Work Your Plan

The third step in overcoming irrational fears is to prayerfully work out a plan of responsible behavior. A college student shared with me that she was living in terror of her father. They hadn’t spoken to each other in six months. Obviously there was irresponsible behavior on both their parts. I asked her what she would be afraid of if she went home and assumed her role as a daughter. I suggested that she take the initiative that evening and say, “Hi, Dad!” We reasoned that there were three possible responses he could give. First, he could get mad. Second, he could respond positively with a greeting. Third, he could remain silent. It was the latter response she feared the most.

We then discussed the fourth step in overcoming phobias, which is to determine in advance (as best as possible) what your response will be to any fear object. We talked through possible responses to each of the above reactions from her father. I then asked her to make a commitment to do it. Someone once said, “Do the thing you fear the most and the death of fear is certain.” The key to any victory is commitment. She agreed to do it. I got a call that evening from a happy daughter who exclaimed, “He said ‘Hi’ back!”

If you are afraid to ride in an elevator, don’t fly to New York and get on an elevator in the Empire State building. A responsible plan would be to get in an elevator in a two-story building with someone else and then get out before the door closes. Then get back in together and let the door close and get back out. Then get in together and push the button for the second floor. Then do it alone several times before you try a taller building.

A severe storm was pounding the East Coast, and the Coast Guard was summoned to respond to a ship in crisis. A young sailor, who was new on board, was terrorized by the prospect and proclaimed, “We can’t go out. We’ll never come back!” The seasoned captain responded, “We must go out. We don’t have to come back.” Duty called and responsible action overcame the fear.

Dr. Neil

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