Recently the Virginia Tech massacre once again filled our news and talk shows with one of their favorite enemies of the people, terror. We all need to know how to cope with fear, so I’ll give you here my favorite enemies of fear. Those who study and rehearse these can keep them handy as an emergency tool kit for terror.

Fear-fighting techniques for the body and mind are taught in the award-winning self-help book, The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook, edited by Dr. Ed Bourne. This book was written to keep people who suffer from worry and fear from having to pay to come see a therapist like me.

Most fear-fighting techniques for the body teach us that peace comes from tuning out the involuntary nervous system (the nerves that carry messages from the body to the brain, for example, telling it how tense the body feels). Recovery is found in deliberately paying attention to the voluntary nervous system, which gives and carries orders from the brain to the body.

Here are the three basic steps to a relaxed body: One, tune out the involuntary nervous system and tune in the voluntary nervous system. Two, watch a relaxing movie in the theater of your mind. And three, go back to your body and feel the calm. Let’s see some ways to do these three things.

1. Take slow, deep breaths, and keep doing it. Be sure to push all the air out of your lungs before taking the next breath. Change your location, or at least your position: get away from immediate physical sources of stress. Do "systematic muscle relaxation": tense up the muscles in one area of your body (legs, arms, torso or face), hold the tension a few seconds, let your muscles relax, and then move on to the next area of your body to do the same thing.

If you can’t go to sleep, get out of bed and go sit in an uncomfortable chair you designate as a Worry Chair: pray out/write down/talk out your worries, then return to bed, and refuse to think about these things again there. If you can’t stop the worries, take yourself back to the Worry Chair—such discipline teaches the brain a lesson. Note that you may not be able to "go to your happy place" mentally until you’ve done this first step physically.

2. Take a comfortable seat in the wonderful movie theater built into your right brain. Visualize carefully being in a beautiful, safe place (a beach, a lake, grandmother’s couch, a big stream-side tree in a meadow). Take in what all of your senses are experiencing there (sun and breeze on your skin, natural sounds, beautiful sights left and right). Imagine a loved one joining you there (a person, angel or God). Look, listen and feel for signs and words of love (a hug, encouragement, or blessing which you imagine). Do this at least once a day when you’re not scared, until you find you can do these things effectively in the midst of a stress storm.

3. Let your mind go back to your body and feel the difference all this has made. This is a good time to repeat to yourself words of assurance and calm that will now sink in. Good words to say are found in Bourne’s Workbook, which teaches how to change negative self-talk into positive. I’ll describe some of my favorite techniques next time. These will make the chat room found on the left side of your brain as peaceful as the happy place you’ve now created over on the right side.

The key to managing worry and fear is learning how to change the channels in your mind. We learned last time how to switch awareness from the involuntary nervous system that takes feelings TO the brain, and give it to the voluntary nerves taking messages FROM the brain out to the muscles. We also learned how to go into the right brain that imagines scenes, and change the channels there.

Overcoming fear might start with changing the channels on your TV. The best breeding grounds I know for fear are horror and action movies, crime shows, and the evening news. Then learn to change the channels in your left brain, where words live. That’s where fear talks to you, and if you’re smart, where you’ll learn to talk back to it.

Write down all the negative things fear says to you, and later when you’re not afraid, write down comebacks that express your faith. Rather than running from pain, solitude and death, embrace the thoughts of them. Don’t let them be impersonal, faceless foes, but talk with them. Learn to think of them as your friends and teachers.

Whatever you believe in as being stronger, wiser and better than yourself, that is your god, and you can substitute that for "God" in the guidance below. Speak to your fears in your left brain and if you can, out loud, with words like these:

This too shall pass. . . . Let go, let God. . . . One day at a time, one moment at a time. . . . I don’t need worry—it’s just the interest paid on borrowed trouble. . . . No one can take my self-esteem without my permission. . . . Focus on the fire drill, not the fire. . . . If I focus on the problem I watch the problem grow, but as I focus on the solution I am watching the solution grow. . . . I will not act frozen as if I’m a slave to fear, but I’ll act out my freedom and my faith. . . .I can see God holding me, right here, right now. . . .

