What scares you the most? What fears and apprehensions are central to your identity and how you view the world?
I'm using "fear" in the broadest sense, including both concrete menaces and subjective apprehensions of any kind.
As always, anything goes, except for highly divisive controversial stuff that might get this locked!
I have always been fearful of not understanding how systems work, especially systems that are critical to my life. "Understanding" doesn't have to be at a deep level - just knowing the standard input -> outputs of a blackbox can often be practically enough.
An example that I just can't process how other people wander through blind is the financial system. The fact that there are people who thought that "credit cards were free money", or who just sign loans blindly at car dealerships, is very strange to me. There are people with car loans who don't know their interest rates, or don't know how to "calculate interest" - I can't imagine staking so much of your life's present and future in a system in which you evidently have no idea how it works at even a basic level.
There's no way I could do that without it digging at me.
Similarly for purchases. I don't know how my parents stand making multi-thousand dollar purchasing decisions like computers or TVs by just going to the store and letting the best buy dude convince you to buy something. I need to know what people think of the overall market, recommendations, the things to look for, and so forth.
In this particular case, I get it. If you've got a rough budget for a TV (< 1k, <2k, etc), other than size the difference between them (in the same tier) is negligible. Especially if you're not setting them up in ideal conditions.
More or less true for computers these days too, though that is more ripe for exploitation, especially if anyone is still selling spinning disks in laptops like it's 2004.
Consumer reports is a great benchmark like that. If you just need a fast low-pass filter and don't want to spend days researching.
My biggest fear is that I will hurt someone out of anger.
I am a large, strong man with a temper I have had to commit the last two decades to containing. It's going great, but too often things come back to anger and rage which I then have to manage (I classify them as separate and manage them a bit differently). I hurt people as a kid (nothing dangerous, but all immensely regrettable), I got in fights with my twin brother due to him having similar issues as me, and never want to throw another puch or choke another person again.
If I even think there's a chance I'll hurt someone in anger I shut down, even ugly cry. I just short circuit, I think as a defense mechanism. I guess the fear is one day that won't happen.
To a small point, I related with Bruce Banner when he was asked how he doesn't hulk out when he gets mad by answering something like "The secret is I'm always angry" in an Avengers movie. People comment about how calm I am or how I seem to have a high tolerance for bullshit, but the reality is I have and manage an absolutely foul temper, and have no choice but to do so.
I have the opposite problem. I have had literally zero incidents of rage in my entire life. I can't imagine what rage feels like. I don't mean "can't imagine" as a figure of speech, I mean that I can't imagine because my brain has zero data on what it feels to be angry and enraged. And I don't understand when people get angry: I think to myself, "well, can't you just decide to be... not angry?"
This sounds fine and all, but my problem is that I'm non-confrontational, and it takes a lot of willpower and effort to stand up for myself when I'm wronged. Heck, when I decided to end a friendship with someone a few weeks ago, I spent an entire evening with a clinical psychologist friend to prepare myself for the face-to-face breakup conversation.
In any social fight-or-flight situation, I'd get pummeled.
I'm extremely non-confrontational, largely due to my rage issues. (I know where mine comes from... being helpless to do anything at age 8 while watching my mother be domestically abused, but that's not germane.) I fear getting into confrontations because I fear that loss of control... it's the same reason I'm a complete and utter teetotaler. I don't want to ever lose control, because I abhor the idea of what I may become.
I was (and mostly still am) like you. Didn’t know what anger felt like for most of my life. My therapist actually talked a lot with me about it because he couldn’t believe that I didn’t feel anger.
You know the “I’m not angry, I’m just disappointed” quip? That was me all the time, especially when I was younger. I felt near constant disappointment, but it never manifested as anger.
As part of my therapy for depression, I went on SSRIs. Shortly after beginning them, I began feeling anger, and to a degree that I was not prepared to deal with. It was like something inside of me was boiling, and I needed to do something to keep it from erupting. I remember wanting to punch walls, and I’d never once wanted to punch anything in my life before that. I didn’t feel in control. It was like I was a car driving too fast, and I was frantically careening back and forth, trying to keep myself on the road and away from hitting anyone.
I talked to my psychiatrist and he changed my dosage and the rage went away, but it gave me a good insight into what other people experience. I’ve seen shades of that in people I know, particularly men, and I’m sympathetic to the idea that what we’re seeing on the outside might be the symptoms of an internal maelstrom.
I've even thought this question when I was angry, or somebody else went off for something relatively minor. There's always work to be done, either with psychological/psychiatric assistance, or a practice of managing it somehow.
I think people tend to get off on their anger. For how it feels: Get hopped up on caffeine and do something that makes you feel absolutely amazing, and when you crash, have the opposite result of what you've just done. That's basically the whole cycle, but people can be good enough at ignoring the second part they do nothing about it. This is a cycle in a lot of domestic violence, for example.
