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The official magazine for TIPsters in 4th–6th grade

Turning Fear into Confidence—A Personal Essay

October 14, 2020

Facing obstacles throughout your life is inevitable, and the obstacles you overcome can define who you are as a person. Not only will this build character and self-confidence, it will show others how strong you remained and inspire them to overcome their own challenges.

But overcoming obstacles is no simple task. Most obstacles are incredibly hard and testing. Yet, by overcoming them, you will come to understand why they are important. The significance of overcoming obstacles in life is to make you more grounded, courageous, and wise. For me, one of these life-altering obstacles emerged during my undergraduate years.

I had a serious fear of public speaking. There were times where I would struggle with presentations and in-class discussions. When these sessions would take place, my fear built up in a pressure cooker of discouragement and convulsive anguish. I felt humiliated before my teachers, partners, and most of all, my close friends. I soon realized, however, that the same people who seemed to be the source of my fear became my lifeline, their inspirational words filling my mind and heart with positive thoughts.

Seeing my struggles, my peers tried to build me up, to increase my confidence in myself and convince me that anything, including overcoming my fear of public speaking, could be accomplished with enough enthusiasm and belief in oneself.

The obstacles we face in life can distort how we see ourselves and cripple our ability to face our fears. By facing these conflicts head on, though, we can completely flip their effect on us, transforming them into experiences that strengthen our resilience and push the boundaries of what we think is possible to achieve.

Taking everything into account everything I’ve learned from this experience and many others like it that I’ve encountered in my life, it’s clear that obstacles are impossible to avoid, and when you do encounter them, you must view them as learning opportunities. You might just surprise yourself at how easily you overcome them.

personal reflective essay on fear

This post was written by Duke TIP’s outgoing Marketing & Communications intern, Christina Gordon. Christina graduated from North Carolina Central University in the spring of 2020.

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About Duke TIP

The Duke University Talent Identification Program (Duke TIP) is a nonprofit organization that has served over three million academically talented students in grades 4–12 since it was founded in 1980. Collaborating with educators and parents, TIP helps gifted students assess the extent of their academic abilities with above-grade-level testing, recognizes them for their achievements, and provides them with a variety of enrichment benefits as well as accelerated face-to-face and online educational programs.

Personal Narrative Essay: My Fear

Fear is something that has always been a factor in my life. Wither it be for the good or a downfall. I've come to realize that it will always be there. Lately, I've reflected on things in my life that would have gone different if fear wasn't a factor, and things that have happened that fear didn't stop. 

When I first started college I had a lot of fear, fear if I would get a rejection letter, fear my friends would go their separate ways. So when it was time to choose where I wanted to go I chose Morehead state, I got in! However as fate would have it, I would not have the funds to go. That didn't stop me from my dread of graduating and getting a degree. I got to stay home and attend Big sandy and start working at the hospital as a CNA. However, I still had the fear that I couldn't possibly work and go to school. But I continued, at first wasn't doing too hot in my classes so I had to withdraw.

My dream has always been to be a nurse, so withdrawing from my classes was a struggle. It had been two years since I had attended school when my friend suggested I take summer classes and apply for the nursing program with her. So I did, and to my surprise fear didn't get in the way and I completed those classes. That fall I applied for the program and again to my surprise I got in, all my hard work was paying off finally.

January came and the first day of nursing school started, I passed my Dosage calculations test. I passed my first content exam. Everything was going how I wanted it, then came my first skills exam. That morning fear overcame me and I failed. I got a second attempt and passed. As the semester went on I struggled with the fear of failing, and ultimately had to withdraw from the program.

Fear will always be a factor in my life, it has got the best of me in many situations. I will overcome it. I'm reapplying to get back in the nursing program this fall. Fear will always be a factor in my life but I will not allow it to stop me from chasing my dreams.

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Nancy Erickson, Astute Mentor for Noteworthy Clients to Write a Nonfiction Book

Lessons Learned – A Reflection on Fear

by NancyErickson | Apr 28, 2017 | Opinion | 0 comments

personal reflective essay on fear

There are lessons to be learned from fear. It may be a natural response to many situations, but all too often fear is unwarranted and prevents us from moving forward in life. What has fear taken from you? What fears haunt you?

