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Article by Sheryl Hirsch-Kramer June 6, 2016

Fear Management

What is fear management? And what does Santa have to do with this post?

Fear is that really icky feeling caused by the belief that something or someone will hurt us.  Some fears are justified, like the possibility of getting badly burned if we choose to run into a burning building.  People have been known to die if they run into burning buildings.  Not running into burning buildings is a good way not to get badly burned and/or die.  And some fears aren’t justified,  like the possibility of what might happen if we choose to do something new that’s not life-threatening and still feels scary.   Doing that new thing that isn’t life-threatening may work out beautifully, even if it feels scary.  Or it might not work out beautifully.  If we’re probably not going to die from doing this new thing that isn’t life-threatening, it’s still easy for us to create the icky feelings that accompany feeling afraid.

I remember a moment while I was caring for my mother during her dementia years that taught me a necessary lesson about fear.  She was screaming at me for something she thought I was doing.  Dementia caregivers learn through caregiving that dementia brains can create reasons to be afraid that brains without dementia don’t have.   I knew not to be angry at her.  How could I justify my anger at someone whose actions and reactions were created by dementia?  In that moment, she didn’t realize what she was doing and how it was affecting me.  She was completely focused upon experiencing her fear.  Because I had compassion for what she was experiencing in that moment, I was able to detach from the momentary drama and open to receiving an important truth:  fear makes people selfish.

Six Tips For Managing Fear

In that moment:

  • I placed my attention upon helping her to manage her fear.
  • I empathized with how she was feeling without making her right or wrong.
  • I listened to her explain why she felt the way she felt.
  • I told her how much I loved her, and I consciously directed love to her.
  • I looked at her with compassion in my eyes.
  • I made her the center of my universe.  All she wanted was for someone not to abandon her, for someone to share their love with her to support her in her fight against the fear that accompanies the ravages of dementia.  When I showed her my love and when she received my love, the dementia lost its power to control her in that moment.  It was magical.  She and I experienced moments of unconditional love I never believed to be possible.

Rinse and repeat, gang.  Rinse and repeat.

Dementia caregiving teaches us that other people matter as much as we matter.  If we allow ourselves to feel and express love, if we allow ourselves to give and receive love, we develop magical and rich relationships in every area of our lives.

Fear tells us that I’m the only one who matters, that it’s fine for me to treat you badly because my fear, whether it is fresh fear experienced in the moment or remembered fear I haven’t healed, gives me the right to say and do whatever I want.  If you get hurt because my fear is running me, well, that’s just too bad.  My fear tells me I’m the only one who matters.  If I’ve done something to hurt you, I don’t have to help you find healing.  It was somehow your fault that you got hurt.  I don’t have to take responsibility.   Remember, my fear tells me I’m the only one who matters.

How’s that working for you?

Fear management is essential for healthy living.  I teach these and other fear management techniques in my Love of Life package.  If this approach speaks to you, then I invite you to email me at to schedule your free discovery session.

I’m here for you.

Fear Management and Santa

So what does Santa have to do with fear management?

I visited Ocean Grove, New Jersey, on 1 June 2016.  The last time my dog Laila and I visited Ocean Grove together was exactly one year earlier.  I drove us to a park she loved to visit.  She walked up to a stranger.  She’d been an abused dog before she and I met, and she’d learned through years of living in a loving home that it was finally safe for her to drop her fear of strangers.  I told the man the miraculous story of how I believed love brought her back to me after a diagnosis of terminal cancer.  Laila curled her tail proudly over her back as I told him our story.  She smiled at him.  He thanked me for telling our story, and he looked at her with amazement.  I drove us home, and she died the next day.  She was still cancer free at age 16, two years after she’d been diagnosed.

One year later, I returned to the same park in Ocean Grove.  It’s a special town, a town in which people reach out to others who seem to need comfort.  Strangers reached out to me that day, sensing my sadness and wanting to give me comfort.  They did for me what I did for my mother so many years earlier.  I appreciated their kindness more than usual on a difficult anniversary.

I’ve visited Ocean Grove for many years, and I’ve crossed paths for many years with a man who looks like Santa.  He’s portly.  He’s got the white hair and full beard thing happening.  He always has a big smile on his face when he sees me, and he always wishes me a Merry Christmas when he leaves.   Before partnering with my mother during her dementia years,  I thought there was something wrong with him.  Dementia caregiving changed me.  Post-stroke brain damage changed me.  I now think there is something right with him.  Maybe he really is Santa.  I’m not qualified to say yes or no, but I’ll happily take the greetings.   Christmas is coming.  Start your shopping now!

Santa’s smile was broader than usual.  I thanked him for his beautiful smile, saying how happy I was to see it each time we met.

His response:  “That smile cost me a lot.”

I knew he wasn’t talking about dental bills.

My response:  “I can only imagine.”

Manage your fear, and heal the world.

Merry Christmas.

Perhaps I can help you understand why you have fear and how you might learn to manage it.   Schedule a ‘Book of Life’ session with me for a different view of the underlying dynamics of your life or a ‘Love of Life’ package to help you bring more love, joy, blessings and service into your life.  I invite you to visit to learn about the various professional services I offer.   I’m here for you. With love,

Sheryl Hirsch-Kramer