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Interview with Nonfiction Author Dr. Ronald J. Frederick

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Q: Welcome to Divine Caroline, Dr. Frederick. Could you please introduce yourself?
A: It’s great to be here! In addition to writing, I also work as a psychologist and life coach and am a co-founder of the Center for Courageous Living in Minneapolis, which offers innovative therapy, coaching, and consulting. As part of my career, I do a number of different things like speaking, training, and now promoting my book.  As far as writing goes, I’ve done quite a bit of it over the years—journal articles, book chapters, papers, etc.—but this is my first book.


Q: Tell us about your book: Living Like You Mean It.
A: Living Like You Mean It: Use the Wisdom and Power of Your Emotions to Get the Life You Really Want It is a self-help book published by Jossey-Bass, a division of Wiley. Based on cutting-edge science, it shares my proven four-step approach to overcoming fear and becoming more emotionally present in one’s life and relationships.


I was inspired to write Living Like You Mean It by my own life-changing experience. I was in my early thirties, had just finished my doctoral studies, and despite having everything going for me, I hit a wall. I was in a relationship I frequently questioned and found myself filled with trepidation and fear about moving forward. I ended up in therapy and discovered, rather surprisingly, that the anxiety I was experiencing at the time had so much to do with being uncomfortable with what I really felt deep down inside.

I had become so afraid of my emotions, of listening to and trusting my true feelings, that I couldn’t hear the voice of my deepest self buried somewhere inside me—the voice that knew what I wanted, knew what I longed for, knew what felt right to me and what felt wrong. I might have gone on doubting myself forever had I not gotten the help I needed to recognize what, in fact, I really was afraid of and to learn how to overcome my fears, accept and embrace my emotional self, and really connect with others.

The experience changed my life. My anxiety decreased, I stopped doubting myself and felt much more confident and in touch with my personal truth. I found it much easier to be emotionally present and felt closer to the people in my life. Ultimately, I found the courage to listen to and trust my heart and move forward, to leave the relationship I was in, and to realize the kind of relationship and life I had dreamed of having.


When you have an experience like that, when your life is changed in such a dramatic way, you want to spread the good stuff around. The more people I’ve been able to help, and the more I witness the dramatic changes that can take place when we develop the ability to be with and share our feelings, the more I have felt compelled to spread the word. I guess you can say that it’s become a mission for me: to help people to wake up to their feelings and get the lives they really want. I wrote this book to help people do just that.


Q: How important is it for people to learn not to fear their emotions?
A: The ability to live like you mean it is all about being emotionally present in our lives—really being there for the happy times and coming through the difficult times a much better person. It all necessitates being able to be present with our emotions and share them in our lives. But many of us are uncomfortable with our feelings.

We have what I call a “feelings phobia.” We get close to our feelings, start to feel anxious, and try to avoid them. We do all these things to suppress our feelings, things we’re not even aware that we’re doing.  As a result, we end up cut off from the wisdom and power inside of us and then find ourselves wondering why we’re unhappy. Why our relationships aren’t more satisfying. Why life isn’t more gratifying. We wonder, Is this as good as it gets?


Our feelings are what make us feel alive and vital, energize us to meet and deal with life’s challenges, and point us in the best direction to get what we really want. Our feelings are what bridge the gap between ourselves and others, enliven our relationships, and help us feel close. And it’s our fear and avoidance of our feelings that keeps us detached from the wisdom and power inside us, and at a distance from others. It’s impossible to go the distance, to really live like you mean it, unless you can be fully present with your feelings.  


Q: Why do you think people fear their emotions? Is it learned or a natural thing?
A: A lot of it has to do with our early experience: what we learned, and didn’t learn. Most of us got very little help when we were growing up with how to connect with, manage, and make good use of our feelings. It’s a basic skill that we haven’t quite learned. On top of that, many of us grew up with caregivers who, to some degree or another, were uncomfortable with feelings.  As children we’re extremely sensitive to the cues we get from our caregivers. If they react poorly when we get angry, sad, or even happy, we sense their discomfort and become anxious—we’re so afraid of losing their approval, of having them pull away or abandon us.  We come to associate a sense of danger with our feelings and this fear gets wired into our brains. Unless we do something to overcome this fear as adults, it stays with us.  


Q: Does fear of emotions have an effect on mental and/or physical health?
A: Absolutely! When we suppress our feelings, they don’t just go away. They fester inside, drain us of vital energy, and eventually resurface as irritability, anxiety, depression, relationship and sexual difficulties, as well as insomnia, chronic fatigue, hypertension, and headaches, to name just a few.


Q: Would you say that people these days don’t know how to get in touch with their inner selves?
A: Yes, I would. Many of us don’t know how to really be present with and make good use of our emotions and it’s in our feelings that we find our true selves.  We don’t take the time to slow down, go inside, and try to connect with our here-and-now experience. Instead, we do everything we can to avoid being in touch. We throw ourselves into our work, or we shop, drink, eat, use drugs, have sex, or exercise fanatically. We talk on our cell phones, send messages on our BlackBerries, surf the Net, play video games, zone out in front of the television. Anything to keep us occupied, distracted. Anything to numb the fear we feel when we get close to our true feelings.

Instead of living like we really mean it, we move ahead on autopilot, only half alive, vaguely aware of what’s going on inside us. Nothing in this picture is going to change until we find the courage to face and share our feelings.


Q: What kinds of things can people expect to learn from reading your book?
A: Living Like You Mean It is designed to help you overcome your fears and be able to use the wisdom and power of your emotions to get the life you really want. I share with readers what I learned and developed over the years, and what I teach my clients every day: a proven four-step approach to overcoming fear and connecting more deeply with yourself and others. You’ll learn how to: identify your feelings and all the things you’re doing to avoid them; how to tame your fear and more comfortably experience your feelings; and how to open up and more fully share your feelings with others.


My book is full of stories of transformation. Stories of people who felt stuck, alone, and despairing, but who, in finding the courage to face their fears, in taking the risk to open up to their feelings and share them with others, changed in ways they never imagined possible. That’s precisely what I want you to take away from this book: to know that with the right tools and practice, your life and your relationships can be better. The capacity for change is there inside you, just waiting to come out.  You’ll see. You have the power to transform your life.


Q: Is there anything else you would like to share?
A: Yes. To learn more about me and Living Like You Mean It, please visit: livinglikeyoumeanit.com/index.html


Q: Thank you so much for your visit.
A: You’re very welcome. It’s been a pleasure.

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