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Fear and Other Uninvited Guests: Tackling the Anxiety, Fear, and Shame That Keep Us from Optimal Living and Loving
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Fear and Other Uninvited Guests: Tackling the Anxiety, Fear, and Shame That Keep Us from Optimal Living and Loving

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  1,244 ratings  ·  107 reviews
Unhappiness, says bestselling author Harriet Lerner, is fueled by three key emotions: anxiety, fear, and shame. They are the uninvited guests in our lives. When tragedy or hardship hits, they may become our constant companions.

Anxiety can wash over us like a tidal wave or operate as a silent thrum under the surface of our daily lives. With stories that are sometimes hilari
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published May 11th 2004 by Harper (first published 2004)
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Average rating 3.96  · 
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 ·  1,244 ratings  ·  107 reviews

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Hannah Fettig
Jan 27, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book made a big impact on me.

My favorite points:

1. When you avoid what you fear, it worsens anxiety. If you can do things or put yourself in situations that you are afraid of, you can see yourself experience them and come out the other side all in one piece. For example, if it's fear of rejection you are trying to overcome, you need to actually experience rejection enough times to realize that you don't need to be afraid of it.

2. "To some extent we all compare ourselves to others. It's eas
Feb 04, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Allison by: Brene Brown
Shelves: inspirational
Technically, I'll give it a 2.5. I read this because I saw the book and the author featured on Brene Brown's blog. I don't think this book was as helpful, applicable, or inspirational as Brown's "The Gifts of Imperfection" but I did find some parts helpful. The last chapter or so about courage in the face of fear--that fear doesn't really limit us; rather the avoidance of things that make us fearful/anxious limits us--was relevant to me. I liked that the author used real stories to illustrate he ...more
Nov 21, 2007 rated it really liked it
this book is very intriguing ... its difficult for me to grasp the magnitude of baggage we drag around that developed many years ago in our childhood
Susan Visser
Apr 27, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've become a fan of Harriet's books. They are very readable with lots of examples from either her life or patients she has seen over the years. She makes the topic less fearsome. We can get beyond our fears, even if we don't know we have them.

The chapter on workplace fears was insightful. Workplace issues can be very complex given the number of diverse players and pressures, but it boils down to something rather simple.

Stephanie A. Weeks
Wonderful, powerful read. Lerner provides a new way to think of fear that we experience in day to day life: inescapable, inevitable, painful that can drive feelings of anxiety, shame & guilt.

Shame: She teaches that shame is a very powerful tool people use to manipulate and deflect their own, but it’s usually not consciously seen by the shamer as such. Shaming another is usually a way of deflecting our own insecurities & fears. A mother afraid of what people may say about her overweight child ma
Jennifer Glass
Sep 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have greatly benefited from reading Lerner's books. A few things really stuck with me from this one. In particular, I found chapter 7 on the anxious workplace very helpful. The five unproductive styles of managing anxiety are underfunctioning, overfunctioning, blaming, distancing and gossiping, and the antidote to each is taking responsibility, thinking things though, showing up to events/being personable with colleagues, staying present/being direct, being straightforward, and knowing when to ...more
My Bookish Delights
One thing I love about Harriet Lerner's writing is how accessible it is. It's easy to understand and she knows exactly when to put a person's story within the writing. She's not pretentious and isn't afraid to include her own flaws within her writing. She makes it so easy to relate. I've made it a personal goal to read all of her books.

I've read this book before and really liked it. I find what makes people tick (including myself) so interesting. I don't remember what I related to the first time
Jun 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I love this woman. Relatable and pragmatic without drama nor touchy feely.
Jul 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
"In reality, every human being is dependent on the help and support of others. There's nothing shameful about recognizing how much we need each other - a fact we can deny when we're healthy and things are going well. What's shameful is the myth that with the right "can-do" attitude, we can bootstrap our way to health, wealth, and happiness. Or that staying strong, vigorous, and youthful is what matters most, rather than cultivating acceptance for what is. Or that fear and suffering is weak, and ...more
Jul 09, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: books08, self-care
Useful was the "Things to Remember when speaking to a group/teaching." The rest of the book pretended to be a self-help book that was more complicated than other self-help books, but -- uh? -- I just found that it was the author's personal platform for discussing her cases and certain things.

Maybe it wasn't what I needed. As someone with a diagnosis of anxiety and who has a lot of anxiety attacks, her notion that "all people have anxiety cuz they worry a lot" was useful, but not what I needed. M
Sep 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Most helpful was hearing how anxiety and our different reactions to anxiety show up. It was one of the better descriptions I’ve come across.
I always approach self help books with the best of intentions but find that I'm cynical after a handful of pages. Not all self-help books are this way and I've made mention in the past that the ones that are chock-full of research studies that have been replicated and verified are far better than those that come off as testimonial nonsense. This book falls into the latter category.

The book does have merit just not enough to warrant heaping any praise. There are nuggets of information that the r
Douglas Lord
Feb 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Psychologist Lerner (The Dance of Anger) shrewdly characterizes leak anxiety, and shame–termed the big three–as ubiquitous and permanent; instead of trying to make them go away, we need to embrace them warily as potentially wise guides. With characteristic intimacy, Lerner encourages a dialog of sorts with frequent, effective questions and anecdotes, filling the book with superb insights (e.g., “Women have long been shamed for growing older”). Given Lerner’s reasonable approach–and the connectio ...more
Jan 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own-read
One of Harriet Lerner’s shorter books, it is nevertheless a helpful guide for all of us (literally all of us) who struggle with anxiety. Framed by her classic concepts of overfunctioning, underfuctioning, and triangulation, Lerner explores the role that fear, anxiety, and grief play in our work and family environments.

