Turn away from me the reproach which I dread. Psalm 119:39
Not too many weeks ago, I went to the mail box and there I found a large envelope containing four letters forwarded to me from The Record office. I opened it and put the four letters down on the table with a twinge of dread. I had this overwhelming fear that at least half of them were going to be complaints from angry people about something that I had written in this column.
I argued with myself about opening them or putting it off, but eventually I decided to get it over with! All of them were very positive, but I spent quite a bit of time trying to analyze my irrational fear of rejection, even though hundreds of people have told me that they like them, even love them. Why am I, after all this time, so unnerved by that poison letter that I get every now and then?
I went to the internet and typed “irrational fears.” I was comforted by the fact that I am not necessarily crazy, but my reaction is something that a lot of people go through. Cyclist Lance Armstrong said something that described my experience perfectly. “A boo is louder than a cheer. If you have ten people cheering and one person booing, all you hear is the booing.”
Psychologist Albert Ellis identified a number of dysfunctional beliefs that many hold in some degree. Here is a summary.
1. It is necessary for me to be loved and approved of by everybody. 2. If I am not adequate in all aspects then I am a worthless person. 3. People must be considerate and act fairly at all times or they are damnable villains if they do not. 4. It is awful and terrible if things are not the way I would like them to be. 5. My emotional disturbances are always externally caused and I have no internal power to exert any control over them.
6. If something is, or may be, dangerous or fearsome, I must be constantly and obsessively concerned about it. 7. I cannot face life’s responsibilities and difficulties and so I must do everything I can to avoid them. 8. I must be dependent on others because I cannot run my own life. 9. Because something affected me adversely in my past life, it must affect me that way today. 10. I must feel upset by other people’s disturbances because they feel upset by them. 11. There is a right and perfect solution to every human problem and it is awful when that solution is not found.
One of the four letter writers gave me some advice about my falling into at least three of these irrational beliefs. “I hope you would not let a few negative people keep you from writing. It is refreshing to know the love you have for sinners like myself!”
Father J. Ronald Knott