Don't have time to read this weeks blog? Let Dr. Paul read it to you...
The Halloween season prompts many of us to indulge our appetite for controlled doses of self-induced fear. We find the fright caused by a well-crafted scary movie ironically enjoyable.
The formula is well known, but the effect is nevertheless reliable. Mix: crawly, slimy things with sharp edges, sharp teeth, and sharp claws; poor visibility due to darkness, fog, or tight spaces; scary music; threat of physical attack, injury, disfiguration, or death; and characters with evil intent. When the antagonist SUDDENLY appears right in our face, the fear reaction is inevitable.
Luckily, it is just a movie, and we know that soon the theater lights will come up and all will be well. If only scary situations in real life were just as fleeting.
What I find REALLY scary are the situations my psychotherapy patients report from their current situations.
Take the 68 year old man who learns that his loving spouse of 45 years has Alzheimer’s disease. He knows his wife is on an eight to twelve year journey of ever greater deterioration of independent functioning and of the ability to participate emotionally in the marriage partnership. He, meanwhile, will experience ever greater loneliness, financial expense, emotional grief, and disruption of other activities in life. There is much to grieve.
Take the 35 year old woman who has migraine headaches so severe that at least half of the days each month are spent in the darkest, quietest room she can find, sleeping if at all possible. On top of the nausea and the crushing pain behind her eyes, she is guilt-ridden over her inability to participate in the care of her children and in her marital relationship beyond the bare minimum. The thread from which her hope for a pain-free future hangs grows thinner and thinner, as increasingly exotic and expensive treatment options are tried and exhausted. There is much to grieve.
Take the 50 year old woman whose young adult son took LSD while away at college and developed schizophrenia, causing repeated psychotic episodes consisting of hallucinations, delusions, bizarre behavior, arrests, and hospitalizations. He is usually not cooperative with taking his medications, and cannot continue his education or maintain any employment. His care is expensive and inconclusive. The road to recovery will be long. Her dreams for his future must be radically lowered. There is much to grieve.
Yes, life can be truly frightening and dark. We all hope and pray to never experience these situations. The ray, the beacon of light is that mankind and society are making so much progress against so many nightmares that used to be common in the human condition. We have conquered so many diseases, we have brought social support into so many situations that used to be shameful and hidden, and we have created financial safety nets for so many victims of random misfortune. As a psychologist, I am honored to be part of the support that is available to these brave sufferers.
So, this Halloween, as you dabble enjoyably in fear, remember to be grateful that the lights will soon come up in the theater. And then take time to reach out and support someone whose scary reality is longer lasting.
“My passion is ensuring that every adult is mentally ready to succeed in all transitions that comprise the adult years. The meaning in my life comes from helping my patients see themselves, their situation, their future, and the entire world with new eyes and a newly courageous attitude.