I'd also wager a lot of people have serious anger issues, probably in the mid-low double digits percentage-wise. For sure a lot of violence, and even just angry grocery store patrons, in the US is caused by some combination of mental illnesses, unmanaged anger issues, and an environment that nurtures this emotion, but I'd peg most of it on the last two.
Anger is not confidence. You can be reasonably mad and confident as long as you are capable of articulating yourself. To this day I have a hard time with that, so need to collect myself and deal with it later, sort of like you consulting with your friend. I don't have any advice as I struggle with this as well.
You seem to have developed some kind of "kill switch" that renders you incapable of progressing to violence. It is unfortunate that this mechanism itself causes you pain. Have you tried investigating the origin of that anger?
I'm not an angry man. In fact, I think I have the opposite problem. My emotions seem to go somewhere deep that I cannot easily reach, and will only surface as mental issues that are seemingly disconnected from anything I can determine. That ability can be useful when I need to keep my composure in moments of crisis, but I believe it would be healthy for me to express anger more frequently.
We seem to be in opposite sides of the spectrum :P
It's definitely not something I cultivated, but I do see this "kill switch" as a good thing. I went to punch my brother once and it just petered out. We talked about it later and I mentioned that I had been trying to hit him harder but it just wasn't there, and I felt like that meant something.
I'm well aware of its source and was put in anger management therapy as a child the moment I was becoming violent and was starting to get bigger than other kids. While I don't want to go into too much detail it's a standard mix: childhood abuse, bullying, etc. My parents had a hand in both its cause in their way and its resolution as we've all grown and improved, and I've made my peace with the bullying. I'm not one of those people who wants to somehow confront their bullies, because their behavior was likely coming from a similar place.
I still vent and express my anger, unfortunately still in unhealthy ways occasionally like anybody else, but it's been a long time since I've been put in "the scary place," I guess is my word for it. My parents were well aware of their related issues and simply didn't have the tools to manage them at an earlier age.
The trick is channeling it constructively, and never when heated. An early thing my dad ran me through when he saw it coming (before the therapy) was to ask myself why I was angry and try to find the cause so I can manage that, which basically kickstarted a life of internal metacognitive monologues that help me manage everything.
Pretty much any medical procedure.
I am unlucky enough to be resistant to local anaesthetics. They work a bit and I do get some numbness, but they don’t work enough, so I can still feel pain through them.
As a child, I had a number of procedures done and when I told the dentists/doctors that I could still feel things, they assumed I was either lying or just imagining the pain.
I had recurrent ingrown toenails on one of my big toes as a kid, and they would be removed by my PCP, but then they would always grow back. Each time he did the procedure I hated it because I could feel it, and it got to the point that I figured if it was going to hurt and grow back anyway, I would just do a bad DIY version myself. I ended up doing several hackjobs on the nail myself, which alleviated the issue temporarily but never permanently.
I finally told my mom I wanted to go to an actual podiatrist to have it removed for good.
The procedure begins with four shots of local anaesthetic into the big toe, which sucks in its own right. He then started in on the removal and I told him I could feel what he was doing and that it hurt.
He, of course, didn’t believe me, but unlike other doctors, he then tested me. I couldn’t see my foot because it was behind a screen, but my mom was in the room and could see it, so she later explained what he did.
He would switch randomly between touching my toe with his finger and sticking a needle into it, each time asking if I could feel it. Because the local anaesthetics do work a bit for me, I couldn’t feel any of the touches, but because they don’t work fully, I could feel all of the needle pricks. After I correctly identified each time he poked my toe with the needle, he believed me and either used a different anaesthetic or more of it (I’m not sure which), which finally removed all the pain for me.
He was the first medical professional who actually believed me and responded with a solution when I said I could still feel things. It was also the last time I had an ingrown toenail — whatever he did fixed the issue.
I was 16 years old at that point.
The accumulation of all of the pain and bad experiences and not being believed made me avoidant and nervous about doctor’s appointments and especially dentist’s appointments. I thus, as I became an independent adult who made my own decisions, simply stopped going to the doctor and the dentist.
For over a decade.
As you can imagine, I did a lot of damage to my health, and in particular, my teeth and gums and jaw in that time.
The first time I went back to the dentist was because the chronic pain was so bad that I couldn’t take it any more. On the intake form they asked about my level of dental anxiety. It had options for low, medium, and high. I handwrote the word “SEVERE” next to those, circled it, and added a quick note about my anaesthetic resistance and how I’ve had to feel it every single time I had a tooth drilled.
Over the course of the next year, I had major restorative work done. The dental hygienist they gave me is incredible at working with me and my anxiety, and they also do a great job of making sure I’m fully numb for procedures.
