Overcoming Your Fears

In this first episode, Lucia Fernandez Silveira, LMFT and Director/Founder of Coral Gables Counseling Center (CGCC) and Emy Fernandez, Life and Health Coach at CGCC will explore fears and phobias.  They discuss the difference between both and steps you can take on your way to overcoming your own fears.  They share how they had to overcome their own fears by coming out of their offices and putting themselves out there in the creation of the CGCC podcast, The Counseling Corner.

Check out below a blog relating to fear and phobia written by Mirta Pont, LMSW, EMDR Certified and expert on traumas and phobias.

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Episode 1 – Overcoming Fear

Word from our sponsor:

Gabriela: We’re supported by our friend, The Calm Cuban. Spoiler alert. She is Cuban but she says she’s working on the calm part.

Emy:  Ok.  We can relate.  It’s not easy being calm.

Gabriela:  She is the brain behind Calmcuban.com, a mental health focused blog with a Calm Club.  Think marketing meets mental health.  She promotes mental health with research and trending topics guiding her creative content.

Emy: What’s the Calm Club?

Gabriela: It’s actually a team of wellness experts ranging from yoga and fitness instructors to nutritionits, health coach, therapists and doctors who weight in on featured topics.  We’re proud to say that we are Calm Club members.  We love to work with her.  Some popular topics on her site includes ways to train your brain, mindfulness misconceptions and my personal favorite, therapy is cool.

If you’re interested in wellness content or in joining the Calm Club, visit calmcuban.com now.  Tell her we sent you.

Emy: Welcome everyone to our first episode of the Counseling Corner brought to you by Coral Gables Counseling Center.  For the first episode, we have Lucia Fernandez Silveira, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and she is also the Founder and Director of Coral Gables Counseling Center.

Lucy why is it that Coral Gables Counseling Center is podcasting?

Lucia: Hi everybody, well because I have this crazy sister that happens to be our marketing director here and our Life and Health Coach and this is of the times, and she decided that we were ready to do this and quite frankly I had no choice because she’s the boss of me.

So having said that, we are open to these new opportunities for us to bring some familiarity to the community as to what really goes on in our therapy rooms.  There is a lot of fear in going in to talk about their most intimate issues and just exposing themselves and their vulnerabilities to a stranger.  And so I really believed when she brought this idea to the table that it would be a wonderful way of us engaging.  Be a little bit more out there. Rather than closed up in our rooms. A way for people to get to know us better.

Emy: So, who is Coral Gables Counseling Center?

Lucia: It’s a group of wonderful, wonderful clinicians, life and health coaches, psychotherapists, psychologists and psychiatrists that are all in the mental health field one way or another trying to bring some kind of peace and joy to people’s lives with their healing powers.

Well, we don’t reallly have healing powers, but we do have tools that help us all navigate through the ups and downs of our life in ways that the more familiar we are with them the more we can apply them to our day to day things that surface in our lives.

Emy: That’s great.  And you know the way I’ve seen you grow the way you did starting off the center 15 years ago and growing now to 20 therapists it’s been incredible to see the strength you had to bring this forward.

Lucia:  Thank you Emy.  The thing with that is that it’s one of those things that because the universe brings us together in the way that it does, we end up really providing a service.  It really does take a village.  Coral Gables Counseling Center isn’t one person.  It’s really a tribe of people that are like-minded and are wanting to bring good things to the world and I am very grateful.  And it organically grew.  I don’t know that I ever set a goal for us to become 17, 18, 19 clinicians that we are now.  It’s kind of like we put something out there in the world that is fruitful, powerful, and resourceful to people, and it kind of grows on its own.  And that’s really the way that this happened.

Emy: Yes, I know.  That’s right.  And, I know that you’re very keen on bringing outside providers – for our providers to meet outside professionals in case we need to resort to them.

Lucia: Yes.  That’s key.  To me again, this is super cliché but it’s the backbone to everything that we do – that it really does take a village.  There are so many wonderful clinicians and other professionals, physical therapists, acupuncturists, occupational therapists, people that specialize in eating disorders and addictions.  There are just so many people in the community and the stronger relationships we have built with them, the more we see the power of us really – it’s not just that we refer to people inside our center – we refer to people outside that builds on the worth of what we bring to our community.  Because it’s not just Coral Gables Counseling Center, there are wonderful people out there that we work with very closely helping people that come our way.

Emy: Yeah.  I really love that.

OK so now that we’ve talked about Coral Gables Counseling Center and introducing ourselves, I want to get into the topic that we chose today.  We chose today – a lesson that we learned – you know the lesson that we are going into today is overcoming fear.    And so why is it that we chose this topic as the first episode of The Counseling Corner?

