A wise man, Dr. Whit Fraser, once addressed teachers and parapros during a workshop developmental class in 1981 at Hinesville Middle School.
I distinctly remember him saying, “Any one of you sitting in this room today is capable of committing suicide. Not one of you knows what may happen in your life that will cause your brain not to be normal and cause you to do it. So, don’t ever say that you will never do it. You just do not know what circumstances may cause it.”
That was quite a sobering thought. One recent morning, I heard a preacher say on the radio that the No. 1 cause of one committing suicide is that all their hope is gone and they think they have nothing left worth living for.
Fraser, a well-known local family practitioner who had started specializing in cardiology, was talking to our group about stress, which he said was the No. 1 health problem in America and can come from home or work pressures. He told us that the most important factor in maintaining good health is creatively dealing with stress.
Fraser was a speaker who one listened to attentively if given the opportunity. He won the 1980 Hinesville Sertoma Club district “Service to Mankind” award and also made a speech to them about stress in their meeting in October 1981. Mary Ann Mueller, a Coastal Courier staff writer, covered his speech. Thanks for writing the article, as the advice is as good today as it was in 1981. I want to share his thoughts with you:
“Stress causes ulcers, high blood pressure, heart disease, pain and even cancer. Stress is anything which brings physical or emotional pain. Stress forces us to cope. In the home, money causes more problems between a husband and wife than anything else. However, it is lack of job recognition, which causes stress problems at the office. It is not the workload or deadline pressure, which is a source of stress on the job. It is the lack of appreciation. Workers — whether he or she be a farmer, doctor, lawyer, bricklayer, teacher or anything else — need to couple job satisfaction with job meaningfulness to enjoy a deep sense of contentment in a job.
“When faced with stress, men and women deal with it differently. Men throw themselves into their job and work harder in an attempt to gain that sought-after job recognition. Women, on the other hand, attempt to cope with the pressure of stress by turning to eating. Continued stress causes physical and emotional pain. However, the brain is unable to distinguish between the two types of pain. For the brain, pain is pain, and it chemically deals with physical and emotional pain in the same manner.”
Having the entire audience’s attention, Fraser continued, “The same thing happens when the brain perceives it is confronted with the threat of danger — a chemical reaction is triggered. Adrenalin is pumped into the bloodstream, the heart speeds up, the blood pressure rises and muscles tense up in readiness to do battle or run.”
Fraser said some people live in constant fear, and the chemical reaction it produces in their bodies occurs several times a day. According to Fraser, people cannot handle more than three overwhelming stresses brought on by life-changing events in one year. The death of a lifelong mate is the most stressful event a person can live through. Close behind is divorce, moving, changing jobs and getting married. Fraser advises widows not to move for at least one year following the death of their spouse. Widows have a high incidence of breast cancer within 18 months after the death of their husband.
When faced with stress, particularly overwhelming stress, people tend to use false coping measures, such as drinking or drugs.
“False coping measures are not dealing with the problem,” he noted. “They create new problems.”
The physician noted that two emotions — fear and resentment — cause 90 percent of the physical pain people experience. Over the years, Fraser has learned that when a patient comes to him complaining of unbearable pain, he can, for the most part, seek out the underlying cause.
Fraser said that man’s greatest fear is death and fearing the unknown.
“You cannot begin to live until the question of dying has been settled,” he said. “But, most people don’t think about death nor talk about it. People who hold a strong faith have been taught that death is not the end. The Judeo-Christian heritage teaches that death is a beginning, not the end. There is something beyond.”
Fraser pointed to the fact that many people who have been clinically dead and revived have, at the point of death, reported experiencing an out-of-body phenomenon. This is when a person’s spirit is temporarily separated from the physical body while at a point of death, resulting from an illness, accident or during surgery. At that time, the separated spirit is visually and auditorily aware of its own physical body and surroundings.
The spirit also can experience a deeper spiritual realm, being in contact with heaven or hell. Once the spirit is reunited with the body, and the person regains consciousness, he can fully recall incidents, such as which people attended him, what the conversation was and which medical instruments were used. He can also tell about what he saw, felt and heard in spiritual realms.
“This is an interesting phenomenon,” he said. “There are several people in Hinesville who have experienced this.”
“Resentment is more common than fear. Every human being is resentful,” Fraser noted. “When a person is injured emotionally or physically, he must deal with that injury immediately, or within 24 hours it will grow into full-fledged resentment. Resentment is a result of bottling things up. You have to cope with resentment and fear. It is a matter of survival with self.”
Fraser noted that the Lord’s Prayer and the Apostle Paul have excellent advice for dealing with anger. When Christ taught his disciples to pray, He said, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” St. Paul wrote in his letter to the Ephesians, “Be angry, but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger.”
“Learn to forgive,” Fraser said. “That is the price of physical and emotional health. If a person doesn’t learn to forgive, he or she is slowly committing hara-kiri.”
Dr. Whitman Fraser died in 1995, but the community still remembers and talks about the great and wonderful impact he made on all of us.