aspired to be like Carmen. I could relate. Felix, My Role Model Felix was my little Buddhist, my role model for mindful living. He demonstrated a healthy fight-or-flight response when threatened, but he only felt fear when fear was due. He became anxious and agitated when forced into a carrying cage, because he knew very well it meant a car ride to the vet. But he didn't let fear, worry, and rumination spoil an otherwise perfectly good day. By contrast, I recall my own human experience anticipating my first allergy shot as a child. For a good week before the actual appointment, I freaked myself out with fearful imaginings, all of them having to do with long needles and terrible pain. My mother, who had certain Key Phrases to Live By, informed me that "a coward dies a thousand deaths; a brave man dies but once." She learned this aphorism from her younger brother when he went off to fight in World War II. I personally found no comfort in her words. What sense did they make to a nine-year-old? I wasn't brave, I wasn't a man, and why was my mother bringing death into the conversation? When I was older and had developed the capacity for abstract thinking, I understood the lesson she was trying to convey. In essence, my mother was encouraging me to be more like Felix. Felix lived in the moment. When he played, he played. When he ate, he ate. When he had sex, he had sex, utterly unencumbered by fear, shame, or guilt. Once "fixed" (the downside of being a pet), he settled immediately into a perfect acceptance of his situation. "Wherever you go, there you are," was the motto I believe he lived by. This capacity to inhabit the moment granted Felix a kind of profound self-acceptance. When he licked his fur, he didn't worry about whether he was doing the job well enough, or whether he was taking too long to lick down all his hair, or whether certain of his body parts weren't all that attractive and perhaps shouldn't be displayed to my dinner guests. Nor did he dissipate his energy with anxious thoughts such as: "What's wrong with me that I don't make more fruitful and creative use of my time?" Because Felix didn't live a fear-driven life, he was able to operate from his essential Felixness. When he wanted connection, he would jump on my lap without stopping to wonder whether I might find him too needy and dependent (especially for a cat). With equal aplomb, he would jump off my lap and saunter out of the room when he felt like it, never worrying that I might take his departure personally and feel really hurt. I could go on, but you get the picture. A sociobiologist friend tells me that I have an idealized notion of Felix's inner emotional and spiritual life, but I disagree. I'm not saying that all cats are like Felix. I've seen my share of traumatized felines who cower or scratch when strangers approach. But I observed Felix almost daily for more than ten years before he keeled over dead one afternoon on our back porch. I'm convinced that it simply wasn't in his nature to get bogged down in fear and shame. Face It, You're Human Of course, Felix didn't have it all. If he missed out on the miseries of being human, he also missed out on some uniquely human pleasures, from reading a riveting novel to falling in love. One might debate whether it is preferable to be a cat or a person, but why get into it? If you are reading this now, you are not a cat and never will be. So along with the good days, you're going to experience the entire range of painful emotions that make us human. This means that you'll wake up at three in the morning searching your breasts for lumps. You'll worry that your daughter has dropped out of her drug treatment program (again), that your partner is getting bored with you, that you'll end up a bag lady if you leave your job, that your memory is getting more porous with each passing day, and that possibly you're going crazy. You can make your own list. No one is immune to the grip of anxiety, fear, and shame -- the "big three" that muck up our lives. These are the uninvited guests. When tragedy or hardship hits, they may become our constant companions. SIX EASY STEPS TO CONQUERING FEAR AND ACHIEVING BLISS? I bristle at feverishly inspirational books that make large and silly promises. Break free from fear and you'll soar like an eagle, reverse the aging process, and attract a bevy of wildly sexy and appreciative lovers. I recently eyeballed a new self-help guide that states: "Bliss is available to anyone at any time, no matter how difficult life may be." When I read such statements, I am prone to entertaining mean-spirited thoughts, such as hoping that the author is dealt some unfathomable loss that will serve as a test case of his or her bliss theory. Since I am really a very nice person, these are but passing uncharitable fantasies. Still, I believe it is arrogant and deeply dishonest to tell people that they can transform their own reality, no matter how dreadful their circumstances, with the acquisition of a few new skills and a brighter attitude ... Fear and Other Uninvited Guests Tackling the Anxiety, Fear, and Shame That Keep Us from Optimal Living and Loving . Copyright © by Harriet Lerner. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold. Excerpted from Fear and Other Uninvited Guests: Tackling the Anxiety, Fear, and Shame That Keep Us from Optimal Living and Loving by Harriet Lerner All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. xi
Chapter 1 Why Can't a Person Be More Like a Cat?p. 1
Chapter 2 The Fear of Rejection: A One-Day Curep. 14
Chapter 3 Terrified? You Have to Keep Showing Up!p. 27
Chapter 4 In Praise of Anxiety: How Fear and Trembling Keep You Safep. 39
Chapter 5 The Trouble with Anxiety: How It Wreaks Havoc on Your Brain and Self-Esteemp. 53
Chapter 6 Why We Fear Changep. 73
Chapter 7 Your Anxious Workplace: Staying Calm and Clearheaded in a Crazy Environmentp. 92
Chapter 8 The Secret Power of Shamep. 117
Chapter 9 The Fear of the Mirror: Anxiety and Shame About Your Looks--and Being Looked Atp. 141
Chapter 10 When Things Fall Apart: Facing Illness and Sufferingp. 171
Chapter 11 Courage in the Face of Fearp. 196
Epilogue: Everyone Freaks Outp. 221
Notesp. 225
Indexp. 231