What Fear can Teach Us

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Photo courtesy of : U.S. National Archives

Today, I listened to a Ted Talk by Karen Thompson Walker where she discussed the unconventional topic that our fears are shaped like stories.  She talks about how certain people have overactive imaginations… but what does this teach us about similarities between fear and the construct of story?

Our fears and our stories have similar construction.  They have characters, suspense and visuals.  In our fears, the main character is usually ourselves.  Our fears focus on question- what will happen next?  It’s just sometimes in an extreme way.  A story also involves some relation to time.  Humans are the only animals that do this- we project ourselves forward in time.  So when we fear something, we are usually moving into a forward moment.  Fears also show us how one specific event can effect all other events as in a complex narrative.

We should think of ourselves as the authors of our stories- but we should read our fears as well.  She also discusses the idea of productive paranoia.  This is when people who might fear something are actually able to translate that fear into action.  And sometimes our fears can even predict the future.

She also talks about what makes a good reader.  A good reader is both artistic and passionate, getting caught up in the story, but also possesses a coolness of judgment like a scientist.  We must have this ability to be overcome with emotion but have a sense of discernment about our minds.

I had never really thought about this concept that fears are like stories.  They are always circling and interwoven within some frightening story with many or few characters in our minds.  The story then can also be unraveled and changed in its course of direction then.  This can help us when we begin to get sucked into the undertow and succumb to our fears.

To hear the talk in its entirety, check it out here: http://www.ted.com/talks/karen_thompson_walker_what_fear_can_teach_us.html

Have a great tuesday 🙂

~lme

Karen Thompson Walker

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