Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Overcoming the Fear Factor

Every one of us fears or gets upset by something or other in our life. I fear having anything to do with the dead. I fear to see dead bodies. I avoid going to wakes and funerals or even to touch things belonging to the dead. I lost four loved ones when I was young. Possibly because of that and my mother’s influence I and many of my other siblings were brought up to fear morbidity. Because of this I did not want to take a medical course although my parents would have liked me to. I discovered that besides my siblings there are others who also share the same fear of morbidity as I did.

I decided that I must somehow learn to overcome this fear or it would be a serious handicap for me in my life and work in the modern world. The first test came when I became a toxicologist in the Department of Chemistry. Analyzing for poisons in stomach wash outs was acceptable but to have to extract poisons from human stomachs and livers was something else. It took a lot out of me to overcome this fear. Fortunately I managed.

I had a new chemist to understudy me in toxicology. Like me he feared having to handle human organs. He requested that I allow him time to get used to the job by starting with pig’s stomachs and livers which he bought with his own money. I empathized with him and allowed him to do so. After two weeks he still could not take it and he resigned. He told me that he loved eating pig stomachs and livers. He could not eat anymore pig’s stomachs or livers after the toxicological experience because pigs’ organs smelled so much like the boiled human organs. He was convinced that he could never get over the fear of handling human organs as I did. I felt sorry for him because I was like him at one time. There was nothing much I could do if he did not want to overcome this fear himself.

As for myself I learned that I can somehow use my mind to control the negative thoughts like fear which involved the emotions if I have to. It took a lot of practice for me to acquire this “skill” which stood me in good stead in my life. Fear, which is emotional, can be killing if not properly handled. I tried not to pass this phobia to my children as this will inhibit them from taking certain professions. I succeeded: two of my daughters have been practicing their medical specialties for more than 20 years! We can overcome fear if we want to. If only I can impart this skill and know how to others it can be helpful to many. What it involves is how to control our mind when it needs to be controlled. The question is do we want or dare to overcome our fears?

Lee Kum Tatt
13 June 2007

1 comment:

Elia Diodati said...

From having a fear of death to becoming a forensic chemist. Talk about meeting your fears head-on! Respect.