Write down your favorites of these and other sayings, and keep them with you in your wallet or purse. Bible passages that will help are the 23rd Psalm, Matthew 6: 25-34, Philippians 4: 6-8, and I Peter 5:7. Remember and identify with courageous people from fairy tales (I love the moxie of Hansel and Gretel) and from history. My favorites from biblical history are David and Goliath, Daniel in the Lions Den, Esther defying Haman, Jesus defying the Romans and the church, and the woman who crashed the Pharisee’s kosher luncheon in Luke 7. My favorite role models from modern history are Winston Churchill, Lech Walensa, Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, and Pat Tillman.

School children practice their fire drills when they know the building is not on fire, so that when it is, they can get to safety with peace and calm. Remember these things will only have the power you give them by mediating on them in advance. When you give your mental channel-changing muscles a few work-outs, come the next crisis, you’ll be cool.

Think about your exposure to the news of the day—TV, newspapers, websites, radio, gossip and hearsay. What is it doing for you, or perhaps, TO you?

Just as with the food and medicine we take in, we need to examine the nutritional value and side effects of the news we get. To live the good life, we have to set healthy boundaries for ourselves, to guide what news we put into ourselves. So what kinds of filters do you use for the news?

Nutritional value: we all need to take in enough news to understand what is happening, why, what’s good and bad for the world, and what can be done to promote the good and defeat the bad.

I like to get my news by flipping through Time and Newsweek, and scanning the headlines and articles of newspapers, in hand or online. I think about what happens until I can answer the questions in the previous paragraph. Then I’ve made my peace with it, and I move on. No worries, no rehashing of bad news, no horrifying TV images. Those are my boundaries, my news filters.

Toxic side effects. Producers of news reports know how to hook us with excitement. They design their news reports to titillate us, arousing our pleasures and desires. Some of the desire and pleasure is innocent enough, like humor and gratitude, which flavor a little bit of the news. That’s good.

But to protect ourselves from psychological infection, we all need to ask ourselves with each news story we take in: What is this arousing in me? What will this do for my confidence and contentment, for my blood pressure? The news that doesn’t arouse laughter or gratitude usually arouses an attitude of arrogance: "I’m better than these other people. We should just rid of the bad guys, the foreign element, the criminals and we’d be fine."

We like to think nothing is wrong with us. Compared to the villains on the news, we feel like innocent victims, our vain virtues forever being vexed by their villainous vices.

To avoid this self-deceit, a good boundary is to realize that under their circumstances of genetics, childhood trauma and neglect, poverty, and poor role models, education and peers, we might have done the same as the worst of the newsmakers.

In addition to arrogance, beware if your news provokes envy, resentment, greed, laziness, lust, gluttony, or fear. (If the news you’re taking in doesn’t incite enough of this for you, the advertising that pays for it surely will.) These attitudes provoke behaviors that kill our bodies, bank accounts, and our relationships. So you may want to consider limiting or filtering out news that turns on these killer attitudes.

That last mindset of FEAR is clearly a favorite product of some politicians, radio personalities and news networks. I just prefer to experience faith (confidence and peace) over fear (worry and stress).

To that end, one helpful boundary to use is "so what?" When you ask "what if" you experience a tornado, earthquake, war, disease, burglar, rapist, or something tragic happen to a loved one, you can ask yourself, "So what if . . .?", and start imagining and praying for something good that could come out of such a tragedy. For extra peace of mind, imagine how you could help to create that silver lining.

In short, take care what goes into your three news gates: your eye-gate (TV, newspapers, magazines, computer), your ear-gate (radio and hearsay), and your thought-gate. That last gate is where you decide what the news means, whether you’re going to worry about it, or whether you are going to bring something good out of it. That makes all the difference.

We all have our fears. It’s what we do with them that makes our lives work out for the better or the worse. A big key to success in life is deciding what to believe we are afraid of. But you may ask, do we really have a choice about what we fear in life? Yes we do.

In any given situation, we have a choice to decide what force or possible outcome in that situation we are going to focus our fearful attention on. The last power we should let anyone take from us is our power to focus our attention.

Is your mind your servant, or is it your boss? Can your soul tell your mind what to believe in and what to fear? Or do you let your body and emotions tell your mind what to trust and what to fear? Optimism and common sense teach us to be careful what we choose to fear, because it may become our master.