Failure of our education system. Sex Trafficking. Hate Crimes. Racial Profiling. Child Pornography. Teen heroin use and overdose. Social media bullying. I can keep the list going, but when I read these problems, it sends chills up my spine. What about you? When you hear about the news, all the issues that surround us, and the people affected by them, are you angry? Underneath that anger is there a ball of fear because you worry that these problems could impact you, your children, and the people you love?

You’re not alone.


But what about the fears we have as parents? I’m a mother of two adult children. The world that I raised my daughters in looks very different than the world we live in today. Yes, I had many fears while raising them, but I can’t say that I was worried about them being bullied online or overdosing on heroin. That doesn’t mean I didn’t have fears like any parent does. But in order for me to be an effective parent, one who didn’t stifle development or become an angry person, I had to learn to feel my feelings and let the fear go–especially fear of the unknown–and trust that things were working as they should.

False Evidence Appearing Real

Many of my clients started by telling me that they “just weren’t ready at this time.” Almost all of their concerns were centered around fear. To put it frankly, fear stinks. It robs us of so much. It robs us of opportunities because we’re too afraid to fail, of relationships because we don’t want to get hurt, and it robs us of our destiny because we’re afraid of change. Yes, it’s an emotion and at times is a natural response to a circumstance, but we have to choose whether or not we allow it to dictate and limit our life. Fear of rejection (my book won’t be a success and people won’t read it), fear of failure (I don’t want to write a book and mess up), and fear of the unknown (how the heck am I going to write my book ?) are all real fears that my writers had in the beginning.

What is fear?

What if your fear is based on an something that hasn’t happened and may not ever happen to you? Would that change how you respond to life’s daily challenges and the nightly news? Years ago someone shared that acronym with me, and it totally changed my perspective. I hope it changes yours.

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How To Select A Good Topic For A Personal Reflective Essay About Fear

A personal reflective essay is a piece of writing in which you not only introduce a particular problem, but also describe your personal experience with it. You should describe the feelings, attitude, and emotions you had in a particular situation. Therefore, the reflective essay is very personal and requires a special approach for its preparation.

The structure of personal reflective writing does not differ considerably from the other types of essays. It should consist of an introduction, presenting the topic of the work, and attracting the reader’s attention; the main body, listing your key ideas supported with samples and evidence from the real life; and a conclusion, summarizing the plot of the work, giving advice, etc.

Selecting a topic for your reflective essay is a very important task. The topic should illustrate the main theme of the text, but not completely reveal all information, in order to keep the readers intrigued. When writing about fear, you should consider several important aspects. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Who is the target readership? If your text is to be read aloud during class, then you should make it interesting for your peers. Write about something exciting and scary, perhaps. Choose a situation in which some of your friends were involved. Make students live and experience everything you have gone through. If you write for a teacher or an examination board, think of something appealing for this category of readers.
  • What is the purpose of the essay? The style of your work will depend on its aim. You may write simply to inform readers about some dreadful experience of your life, to persuade them to act or not act in a particular way, or to teach them how to fight fear and cope with a complicated situation.
  • What is the essay about? Having considered the previous questions, think about what experience you would like to share. What was interesting in your life or the lives of those close to you that might correspond with the given theme? Recall how you felt at that time, who helped you to overcome the problem, and what lesson you learned from this situation.

Once you answer the above-mentioned questions, you will clearly see what you should write about. Formulate your ideas into a good, expressive topic that will attract readers’ attention. Then prepare a plan for your future work, and start writing.

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97 Fear Essay Topics & Examples

🏆 best topics about fear & essay examples, 📌 good fear essay topics, ❓research questions about fear.

If you study psychology, you will probably have to write a fear essay at some point. The emotion is strong and can significantly affect any person, with effects potentially impairing his or her judgment and performance.

It can also result from a variety of sources, such as phobias or trauma, and manifest in many different conditions, taking the person by surprise. As such, it is essential to study the topic of how a person may deal with fear, with the most well-known one being courage.

