Meetup 142: The Fears that Rule Us


Last Saturday, I hosted a session at Write Club based on fear.

I’d been thinking a lot about fear lately, about how much our daily actions and thoughts are governed by this emotion. In our session we drew a line between instinctive fear – the immediate fear of death and pain – and social fear, the kind of fear that arises out of cognitive thought and social evolution. Some examples of these are:

  • Fear of loneliness
  • Fear of failure
  • Fear of the future
  • Fear of rejection
  • Fear of (societal) disapproval
  • Fear of disappointing others
  • Fear of punishment

Now these are not mutually exclusive, and two or three of these fears could be argued come from the same larger fear source. For instance, fear of punishment and fear of failure could be said branch out from the same trunk. So the idea is not to get caught up in definitions so much as making a list of fears that drive our lives and decisions.

Exercise 1

Write a short piece detailing the fear that is currently looming large in your life. If you’ve just come off a relationship, you may be experiencing fear of loneliness. If you’re just about to embark on something big, you may be fearing failure. Maybe the thought of earning the disapproval of your peers terrifies you. Maybe you’re afraid of disappointing your parents. Whatever it is, put your feelings into one piece, and at the end of the piece, make the decision of whether you’re going to give in to the fear or rise above it.

I think we encounter our fears many times within ourselves. Most of the time we surrender to the fear. But sometimes, on rare occasions, we do pick ourselves up to conquer it. Write about the turmoil of that inner debate, and also the choice you eventually made.

Exercise 2

In exercise 2, we flipped the coin a little bit and went back to regular fear-mongering. This meant writing to scare the reader, and focusing on the instinctive fears of death and pain. For this we used some classic horror fiction prompts like:

  • A comedian who would do anything for a laugh hears a baby’s gurgle at night in the dark.
  • ‘Giggling, we ran…’
  • I came home after a hard day’s work to find my girlfriend strangling our child.
  • There was blood on the glass.
  • While I was tucking him in, my son asked me to check for monsters under the bed.

Image Courtesy: Zeit News

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