For example, in a fearful situation, I could focus on the harm someone could do to my wallet, my body, or my reputation. But wouldn’t I do better to focus my fears on what I could do in this situation to harm my self-respect, and to damage the faith that others I value the most have put in me?

Sure, some frightened people think they have no choice what to be afraid of. Whatever their mind worries about, they just accept as the focus of their fears. They trust their hearts even when their hearts are scared to death. They trust their bodies even when they’re frozen in fear.

Other people try to convince themselves and others that they have no fears. Thinking like soldiers, they were influenced by the greatest generation, who heard and believed FDR before WWII when he said, "We have nothing to fear but fear itself." So they’re just afraid to be afraid. They’ve never heard of a healthy fear, and maybe you haven’t either.

Healthy fears are ones that make us and those around us more at peace with the world as it is. Maybe you don’t believe a fear can bring you peace. One key is to be afraid of things you can control, instead of things you can’t. Another key is to be afraid of losing touch with what’s good, instead of getting in touch with what’s bad. Think about these examples:

Healthy fears inspire action, not passivity. The fears of failure and rejection are not as healthy as the fears of never trying, or never loving at all. Better to be afraid of repeating old mistakes than to fear trying something new. Fears that we talk out with someone trustworthy are better for us than fears we act out alone. Better to work through a fear than give into one. The fear that I won’t give it my best beats the fear that in someone else’s eyes I won’t be the best.

Fears that lead us out of dependencies and addictions are better for us than those that lead us into them. Fears that make us stand up for ourselves are better than those that make us fall down for others. If I am working for things that leave the world a better place, and the other guys involved aren’t, worrying that I’ll let them walk all over me is healthier than worrying I’ll hurt their feelings.

Fears that make us love are better than those that make us hate. When I fear that another man will love my wife better than I do, it makes me love her more. If I feared she’ll be seduced into loving another man more than she loves me, it would shut me down. Cancer can make us afraid of death, or what’s better, afraid of dying without really having lived and loved.

Fears that build hope bless the world more than those that build despair. Better to fear that we will let someone discourage us than to worry that someone will prove unworthy of our trust and break our heart. But how do you avoid the fear of a broken heart? Try believing it’s just the hard shell around our heart that’s getting broken, and that a broken open heart is good.

Choosing or crafting healthier fears involves putting a new framework into your perceptions. It’s framing your fears differently to change your focus. For more tips on reframing your fears, check out

I’m afraid of growing old like I think most people do, becoming more passive, withdrawn, bitter, negative, worried about things that that might go wrong, and focused in on my aches, pains and lost functions. This fear makes me do just the opposite, stay young at heart, and focus on solutions more than problems. Of all my fears, that’s one of my favorites.

Which of your fears are bringing out the best in you? What new ones might you need to bring on board to replace the ones that are getting you down?

Forward Movement Publications in Cincinnati published a pamphlet I was asked to write explaining sexual addiction to the average Christian reader. You may find the contents of the pamphlet below:

Sex:  When is it an Addiction?

By Dr. Paul Schmidt

Of all the experiences we 21st century Americans crave, of all the images we see that motivate us to buy, the biggest idol we worship today is romantic intimacy.  We long for a lively, creative, safe, sensual, affectionate, utterly enjoyable connection with the one we love.

Oh sure, we have other major longings—health, wealth, youth, beauty, closeness with nature, peace of mind, and healthy family bonds.  We know much more about how to get and keep these than we do about romantic intimacy.

So why don’t more people find this intimacy as it was made to be?   Well on the road to Shangri La, we get hijacked.  Most of us have turned aside and run aground, settling for things much easier to obtain, things that are more gratifying in the short run.  We give up our integrity for intensity.  So we lie marinating in the juicy, perverted, counterfeit versions of romance we get from Hollywood, Madison Avenue, and that modern marvelous mainstream sewer, the Internet.  No wonder there’s so much sexual sickness today.  What constitutes sex addiction, and how common is it?