However, there are many ideas on how the trait can be developed that can be used as fear essay hooks, but not all of them are viable. This article will help you write a powerful essay on the various topics associated with fear.

Fear is an emotion triggered by a perceived threat as a response that prepares the person to address it in an appropriate manner. As such, it is a reaction that helps people cope in the short term, but its effects when the person is constantly in a state of fear can be dangerous.

Examples include physical health deterioration due to the hormone production associated with the reaction and permanent mental health effects, such as PTSD.

As such, people who are affected by chronic fear should try to escape the state to avoid threats to their well-being. The first step towards doing so would be to discover and investigate the causes of the emotion.

Fear triggers in response to danger, whether real or perceived, and the nature of the reaction can provide you with ideas for fear essay titles. While it may be challenging to alleviate real conditions of real danger, not many people have to live in such situations.

Most chronic fear comes from various phobias, or persistent fear reactions to situations that may not warrant such a response. There are numerous variations, such as acrophobia, the fear of heights, and they are interesting topics for an investigation.

Between the many tall buildings designed by people and travel methods such as airplanes, a person with the condition may find it challenging to avoid stressful situations. However, they can generally avoid worrisome conditions with careful planning and the help of others.

Courage is a well-known quality that helps people overcome their fear, one that is described in many stories and images. However, it should be noted that courage is not the absence of fear, but rather a willingness to acknowledge it and confront the source.

The act involves a conscious effort of the will, and many people believe they do not have the capacity to do so. You should discuss the ways in which people can learn to be courageous and the methods that can be used to inspire them to try.

Here are some additional tips for enhancing your essay:

  • Focus on the positive implications of fear and courage, as they are responsible for many of humanity’s great successes, and provide fear essay examples. Our society is safe from many different dangers because people were afraid of them.
  • Make sure to cite scholarly sources wherever appropriate instead of trying to rely on common knowledge. Psychology is a science that has developed considerably since its inception and can offer a wealth of knowledge.
  • Follow standard essay formatting guidelines, such as the use of academic language, the separation of different essay parts with appropriate titles, and the use of an introduction and conclusion.

Get more fear essay theses and other useful paper samples at IvyPanda!