Lucia: You know we have a lot of fun in everything we do at the end of the day right – so we’re in a meeting of the minds that we have once a month here with the group and we were talking about podcasts and Emy brings the idea to the table and everybody is super excited and everybody’s like “Oh my God, that’s so cool, we’re gonna be out there, we’re gonna…” and I’m like freaking out saying “I don’t even know that I have anything that important to say to the world.”  And so, for me it was a fear right there.  And so, we were all laughing about that.  And one of our clinicians, Lisa Jimenez said,

“You know what? What if that first podcast that we do is on fear. It’s on breaking through fears and recognizing it and getting out of our comfort zone.”

And so that is how the topic came up.  And I thought it was perfect.  Because here I am, you know, God knows what is going to come out of this podcast at the end of the day.

Fear is something that is a very normal, human reaction.  It’s one of those things that I think our creator, God, put in us to protect us in many ways.  It’s the fight or flight.  There’s a lot of things about fear that we need to pay attention to and have respect for.  It’s not all pathological.  It’s a warning sign.

Emy: It’s a safety button.

Lucia: It’s a safety button for sure.  The way that it acts against us ends up being more along the lines of when we have irrational fears or phobias.  You know, it’s funny.  My mom was one of the strongest women that I’ve known in my life.  Her resilience.  There’s a lot of stories about my mother that are amazing.  Not only in her survival instincts, but in the trials and tribulations that she went through in her life.  But she had a funny phobia.  And it was like she could smell a frog a mile away.  She was petrified of them.  She would scream at the top of her lungs – and this was a lady that didn’t lose her composure.  She was a very elegant, very contained, you know, very poised woman – but anything having to do with a frog really set her off.

Anyway, phobia is not the only type of fear but it’s one of the things that we treat very effectively.  And if people would only recognize that and see how it’s one of those things that really is taken care of relatively easy.  We just need to know what the tools are.  And that is one of the most…I always say that anxiety and phobia are one of the things that are easiest to treat.  They’re fed by pervasive, intrusive thoughts that are irrational, and so one of the basic mechanisms to make a transition in that…first is to expose yourself to it.  If you have a phobia of elevators, you’re gonna must go in it up and down and up and down until you’re over it.   Exposure therapy is a wonderful tool for that, and many other phobias people have.

The most debilitating thing about fear is when it’s holding us back from us being free to live our lives with all its potential.  That’s one of the saddest things about phobias or fears.  Is that when fear is looking at us in the face, we need to recognize it, we need to validate it.

OK yes, it’s very scary.  But whatever it is that’s going on in our life, it’s important we recognize it and we walk around it.  If it’s something we really need to protect ourselves from, then we do.  But if it’s something we need to accept.  Then it’s an emotional risk we need to take.  Sometimes there’s fear of commitment. Recognizing it, understanding why that fear is there and where it comes from.  And then the next move is to validate it and walk around it so that we move past those fears, and they don’t take away from the quality of our life as a result of the fear.

Emy: hmm. Lucy, let me ask you something.  Continuing the topic on what you were saying now, do you think that fear today is more of an excuse to not act in our lives?

Lucia: So, for sure, I don’t know that it’s an excuse. I think that for sure it’s something that leads us not to act in our lives.  So, I think that it’s a very real thing that interferes.  I’m not quick to judge anybody with what their intention is.  But I think that for sure, people hold on to those fears and then we end up not acting as a result of them.

Emy: So, do you think that the fear of failure for example, drives many of our fears and lack of action?

Lucia: Absolutely.  The fear of failure, even the fear of success.  What if I do get good at this or manifest this what would that look like?  And it’s just the unfamiliarity of it that feeds that fear.  It’s the fear of the unknown.  And so, people don’t want that.  Sometimes they don’t know that’s what’s standing in the way.  The difference between having it and us doing something about it, is us having insight.  If I don’t know what it is that’s getting in my way, it’s going to be very hard to get past it.  The insight that we gain from the conversation in a therapeutic…

Emy: With talk therapy.

Lucia: With talk therapy and therapeutic intervention is exactly that.  It’s that we gain insight.  Then we are empowered with what it’s going to take to overcome that and then there is the action.  At the end of the day, we’re going to have to act in order to surpass that.

Emy: Ok.  Yes, that makes a lot of sense.  Let me ask you something, the definition of fear in the dictionary is “an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous and likely to cause pain or a threat.”  That’s the definition of fear.  Do you think that a change in our thinking or in our belief system would help us in overcoming our fear if our thinking is driving our fear. If we’re thinking that…

Lucia: Absolutely.  That’s the core of treating anxiety and fears.  That’s what we work with.