  Sexual Addiction

In 2004, America spent more money on pornography than on the NBA, NFL, and Major League Baseball combined, more than NBC, CBS, and ABC earned as an industry.  Addiction to pornography over the Internet is by far the fastest growing addiction in the world, and women, children and geriatrics are the fastest growing groups of cyber-addicts.  Our best estimates are that 6% of Americans are sex addicts, and the prevalence is slightly higher in Christian circles.  So if your family has 20 folks over for Christmas dinner, odds are there’s a sex addict in the house.

What forms does an addiction take, and what is its course?   Each addict usually has 1-3 out-of-control habits with sex.  These habits usually include traditional sexual deviations, but viewing pornography and marital infidelities (affairs or one-night stands) can also become addictions.   When loved ones discover the problem, they usually take on a reformer’s zeal, sexual anorexia, or both, any one of which just provokes the addict into rationalizing more severe and more cleverly hidden sexual misconduct.

For those who do not recover, symptoms progress.  It takes more and more stimulation to give them the same satisfaction, so their abominations grow like mildew in the dark.  They generally go through their relationships and die a rather miserable, lonely death, financially and spiritually bankrupt.

When does sex become an addiction?   When sexual behavior works against intimacy in a monogamous relationship, or against personal integrity for a single person who’s not in love, it can be called “Dysfunctional Sexual Behavior” (DSB).  Experts agree that you have an addiction when your DSB shows three or more of the following ten signs (hallmarks for any addiction):

impulse control (recurrent failure to resist DSB impulses),

broken plans (frequency/duration of DSB keeps exceeding what’s planned),

can’t quit (persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to stop for good),

time loss (DSB takes up excessive amounts of time),

preoccupation (thoughts of DSB keep intruding),

irresponsibility (DSB occurs during times committed to obligations or responsibilities),

social fallout (recurrent negative consequences of DSB in work and/or family life),

social dropout (skipping social, occupational, or recreational activities for DSB),

behavioral escalation (it takes more cost and/or risk to get the same emotional relief), and

withdrawal symptoms (irritation, tension, or despair when unable to act out the DSB).

Addiction via Computer

Cyberporn has become epidemic in our culture because it seems to be accessible, affordable (at first), and anonymous (but it never is).  Internet service providers know who uses porn, and employers can track their computers.  Porn sites buy and sell links and email addresses for big money, and infect users’ computers with pop-ups.

Organized crime is behind most of the porn traffic, and all the bigger hosts know exactly which pictures you watch the longest, what sequences made you get out your credit card before, and how to present similar but new things the next time you get on line.  So there is a constantly updated, personalized temptation waiting for the sex addict every time he goes online.  Satan has done himself right proud here.

Is this experience addictive?  Besides being a gateway drug that fuels escalation and triggers new forms of sexual acts and crimes, cyberporn is highly addictive itself, and has rightly been called the crack cocaine of sexual experiences. Since these and other sexual experiences produce massive amounts of dopamine in the brain, it’s been said that sex addicts carry their drugs with them.

How do Sex Addictions Form and Grow?

In classical conditioning demonstrated by Pavlov, the sound of a bell becomes a turn-on when it is paired repeatedly with the pleasure of eating.  Likewise, and Americans are tragically unaware of this, whatever is presented the first few times with sexual arousal and orgasm becomes a turn-on.  That explains how various things one would think would be turn-offs, if experienced by sex addicts while they were messed with in their youth, perpetually produce the effect of throwing gasoline onto a lust bonfire.  For example:

 Addictions are fueled by Trauma.  When people are raped, incested, or sexually abused, they are usually attracted to repeat the traumatic situation, in a futile and subconscious effort to make it turn out differently, and too often to pursue sexual release they can’t find any other way.

Addictions are fueled by Shame.  Though addicts believe shame will help prevent acting out sexually, it’s actually a huge trigger.  Recovery requires addicts to break the shame cycle.

Addictions are fueled by Other Addictions.  Sex addicts are usually addicted to something else too:  alcohol or other drugs (42%), eating disorder (38%), workaholism (28%), compulsive spending (26%), or compulsive gambling (5%).

Addictions are fueled by Aversions.  Sexual anorexia (extreme disgust and avoidance) often co-exists with addictions in addicts (binge-purge cycle) and their significant others.  All aversions help trigger, maintain, and rationalize the addiction.