  • Hitler’s Use of Propaganda and Fear-Mongering The establishment of the National Socialist German Worker’s Party led to the adoption of a properly coordinated propaganda campaign that would prepare the country for war.
  • Ghost’s Fear Believe you me that as one listens to all mysterious actions of the ghosts in the stories, he or she is forming the same picture in the mind.
  • Atychiphobia, or the Fear of Failure in Psychology Putting it simply, the fear of failure is the incapability to suppress the anxious and irrational feeling of fear that, as a result, affects one’s life.
  • “The Big Wave” by Pearl S. Buck: Jiya and Kino’s Rise Above Fear A deeper contemplation of the first few pages of the story reveals that Jiya is always afraid of the ocean since he understands the wrath of the storm and the changes it has brought in […]
  • My Monster: The Fear of Being Alone Thus, my monster is the fear of being alone, and it is similar to several literary characters at once: Grendel’s mother, the Demon Lover, and the fear of a couple from Once Upon a Time.
  • Xenophobia – The Fear of Foreigners This reaction of the woman is xenophobic because it highlights fear and hatred of people of another race emanating. The second component of xenophobia entails the fear of cultures and the main target of this […]
  • Why Are We Afraid of Death? However, it can be interesting to understand why the rest of the people are so afraid of death. People are afraid of the unknown.
  • The News Media Role in the Culture of Fear The reception of such news has the potential of eliciting fear among the public depending on one’s understanding or relation to the news spread by the media houses.
  • Substance Abuse in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas The protagonists constantly increase the dose of the hallucinogen, which leads to “a quantitative increase in the effects of the experience”.
  • Robert Frost’s Fear Poetry In Sheehy’s article, Lawrence Thompson notes that the ultimate problem of Frost biographer is to see if the biographer can be enough of a psychologist to get far enough back into the formative years of […]
  • Fear and intolerance of aging – “Love in the time of cholera” by Gabriel Marquez This passage was chosen because it carries with it one of the most dominant themes of the narrative which is the fear and intolerance of aging.
  • How to Overcome Fear and Succeed: Informative Speech General purpose: To describe Specific purpose: To teach my listeners the method I use to speak confidently in public and learn new skills.
  • The Movie “Color of Fear” The issue of racism is introduced by the film’s director right from the beginning. Therefore, by the end of the video the issue of race is already embedded in the mind of the viewer.
  • “Mediating Effect of the Fear of Missing Out” by Fontes-Perryman and Spina In particular, they were interested in the FOMO and CSMU’s potential mediating effect between OCD and SMF. Overall, the main strength of the argument is that the authors conducted two separate studies involving people from […]
  • Fear of Missing Out and Scarcity in Social Media The study’s independent variables were “none”, “some”, and “all”, while the dependent variable was “the number of friends who agreed to attend the event”.
  • The Views on the Freedom from Fear in the Historical Perspective In this text, fear is considered in the classical sense, corresponding to the interpretation of psychology, that is, as a manifestation of acute anxiety for the inviolability of one’s life.
  • Fear of Immigrants and People of Color in the US The enhancement of strict immigration laws was due to the transfer of immigrants out of Europe to foreigners from Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
  • Increasing Level of Fear of Crime and Its Cause Curiel and Bishop report that the rate of victimization, meaning the rate of actual crime taking place, is opposite to the rate of fear of crime.
  • The Salem Witch Trials: A Time of Fear The outbreak began with the sudden and rather unusual illness of the daughter and niece of the local Reverend Samuel Parris.
  • Gagging Prevalence and Its Association With Dental Fear in 4-12 Year Old Children The Gagging Assessment Scale (GAS) is a questionnaire in which children answered questions about their feelings during a regular dental procedure, for example, tooth brushing.
  • Researching of Why Human Beings Fear Death From the religious perspective, some people know about their sins committed on earth in their life and are afraid of the punishment for those sins as opposed to people who believe in God and His […]
  • Fighting Fear: The Only Secret Behind Becoming Rich The aim of the proposed research is to determine how fear of risks may affect the decisions taken in accounting and finance and in turn the development of an entrepreneurial culture in people.
  • Effects of Community Policing Upon Fear of Crime The purpose of the article aimed at identifying the intervening factors in relation to how people perceive community policing and decrease of criminal threat and anxieties among citizens; therefore, the two researchers aimed to address […]
  • The Effects of Campus Shootings on Fear of Crime on Campus This study focuses on investigating the impacts of shootings on fear of crime on campus. First, there is a relationship between campus shootings and fear on crime.
  • “Childbirth Fear and Sleep Deprivation in Pregnant Women” by Hall To further show that the information used is current, the authors have used the APA style of referencing which demand the naming of the author as well as the year of publication of the article/book […]
  • Culture, Gaze and the Neural Processing of Fear Expressions The paper has a cross-cultural setting and this justifies the appeal to an earlier authoritative study that compared the cultural experience to the expression of basic emotions.
  • Theory of Fear as a Part of Public Policy As Machiavelli points out, fear is an integral part of the policy of a prince, in case it bites not his royal majesty, but the people of the state. And since that certainly means a […]