Emy: So, changing our thoughts…

Lucia: That’s correct.  That’s how that works.  There’s a lot of things that you know fear relates to.  Anxiety.  A lot of fear creates anxiety.  The way we feed anxiety is exactly with our thought process.  We end up having intrusive, repetitive thoughts having to do with whatever issue we’re dealing with or afraid of or contemplating and the more we feed it the more the fear grows.  And so, one of the things that we do is replace that fear with something else.  That thought process with something else.  The therapeutic intervention is that.

Emy:  Ok.  Good.

Lucia:  And what the conversation is – is one having to do with the specific fear that we’re dealing with.  You know.  Fear of commitment.  Well then you need to explore what is so scary of getting into a commitment.  But a lot of the times, the fear of commitment is- the thoughts behind it along the lines of “nobody’s going to want me,” “nobody’s going to love me eternally,” “nobody’s going to…, I’m not worthy of that.”

And so, there is an underlying lack of self worth that feeds a lot of these irrational thoughts and fears.  And “All marriages fail.” And “All commitments…”  “I’m just going to get hurt at the end of the day.”

There is a lot of truth regarding divorce, the rise of divorce, the difficulty in relationships to last.  And in all those things there is some validity to some of those fears and we need to recognize them, validate them.  To then find a thought process that serves us better.  Despite that, then what do I need to do to make sure that my relationship is a healthy one. Because I want to be able to have a commitment.  Or to be in a committed relationship, I need to be able to love myself enough to be able to love somebody else and feel that they can love me in return.  So that is the thought process that starts healing some of those fears of commitment.  I’m talking about fear of commitment.  And a lot more.  I’m oversimplifing a difficult process – or a more profound process – but that’s the gist of it.

Emy:  I’ve always been confused with the differences between fear and phobia.  I told you the definition of fear, right?  So, the definition of phobia that I found in the dictionary is “an extreme or irrational fear of or aversion to something.  Fear is defined as an unpleasant emotion.” So, it seems like a phobia is a stronger or a more complex disorder issue to resolve whereas fear is more of an unpleasant emotion.  There is, I mean when I looked at the definition of both, it seemed like fear was more of an unpleasant emotion, was a little less – a lot less – strong than a phobia.

Lucia: Right, it becomes pathological – a fear we normalize.  When it’s a phobia already it’s pathological because there’s irrational thoughts behind it that are being fed with those repetitive intrusive thoughts.  I mean a lot of people are afraid to walk out of their house because they’re agoraphobic.  They’re afraid of just going out.  So, it interferes with their day-to-day life.  You know if phobias start interfering with us being able to function fluidly in our life.  And some of them are. I was using the example of my mom with the frog.  It doesn’t interfere with her day-to-day functioning, but it would interfere with her going into the house if there’s a frog next to the door.  You know.  So, it’s irrational.  It’s intense.  Its intensity is different.

However, fear in and of itself also gets in our way.  Like fear of commitment.  Of us being able to to progress in our life.  It’s not a phobia but it’s still something intense enough that we keep from taking the emotional risk of being in a committed relationship because of those fears.  So yes, for sure the difference between one and the other is the intensity.  It’s the severity of it. It’s the degree of which it gets in the way of us being able to function in our own life day to day.

Emy: Hmm.  Let me ask you something.  What are the various treatment modalities for fear and phobia?

Lucia: So, exposure therapy is one of….

Emy: Yes, you mentioned that one.

Lucia: Yeah.  EMDR is also very good.  A lot of fears and phobias come from trauma.  And EMDR is a wonderful treatment modality.  It’s a tool that not all therapists use.  Not all therapists do EMDR.  There is very intense training for that.  We happen to have a clinician here in the center that does EMDR, Mirta Pont.  And it’s one of the most effective things that we use.  But dialectical behavioral therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy, are also tools that we use therapeutically to intervene with the kind of internal dynamic that’s going on that feeds the fear.  Those are the fundmental ones.  There’s a lot of talk therapy like when we go back to the origin of our life and recognize that the trauma comes from something that happened when we were six years old, and we’ve been feeding that fear or that trauma throughout our lives and we’re now 30-something.  Having that talk therapy creates that insight for us to understand its origin.  But for eliminating the fear, the cognitive behavioral therapy and the dialectical behavioral therapy are very effective tools.

Emy: Is that true not only for fears and phobias but also for other disorders like eating disorders and…

Lucia: Absolutely.  They’re very versatile.  They pretty much work for pretty much all of it.  In dialectical behavioral therapy there is a lot of emotional regulation, so we learn how to regulate our own emotions through cognition and the same with cognitive behavioral therapy.

Emy: Ok good.  Yes.  That’s very interesting.  As we wrap up what are some final thoughts and tips that you want to leave for those that have fears or phobias that are holding them back from moving forward in their life?  Anything that they can do?

