Being married to a hypochondriac, stage fright in children, and facing a fear of introducing people.
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“We have higher expectations and more reasons to be disappointed. We are also more comfortable admitting to and being treated for mental problems.”
"I know they find that health issues can differ from country to country, different areas have different rates of cancer, heart disease, etc. Is that also true of mental health issues?"
The World Health Organization is the entity that keeps track of issues of the prevalence of mental illness worldwide. Any way we look at it, Americans suffer from mental disorders more than anyone else. First of all, we have the “luxury” of depression according to the WHO. People who are not struggling for survival everyday have the time to think about things like happiness and personal self-fulfillment. We have higher expectations and more reasons to be disappointed. We are also more comfortable admitting to and being treated for mental problems. In many countries, if you ask someone if they suffer from depression for example, they will deny it. So the new practice is to ask the spouse, “Does your husband/wife suffer from depression?” Their answer will be closer to the truth. (That’s just an interesting aside.) Some cultures are more comfortable with suicide than others, less blaming and more tolerant whereas we view it as weakness and perhaps a failure of the societal system to prevent that level of despair. Companies now provide paid “Mental Health Days” that are like sick days that employees can use to tend to themselves. Many in the world try to empty their minds to rid themselves of expectation and desire and to find peace in the eradication of the self. While we extol the praises of introspection and the examination of the unconscious as well as the conscious mind. Our definition of the value of self-awareness is different. What we mean by “going deep” is the polar opposite to much of the rest of the world. We are the celebration of the individual and only rarely of the collective.
"I am starting to think my husband it a hypochondriac. He seems to complain about being sick a lot and is always looking for herbal remedies. He spends a fortune at the natural food stores. There is always something new wrong with him. Is there anything I can to about this?"
Signed concerned wife.
SUMMER 2018 - LOST ISSUE
FALL 2018 - LOST ISSUE
" We are finding out that our 7-year-old daughter has major stage fright. Our family has always done a lot of theater, singing and performing on a community level and we are wondering why our daughter is so shy?"
Signed Mom & Dad.
Stage Fright, or Performance Anxiety Disorder, is a “flight or fight” primitive response buried deep within our brain. It’s not uncommon. It is said that John Lennon used to vomit before every performance. But he did perform.
I heard a story about two brothers who were asked to speak at their father’s funeral service. The first brother said that he knew what he wanted to say and would just ‘wing it’. The second brother wrote an outline of what he wanted to say, composed the first few lines and wrote the key points on a 3 x 5 card. I’m sure you can see where this is going. The brother who was “winging it”, froze up pretty quickly while the other brother was able to overcome his discomfort because he had a plan.
Your daughter’s shyness could come from several different sources. There may be a “shyness gene” that would have made her a very shy baby from the beginning. Or, she could feel pressure from the family who sound very gregarious and outgoing. She may feel unable to compete with the rest of you. The task may seem too formidable. Perhaps she could participate in other ways; sets, lighting or stage management.
Is her fear physiological or psychologically based? Was she born shy or has she developed it competing with the rest of the family? Does she think that fear of something is sufficient reason not to do it? My friend who was afraid of water learned to scuba dive. It didn’t stop her fear of water completely but she was able to control it and swim. Not being able to speak in front of others is a handicap. You don’t have to like it, you just have to do it.
"I have always had a fear of introducing people. I get nervous and sometimes I get so rattled I make mistakes in names even if I know them well. I am wondering what this is all about and if I can do something about it. I don’t want my kids to be afraid to introduce people either."
Signed 42-year-old mother of three.
This will sound like a continuation of the last question. Having difficulty introducing people is like a mini stage fright. You freeze up and your brain goes blank. Your adrenal glands pump out adrenaline that fuels the primitive “fight or flight” response. Your breathing increases, your palms sweat and your pulse goes up; everything but remembering the name of the person you’re trying to introduce. Understanding what is happening should help but having a few tricks up your sleeve is always a good idea. If you can think about introducing the older person or higher ranking person to the younger one, perhaps your brain will remember their names more easily. There is a protocol for introducing people to one another and following it may ease your tension. It’s always better to attempt an introduction than to avoid it completely.
Try to slow your movements down to perhaps slow your brain down. Think of it as a dynamic meditation, calmness while doing. Greet the other person and reintroduce yourself, if necessary. Then name the person who is oldest or your boss or a woman and say, “Mr. Smith, this is my boyfriend, Sam Jones. Sam, this is Mr. Smith, my boss.”
If you feel comfortable saying something about each of them that they might have in common, that’s a good thing to do. If not, leave them to launch a conversation on their own. Don’t let the process become too daunting, as it will add to your discomfort and increase your anxiety.
"I had a heart-to-heart with my sister and told her my feelings the other day. I don’t feel a part of her family and it seems even though we are only 15 minutes drive from each we only see each other at Christmas for about two hours. I told her that I feel estranged from the family. She just replied that she doesn’t feel that the family is estranged at all. She doesn’t get it."
Signed frustrated 58-year-old sister.
Estrangement within families can have very deep roots. We don’t know the cause of your sister’s behavior but it reminds me of an article in the New York Times a decade ago called Mean Girls. It was about female aggression in high school. It told the story of two girls who were inseparable friends until joined by a third girl, who initially was a friend to them both. After some time, one of the initial pair noticed that the other two seemed to be ignoring her. She was feeling shunned and marginalized. She asked her old best friend what was wrong and was told that “Everything was fine. She had no reason to be concerned. Everything is just as it was.” But they continued to shun and ignore her. This is typical female aggression and it sounds like you and your sister and her treatment of you. You have already had a conversation with her with little success. I do not think though that you should give up and withdraw. She is your sister and you should continue to see her and her family whenever you can and for however long you can. You could suggest family therapy, as some people are more willing to talk in front of a therapist.
I hope that one day she will see the unfairness of the situation and begin to include you in her family. But until that time, take care of yourself. Spend meaningful time with your friends and continue to find ways to enrich your life.
-Romona Scholder, M.A., RNCS, Psychotherapist