I found it helpful to consider the ways I manage my anxiety around different topics and in different contexts, becoming aware of how others are managing their anxiety, and learnin
May 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"Change is an anxiety-arousing business because whenever you make a change, you can't make only one. There is no guarantee where it will stop."
This resonated with me a great deal as did the majority of the first half of the book. This book speaks to basic everyday anxiety, fear and shame that as the author points out, is human and I found myself writing down quotes and insights for later reference. This book is not a cure for major phobias or major anxiety disorders but has many helpful strateg
May 28, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book discusses anxiety, fear, and shame in everyday life. The author approaches the subject with a feminist perspective, which I think is absolutely necessary. It was very helpful for me and contained many useful insights.



"The degree to which Jane gets down on herself in a judgmental way is a good measure of the amount of stress she's under, and a signal that she needs to redirect her attention toward identifying and working on the real problems."

" need to know that you ca
Jul 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Book worth to read especially if you feel like changing something. The discomforting emotions will always be with us, they will come uninvited, but the way we welcome them tells how much we are going to struggle with them.
Author tells stories from her experience and in this way the book is easy to read, there are stories of real people; real emotions we all are subjected to.
I am always interested in self-help books that tackles mostly of anxiety being that I have a mild case of it. It was helpful at times funny too comparing to some books that seemed to be full of definitions and lectures. This book was like a person who talks to you with immense experiences to share. It was 3.5 stars for me.
Julie Castell
Jul 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: self-help, psychology
This is such valuable information. You don't have to be a corporate CEO or in the traditional workplace. You can be a housewife who is trying to understand her station in life. Dr. Lerner is so knowledgeable & uses great examples. This book is for anyone & everyone since we all have some degree of fear, anxiety & shame. ...more
Aug 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Compassionate, accessible, universal - all keys to effectively teaching the important tools for self-observation that Dr. Lerner provides here. She's also a terrific storyteller who makes the concepts easy to understand with anecdotes of her clients and her personal experiences. Definitely going to collect her other works.
Feb 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
I always walk away with a valuable insight into human behavior when I read any of Lerners books. This time it was about how anxiety moves in systems (like family systems, work environments or classrooms)
Patricia Mauerhofer
I enjoyed reading this dance, but the one on Anger remains my all time favourite I have recommended over and over again to friends, family and most of my clients (together with Dance of Intimacy). If you like Harriets approach and work it's certainly worth to read this one as well.
Mar 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobooks
It has been awhile since I read anything by Harriet Lerner, and as always her wisdom and insight from many years as a therapist were very helpful. She reads the audio version, and that made her insights even more accessible.
May 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
LOVED! Once again, Harriet Lerner is incredible. This book is full of gems about working with fear and anxiety in all aspects of your life (the work section really resonated with me). My only critique is that it felt poorly organized-- the structure of the book felt a bit arbitrary.
Michelle Tremblay Wright
This book gives some great perspectives and ideas for handling stress, fear, and anxiety. A good read for anyone dealing with any of these issues.
Nov 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This contains so many takeaways that feel like a-ha moments when learning about the causes of anxiety. There is a no holds barred feeling that is refreshing but not at all aggressive.
Dec 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is the third book of hers that I’ve read in a short space of time. I find them to be easily digestible, relatable, and full of relationship wisdom. This may be the best one yet.
Sophie Rayton
Aug 20, 2018 rated it liked it
There was nothing ground breaking for me in this book but it was a nice little reminder about what our minds and bodies go through when experiencing fear and anxiety.
Jul 13, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good book but towards the end is definitely more geared towards women. Spending half the chapter on body shame by talking about the difference between the vulva and vagina.
Skip the audiobook, this one's an assault on the auditory senses.
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Dr. Harriet Lerner, Ph.D. (Clinical Psychology, City University of New York; M.A. Educational Psychology, Columbia University Teachers College), was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, the second of two daughters. Her parents, Archie and Rose Goldhor, were both children of Russian-Jewish immigrant parents. They were high school graduates who wanted their daughters to "be someone" at a time when ...more

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5 likes · 2 comments
“It is not fear that stops you from doing the brave and true thing in your daily life. Rather, the problem is avoidance. You want to feel comfortable so you avoid doing or saying the thing that will evoke fear and other difficult emotions. Avoidance will make you feel less vulnerable in the short run but, it will never make you less afraid.” 29 likes
“Everyone freaks out. Sometimes the best we can do with fear is befriend it. Expect it and understand that fear will always reappear. Eventually it subsides. It will return. The real culprits are our knee jerk responses to fear and the way we try to avoid feeling fear, anxiety and shame. Don't get me wrong, wanting to feel better fast is a perfectly natural human impulse. It is healthy to seek relief when you feel hopelessly mired in the emotional soup. Calming down is an essential first step to accurately perceiving a problem and deciding what to do about it but the last thing you need to do is shut yourself off from fear and pain - either your own or the worlds. If there is one over riding reason why our world and relationships are in such a mess, is that we try to get rid of our anxiety, fear and shame as fast as possible, regardless of the long term consequences. In doing so, we blame and shame others and in countless ways, we unwittingly act against ourselves. We confuse our fear driven thoughts with what is right, best, necessary or true.” 13 likes
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