"Conquer, defeat, overcome, subdue all the phobias and fears gripping your life. Face them head on."

All of us have secret and not-so-secret fears, numbing anxieties, and hidden stresses. The author draws heavily on his own experience of dealing with such conditions, and on the knowledge he has gained from helping others to manage or expel them. Fear, he states, can be healthy, such as fear of disrespecting God or dishonoring others. But most often, it is unhealthy and irrational, a sense of the dangers of the unknown. A phobia is often linked to real events, causing residual dislike, aversion, and panic. Anxiety involves worry and self-torment. All of us, Marston states, no matter what our genetic code or our life’s occurrences, will experience fears, phobias, and anxieties.

Marston gives many examples of these problems from his youth and upbringing. Early on, he was terrified of the sound of thunder after being near a very loud, low-flying plane in babyhood. As he grew older, he overcame this fear through a rational understanding of what causes thunderstorms. He had acrophobia: a fear of heights; this he conquered by the simple means of climbing a ladder. Later he was able to use that technique when, as a social worker, he assisted a disabled teen with the same fear, encouraging the boy to do as he had done, ascending a ladder, jumping off, and going up again until he defeated the phobia. Other childhood fears that Marston conquered included fear of leaving home, fear of water, and even a fear of puddles.

Marston is a retired social worker, so much of his advice and the techniques he recommends come from helping others in a professional capacity. His book is a valuable how-to for those trying to overcome fears, anxieties, and various emotional disorders. He has organized it almost as a lively memoir, an adventure in growing up and expanding one’s understanding over time. He uses personal recollections—bedwetting as a child, alcohol use as a youth, figuring out how to relate to girls, dealing with bullies. and a penchant for fighting resulting in a multitude of injuries—as a way of counseling readers in progressing from their fears to a positive outlook. Many people fear failure, and the author frankly shares a list of his own failures, reminding readers that “failure is an integral part of the life cycle.” He offers wisdom concerning employment goals and general self-esteem. He has an intimate knowledge of grief, having lost a son, and gives some clues on handling such a cataclysmic, seemingly insuperable tragedy. For him, attention deficit disorder added another dimension to his anxieties, so he presents various strategies for dealing with that and similar syndromes. He also encourages readers to learn to communicate one’s fears to others through counseling.

Marston writes with sensitivity and an appropriate helping of light anecdote but always with a serious intent: to help readers help themselves to accept, understand, and overcome the common barriers of fear, phobia, and anxiety through practical, replicable methods. His book will be useful to caregivers and an inspiration to anyone seeking to change life for the better.

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