In one of the procedures, I had a particularly decayed tooth with constant dull pain that would change to sharp pain every time I bit down (I would chew literally all my food on only one side of my mouth and try to never let my bite fully close). During the procedure to fix it, they gave me a numbing gel, the regular dose of local anaesthetic, a second extra dose of it, as well as nitrous.
I still had to pause the procedure early on because, even through all of those things designed to stop my brain from registering pain, I could still feel the drill.
My dentist then said “wow, you really weren’t kidding!” She left and returned with some other anaesthetic that was very powerful and numbed most of my entire face for a long time (well after the procedure was done). Comically, when I went to swish water at the end of the procedure, I spit it out all over me because I literally couldn’t feel that my mouth wasn’t closed. I then tried to apologize, but my speech was also impaired due to my tongue and mouth being completely numb, so I just kind of moaned indecipherably at them in response. They thought it was hilarious.
A few procedures after that, they finished all of the restorative work and gave me a night guard because I clench and grind severely while I sleep. When I woke up the first night after getting the night guard, I actually started crying. It was the first morning I could remember that I woke up without any pain in my mouth. I felt such amazing relief, such freedom. I also realized that this is probably what most other people feel like all the time and don’t even realize it.
My anxiety about medical procedures is a lot less now, especially from trusted sources like my dentist, but the issue remains that every new medical professional I talk to about it has the same response: skepticism bordering on doubt or outright disbelief.
I can’t say for certain, but I get the impression that most doctors I tell about my situation think I’m doing some sort of roundabout fishing for painkillers. On the backdrop of America’s opioid crisis, I get why they’re both wary and vigilant. They’ve never said anything like that outright to me, but I have to imagine they do have a non-negligible number of patients “inventing” pain as a means to opioid-related relief.
Mine, however, is not invented, and I specifically do NOT want any opioid painkillers unless there are no other alternatives (I’ve seen the damage they can do first-hand and don’t even want to go near them unless absolutely necessary). The problem is that I can’t really lead with that without looking suspicious or putting the connection in their mind if it wasn’t already there in the first place.
Instead, I just get to manage a non-negligible amount of fear and anxiety every time I have to get referred to a new doctor or treatment, which I have to do a lot of, because, as previously mentioned, I did a lot of damage to my body via neglect.
I have an upcoming procedure that I’m terrified about because it’s going to be done through a new doctor. I met with her, explained my situation, got the usual skepticism, and asked her to talk to my dentist about anaesthetic needs. Still, what will likely happen is what happens almost every time I’ve had something done: they start the process, and I have to stop them and let them know that, yeah, I can still feel that drilling/cutting/slicing.
It would be really nice to not have to ever go through that step again, but I don’t think that’s in the cards for me.
I can't imagine what you went through. I also have suffered from insufficient anesthetics in a dental procedure once, and that experience alone put me away from dentists for many years, with all the obvious consequences. Not only I endured prolonged unnecessary pain, but I also suffered the humiliation of being treated by a horrible person that belittled me and my suffering. And I was an adult.
I spent years with teeth missing, and now have 3 fake replacements that work very well.
Health professionals can be awful.
One thing you have now, as an adult, is the ability to better communicate your special circumstance, and I'm sure that will help. I wish you all the luck in your upcoming procedure.
I'm not hugely fearful. I feel fortunate to live in a reasonably prosperous and stable country.
I am in a bit of a rut though: I've recently started a PhD programme and feel like I'm struggling to adapt. So, I guess my medium-term 'fear' is that I won't make the most of being a graduate student and that I will succumb to lassitude (which I am already beginning to feel). Complicating this is that I have great friends and - nominally - a pretty decent social life, so I'm not sure if I'm going through temporary growing pains or if my mood is betraying something deeper.
I am also in a PhD program, I started in 2020. I had similar difficulty adapting. Grad school is very different socially and professionally than a lot of other setting and it is hard. I move to a totally new place for my program, so my social circle is almost entirely people from my program, i.e. colleagues. There’s little separation between work and social life. This being said, it does get better, and eventually you will adjust. Hang in there!
Thanks for replying, gpl, and it's good to hear that things have improved for you!
More than anything I fear something horrible happening to my kids. Years ago, me and my wife were attacked by a vicious dog, and I just barely saved her life. I still suffer somewhat severe anxiety from it at times, and when this gets triggered I will sometimes spiral into a state of trying to anticipate how I could save my kids from danger in wild, hypothetical situations.
This one for me as well. Something terrible happening to my immediate family that I can't do anything about - such as a medical issue or car accident - is the top of my list of fears. In general, I don't fear much for my own safety, other than as an extension of "If I were to be hurt / killed it would mess up my kids and my wife".
Insecurity. Maybe better worded as instability. I'm painfully aware of how little it would take for the things I enjoy in life to be taken away.