Lucia: So, you know that our mission statement here at Coral Gables Counseling Center is “Give your mind body and spirit some love.”  Living with fears and phobias is not love.  And I really believe that we have top of mind being kind to ourselves and giving ourselves the tools that we need for us to be healthy in all aspects of our lives.  In our relationships, in our relationship with ourselves, in our relationship with our spirit and our belief system, whatever that may be, but spiritually speaking, be kind in the way we nurture our bodies with food and with our mind.  Our mission statement speaks for what we consist of here in the Center, that I believe we all need to be cognizant of in order for us to be whole.  It’s a holistic approach to us being well.  And if one of the gifts that we have is therapy and, therapeutic intervention, that we can gift ourselves when we have those paralyzing fears.

The other things with fear, like I started in the conversation, is you know, pay attention.  If there’s a red flag, pay attention to your instinct and say why is that something that concerns me.  It’s not all irrational.  I think a lot of people make a lot of mistakes in their life because they see all kinds of red flags, but they don’t pay attention, or they don’t validate them with the certainty that they should if they were to trust themselves.  So that goes back to self love again.  That we trust ourselves enough to trust our instinct, to trust the red flags that we have around us.  And then, trust that if we are feeling they’re irrational, they are also something to pay attention to.

Emy:  Right. Right.  As a Life Coach I always tell my client that the gut is another brain.

Lucia:  Yes!

Emy:  And so, to trust your gut.

Lucia: Yes! When something is giving you that…

Emy:  The butterflies in your stomach to trust that.  To trust that.

Lucia:  Yes. Absolutely.

Emy: To trust that.  And love yourself by getting help.

Lucia:  Yes.  For sure.  And it’s such a gift.  It really is.  I feel it’s such a privilege.  I had never gone to therapy until I got into therapy school.  When I was doing my master’s, we needed to do it.  It was part of the program.  We needed to get therapy ourselves.  I had no idea what I was getting into.  I knew that I loved psychology.  I did a couple of years of medical school thinking I wanted psychiatry.  But what I really wanted was exactly what I’ve been doing for thirty-something years now which is psychotherapy.  But I really didn’t know what it consisted of.  And I feel that a lot of people don’t know that.  They feel that it’s just for crazy people.  They feel that they’re weak because they’re seeking help and they’re supposed to do this on their own.  Trust me.  Even if you come to therapy, you must do it on your own.  The changes can only come from us, individually.  But having the tools and having the guidance – we’re not supposed to do it alone.  I cannot possibly reach into my subconscious without somebody giving me the tools to do so.  Because you know through that conversation, they can see in me something I can’t and that is what brings it to the consciousness.  Once I’m conscious of it, then I act.  And so in that therapeutic process, a lot of people are scared to look inside themselves.  The fear of looking within themselves. And that’s another thing that I want to kind of put out there.  Don’t be scared to look at what’s there.  It’s when we’re blind that we need to be scared.  When we’re blind to what’s going on that’s navigating our lives instead of us having a say in it.  An input.  An opportunity for us.

Emy: Some control.

Lucia: Yeah.  Well, I always say control is an illusion and it is.  But for sure I can’t do anything about something I’m not seeing.  That I’m blind to.  But if I see it then I can try to figure out how to do something about it.  And that’s the gift that we give ourselves – having the opportunity of going to therapy.  It came to me by default.  I depended on it throughout my life as a tool to create consciousness and awareness and I encourage everybody to do so.

Emy: I love that.  Ok so with that we’re going to end the session.  The episode.

Lucia: Thank you Emy.

Emy:  No thank you for taking the time to sit with us and give us your thoughts on overcoming fear.

Lucia: Thank you.

Emy: For our listeners out there, join us next week for Episode 2 as we welcome Dr. Todd Giardina and Gabriela Reyes, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, as they talk about relationships.

It’s a wrap.

Word from our Sponsor:

Gabriela: We’re supported by our friend, The Calm Cuban.  Spoiler alert.  She is Cuban but she says she’s working on the calm part.

Emy:  Ok.  We can relate.  It’s not easy being calm.

Gabriela:  She is the brain behind Calmcuban.com, a mental health focused blog with a Calm Club.  Think marketing meets mental health.  She promotes mental health with research and trending topics guiding her creative content.

Emy: What’s the Calm Club?

Gabriela: It’s a team of wellness experts ranging from yoga and fitness instructors to nutritionits, health coach, therapists and doctors who weight in on featured topics.  We’re proud to say that we are Calm Club members.  We love to work with her.  Some popular topics on her site includes ways to train your brain, mindfulness misconceptions and my personal favorite, therapy is cool.