Addictions are fueled by Enablers.  Some partners and loved ones believe they might have caused the addiction, or perhaps could learn how to control or cure it.  This actually takes responsibility for addiction and recovery away from the addict.  The co-addict “enables” the bad habit by robbing the addict of the guidance and motivation for change that can only come with pain, which can only come when the co-addict lets go (like God lets go of sinners in bondage, see Romans 1). 

Significant Others

The family members of sex addicts are caught in a vicious cycle.  The three cases illustrations from the start of this article had problematic marriages even before detection by the spouse, but even moreso afterwards.  The sex-addicted partner is motivated by a wicked concoction of lust combined with shame and/or self-pitying resentment.  The addict is convinced that the spouse is undersexed, and detection only makes that situation worse.

The good news about sex addiction for the addict’s loved ones is that they didn’t cause it, they can’t control it, and they can’t cure it.  The last two may not sound like good news, but only this truth can set them free to live their own lives better, within the marriage/relationship.  The bad news is that they are sick too, in that they have usually become addicted to the addict.  Codependency is simply caring about the feelings and needs of another person to the neglect of your own.  Jesus’ second commandment is that we love our neighbor as ourselves, not instead of ourselves, or as a priority over ourselves.

The Path of Recovery

God does not leave us to travel this earth alone.  As we recover from sin, we all need to replace our primary identity from our blood family with a new primary identification with our family of faith, just as Jesus did (Matt. 12: 46-50).  Another way to say this is that both addict and co-addict are called to give up their bondages (to sex and to each other) by becoming bondservants of our Lord.

So the road to recovery ideally involves church, counseling, and the 12-step community.  You can think of recovery as people and principles—it takes both.  Like church, you can’t succeed treating your 12-step group as just a social club, and like the Bible, you can’t successfully apply 12-step principles by studying them alone.  Recovery usually takes 3-5 years, and that’s if addicts use 12-step groups, plus individual and group therapy.

12-Step Recovery and Research

Beginning addicts and those without healthy religion or marriages need extra help getting over shame.  They will benefit from Sex Addicts Anonymous (SAA) or Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (SLAA), which don't consider any private behavior harmful, including premarital relationship sex, masturbation, or adding to either of these some internet porn.

For more happily married, and more actively Christian addicts, and those less vulnerable to shame, Sexaholics Anonymous (SA) considers a spouse the only acceptable sexual outlet.  In the battle against lust (which SAA and SLAA don't recognize as such), this creates a "hedge around the law" for safety against sin.  SA is more consistent with Christian tradition that sex outside marriage is wrong, and with Jesus' common sense teaching in Matthew 5: 27-28 that mentally rehearsing a sexual act makes it more likely to happen.

It helps greatly if both the addict and his/her partner will work a 12-step program together.  For these folks, there is Recovering Couples Anonymous,

Do addicts and co-addicts have to use a 12-step program?  Research says that if they want to recover, the people and principles of recovery are absolutely essential.  Individual counseling comes in a close second.  Also vital is confessing thoughts, feelings, memories and behaviors to others in recovery:  indeed “we are as sick as our secrets.”  To learn more, the addict can visit,, or  Co-addicts can find help at and

The bad news from research is that apparently less than 10% of addicts have found recovery, and that like alcoholism and other addictions, sex addiction is a progressive, fatal disease that will ruin every aspect of the addict’s life.  The good news is that research has identified thirty tasks addicts can do that will virtually assure their recovery (see  Studies show that over 90% of those who complete even the first 19 of these tasks were still in recovery without slipping back into addictive behaviors five years later.  And the best news of all:  like recovering from other addictions, God is at the heart of it, and recovery transforms every aspect of life into better-than-ever faith, hope, love, joy, and peace.

Indeed, even when both parties devote themselves to God as embodied in church, trained counseling, and 12-step recovery groups, honestly the marriage is never ever the same.  But the good news is that these admittedly few marriages that do recover are really wonderful, very exciting, quite fulfilling.  They are actively involved helping others come through the turbulent white waters of sex addiction and co-addiction.  These folks are mighty warriors in the kingdom, and they are wildly happy with each other.  That is good news indeed.  Praise be to God.


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Dr. Paul F. Schmidt