I know I've shared a lot of things here, but this is going to be something I can't really talk about simply because it's a bit too private to share. But thank you for asking the question because it was something that was worth thinking about.
I'm afraid of the irrelevance I know is in store for me. I'm afraid of never doing anything of significance. I'm constantly striving for more, and more with the egotistical belief that I can be more, do more, provide more, but with each passing year that I do nothing particularly important, I come closer to acknowledgement that I never will, closer to acknowledging nothing mattered, closer to asking what was the point of my existence at all?
I used to very much have this same fear, and I no longer do, and it's not because I achieved anything in particular. There are a few thoughts that helped me get past this specific fear, so I'll share them in case they help you or anyone else.
It is okay to not achieve renowned greatness. History remembers few specific people, and it's okay to just not be one of them.
Nothing we do matters. In the grand scheme of things, almost all of us do very little and touch the world but lightly. We do not make big changes to how humans, as a race, see or do anything.
All that matters is what we do. But since nothing we do matters, all that matters is what we do in the face of that information. I might not make the world a better place for 8 billion other people, but I can make it better for one other person. Or ten other people. Or any number of people that I meet and see.
The scale of greatness is important. I haven't achieved anything notable or great; history isn't going to remember me, and there will be no wikipedia articles asked or questions for which I am the answer. But the other day, I was laying on the couch and my son was laying on top of me and we were watching videos on minecraft, and he said, "I love you. You're a great dad." On a small scale, I do the best that I can to be great for the people that I love.
Sometimes you don't know the great things that you do. I ran into someone from high school a while ago, and in the course of catching up with me, she told me that something that I had said to her after her father passed away was a thing that she remembered forever and thought about when times were hard. What, to me, was a small kindness spoken from the heart, for her was a thing that actually made her entire life better.
I think that you're underselling yourself, because something as simple as giving someone a perspective that changes how they think about something or getting someone to reconsider what they think of a whole movie franchise are both great things, done with the intent of sharing and (and I realize this sounds obnoxiously grandiose) making a small part of the world better by sharing one's perspective.
I deeply fear the direction this country is currently headed. I spend a lot of time in communities which are marginalized and things are actively getting much more hostile in recent times. The polarization of this country, the ease to which people are othering fellow humans is scary to see. Violence is becoming normalized again because we don't see each other as humans. I'm lucky enough to live somewhere unlikely to be severely affected but I'm not sheltered from the effects it has on these communities and the horrible stories I hear that happen to the people I love and the ones they care for.
I feel like I'm basically either entirely open and sociable or withdrawn and avoidant. I've wondered if it's social anxiety or general fear of people that makes me withdrawn, but it might boil down to a specific, singular fear: fear of getting overwhelmed while still being expected to act. I could get overwhelmed by loud and/or chaotic noises or trying to compute and understand what others are saying while trying to think what to say or do. Phone calls are the worst because both of these could come at me at once.
I'm increasingly getting better at disregarding what I implicitly think is what others expect of me when it comes to how quickly to respond, etc., and being okay with acting potentially weirdly, or even enjoying having others deal with a weird interlocutor, but retreating into avoidant mode is probably going to stick with me as a basic defense mechanism.
I fear that I'm going to let another decade or two pass without actually digging in and doing things I want to do (create/write/record music, among many other things), simply because I pacify myself with paths of least resistance (like watching Youtube or whatever) and just feel sapped of energy after work
I'm an anxious person to some degree, but I've also been actively coping with it for a long enough time that when anxiety rears its head I'm usually able to pause and think my way out of it. But I really struggle with the idea of death and aging - or I guess, more generally, the tension between feeling as though my mind is abstract but knowing that I and everyone I love are innately physical.
Like... our inner experiences require constant support from the complex processes that our bodies are endlessly engaged in, and if one experiences enough of an interruption to the processes... the inner experience is just gone and it won't come back. It can happen literally instantaneously. Or, as with aging, we accumulate damage over time to the point it overwhelms and our brains and bodies can no longer support our entire sense of self... the event? process? experience? of having a mind.
I've also had the experience of altering my thought processes with drugs (prescription... lately). I'm pretty familiar with the experience of my emotions being altered by the presence or absence of hormones. Those are pretty minor, but they also indicate the physical affecting the inner experience. More dramatically, I've read or heard stories about people changing after a head injury, and there are many diseases or disorders which have their root in the physical structure of the brain that cause vast differences in function and personality.
Self-hood just seems so fragile to me and it freaks me out.
Not terribly original, but... aging and death. My go-to is "growing old sucks, but not growing old sucks worse." It's a fear of the unknown... I don't know what my twilight years will be like, I don't know what my death will be like, and I don't know what (if anything... and it's the "if anything" that scares me most) lies beyond. I'm an agnostic... I don't know if there's an afterlife, but I don't know there's not, either.