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Fear and Other Uninvited Guests Paperback – May 11, 2004

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

"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.
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Review

“Powerful mind-medicine.” (Martha Beck, O, The Oprah Magazine)

“This spirit-lifting book leaves the reader braver, wiser and laughing. Lerner’s advice is the best you will find.” (Edward Hallowell, M.D., author of Driven to Distraction)

“A flat-out life-changing book.” (Betty Carter, M.S.W. Director Emerita, Family Institute of Westchester, New York)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 237 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCol (May 11, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060081570
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060081577
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.4 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #492,214 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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. A distinguished lecturer, workshop leader, and psychotherapist, she is the author of The Dance of Anger and other bestselling books. She is also, with her sister, an award-winning children's book writer. She and her husband are therapists in Lawrence, Kansas, and have two sons.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

109 of 113 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on August 2, 2004
Format: Paperback
I purchased this book because I had the misguided hope that it contained some secret antidote to all the fear I had in my life. Something about the subtitle-- Tackling the Anxiety, Fear, and Shame that Keep Us from Optimal Living--led me to that conclusion. The author dissuaded me from this hope, however, in the introduction. She wrote that she had little respect for the plethora of self-improvement books that made great promises about transcending all fears. We were not going to accomplish anything as dramatic as that in this book, she informed me.

So, was I disappointed that I bought the book? No. I read it from cover to cover and thoroughly enjoyed it. Did I get any help from it? Yes, I did. Through the numerous, real-world, realistic examples of people dealing with a fear, anxiety or shame and making a step forward, I acquired an understanding that there are actions one can take that will help one to open up and move to a richer, better life. I was able to look at my own bogeymen more directly in the eye and see that there were some not too scary things I could do to get my fears and anxieties to ease their grip a little.

The thing that I liked most about this book is the author's conclusion that, no matter how far you go or advanced you get, there are still going to be moments in your life where you are just going to freak out. We all do. We always will. Somehow knowing that fear is just a part of the process of life, and always will be, makes it easier to deal with.
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78 of 81 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Cathy Goodwin TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 14, 2004
Format: Audio CD
If I had to pick one word to describe this book, I'd say "wise." Lerner avoids two traps of therapist-authors: She doesn't rely on theory and jargon and she doesn't jettison her education to serve up easy-to-swallow formulas. She's not afraid to talk tough and to season her wisdom with humor.
I love her opening. Cats live in the moment, she says, and goes on to compare the relative advantages of being a cat versus being a human. But then, she concludes, it doesn't matter: if you're reading this book, it's safe to say you're not a cat.
And unlike many authors, Lerner offers a balance between relationship and work stresses. She describes a powerful but controversial intervention she designed for a young man who feared social rejection. While she reminds us she took into account the young man's non-threatening persona, I'm still amazed he didn't get arrested. The point, however, is well-taken. Action, not insight, creates change.
I especially appreciate Lerner's advice: "Be able to live without your job." She's right: being free to walk allows you to speak up for your values. And although she doesn't make this point, I've found that when we're free to leave, we usually end up neither having to leave nor wanting to go.
And, adds Lerner, remember that the workplace is not your family. Organizations exist to ensure their own economic vitality -- i.e, their own survival. "Your work family may treat you in such an insensitive and uncaring manner that it will take your breath away." SO true.
Dealing with emotion, Lerner is more realistic than most authors. Recognizing unhappiness requires courage, yet unhappiness itself can help us become brave enough to make changes. Anger and suffering can become part of who we are, so letting go leads to a feeling of homesickness.
All in all, a superb addition to the self-help shelf. Recommended to all.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Mary Kay Blakely on May 20, 2004
Format: Paperback
For the last few years, I've been doing research for a book addressed to otherwise healthy people who feel traumatized by the news--that is, people suffering political depression. So I was elated to find not only confirmation of this phenomenon in Harriet Lerner's wonderful book, but also genuinely helpful advice on dealing with it. When a whole culture is distressed, she writes, "it will develop an anxiety disorder all its own." Certainly, newspapers today offer plentiful evidence of national angst. Every sentence in Fear and Other Uninvited Guests resonated...and relieved. Individually and collectively, life is a process, pain is a teacher. I guess it's not merely coincidence that Harriet's last name is Lerner. Reading her, I felt like one too.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Luise R Eichenbaum on May 21, 2004
Format: Audio CD
Once again Dr. Harriet Lerner has taken complex psychological dynamics and made them thoroughly comprehensible for the general public. This time Dr. Lerner has tackled fear, anxiety and shame and through numerous examples - both personal and anecdotal of other's experiences - has enabled the reader to feel understood, not pathologized but 'simply human'. Always a pleasure to read, Dr. Lerner brings the wisdom and honesty of a seasoned practitioner translating human emotional life into something at once accessible and instructive. I loved her blend of eastern mindfulness with western psychotherapy techniques.
As a psychotherapist for nearly 30 years I have heard countless stories of people suffering from shame,anxiety and, increasingly over the last few years, of fear/terror. I will recommend this book to many people, including other colleagues who I'm sure will find it comfoting, inspiring and enormously useful.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Lee Woodyard on July 1, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This book reads like a novel and makes you laugh out loud, even though the subject matter is heavy and the author's writing goes deep, never just skimming the surface. It's not what I expected--that is, it's not a self-help book to deal with anxiety disorders like panic attacts and OCD. Instead, its about the hidden ways that anxiety, fear and shame (the fear of being seen as essentially flawed, inferior, and unworthy of love and respect) effect our self esteem and our relationships, in both hidden and covert ways. I didn't expect to find myself in this book, but there I was. I finished the book feeling enlightened and empowered, and very, very grateful.
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