  • ”Courage to Teach” by Palmer: How to Deal With Fear The relationship between the teacher and the student is a very important element of the teaching process according to the author, meaning that the human condition must be considered in the process of teaching.
  • Fear and Environmental Change in Philadelphia The coincidence of the keywords of both articles is the evident proof of the similarity of the issues analyzed with the only difference concerning the territorial location of the problem.
  • Abnormal Psychology: Nature of Fear There is a group of disorders which share obvious symptoms and features of fear and anxiety and these are known as anxiety disorders.
  • Fear in News and Violence in Media In the proposed paper I intend to present the prevailing fear in American society and which has been produced by news media and the rise of a “problem frame” which is used to delineate this […]
  • Edgar Allan Poe’s Fear of Premature Burial For instance, in The Tell-Tale Heart and The Black Cat the police arrive and stimulate a desire on the part of the narrator to confess his crime and undergo punishment from the state.
  • Gender Inequality, Violence Against Women, and Fear in The Sopranos Thus, the major research question will be “Does The Sopranos endorse or criticize VaW through the frequent depiction of the scenes of cruelty?” The hypothesis of the research paper will be “The portrayal of VaW […]
  • Technophobes and Their Fear of Technology Technophobes assume that they will whether be laid off by the company or will have to commit to continuous learning, which to many people, is a big challenge on its own.
  • Patient’s Dental Fear: Managing Anxiety In order to find out the most effective ways to cope with the patient’s dental fear, one might consider those methods which will be applicable in accordance with the state of a client.
  • Educational Administration: Promise and Fear The particular case that Erica has to deal with is the case of Royal Collins, a fourth-grader who has problems in his family and often demonstrates misbehavior at school.
  • Fear from Media Reporting of Crimes The biggest question is whether it is the fact that there are criminals all around us, or it is in the head. The role of the media is quite profound in this.
  • Ku Klux Klan and Fear-Fueled Hatred The KKK was a violent response to the conflict’s aim of eliminating slavery of black people. The tone of the violent acts that the KKK members performed was vigilant supporters of white supremacy believed that […]
  • Psychological Science: Fear of Heights in Infants The article ‘Fear of Heights in Infants?’ by Adolph et al.shows that the conventional belief is a myth and provides an alternative explanation as to why infants avoid falling off the edge.
  • Fear of Missing Out (FoMO) and Social Media Usage The first hypothesis, for instance, is that the greater the number of social media platforms used regularly, the higher the level of FoMO a person will experience.
  • Definition of Dental Anxiety and Fear That way, studying the facts that contribute to the prevalence of anxiety in dental patients, the researchers should study the psychopathological profiles of anxious individuals.
  • Overcoming Fear of Failure Consequently, this essay evaluates the roles of research practitioners on how fear of failure generates and the significance of their research in the websites.
  • Fear in Behaviorist and Cognitive Perspectives Therefore, my fear is a result of the retrieval of what happened to me on the day I found that snake in my room.
  • Psychology of Fear: Amanda Ripley Views Another important element associated with disbelief is lack of information among the victims and those responding to the disaster. The immediate decision to vacate a disaster prone-area is dangerous and lacks in terms of deliberate […]
  • Sociological Book “The Culture of Fear” by Barry Glassner The book “The Culture of Fear” presents many examples of the sources of fear in the United States. The peddlers of panic in the country inflate statistics to pursue their causes and goals.
  • Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas Film Analysis The drugs presented in “Fear and loathing in Las Vegas” are of various types, cigarettes and alcohol are legal, grass is legal only in some countries, and the rest of the drugs are illegal everywhere […]
  • Dissecting the American Society: Baltimore, Fear and the Fight for Life Despite the fact that the citizens of Baltimore are also partially responsible for the moral decomposition of the city, the society and the prejudices that it produces also seem to have had a hand in […]
  • “Freedom from Fear” by David M. Kennedy Whereas the latter omission may be judged bitterly by critiques of this book, it is interesting to note that the era of the Great Depression has been dramatically discussed by the author to the best […]
  • Critical Analyses of the Climate of Fear Report From Southern Poverty Law Center Following the murder of Marcelo Lucero in the Suffolk County, the federal government initiated an investigation to establish the foundations of the practice and pattern of hate crimes against the undocumented immigrants.
  • Fear and Trembling by Soren Kierkegaard: Passage Analysis To a great extent, this feeling belittles a human being, and in the long term, this emotion can only lead to the bitterness of the individual who is a subject of pity.
  • Fear Appeals in Advertising Fear appeals work when advertisers present a moderate amount of fear and a solution to the problem is present in the advertisement. A thorough elaboration of fear may interfere with the communication of the intended […]
  • The world after college and fear All the jokes and laughter aside, O’ Brien still manages to remain relevant to the occasion and to his main audience.
  • Fear vs. Courage On the other hand, the goodies that ensue from being obedient form the basis of his courage to adhere to set rules and do the will of his authorities.
  • Summary of the Article “Should We Fear Derivatives?” It is necessary to become more attentive to the use of derivatives, to follow the development of derivatives, and to study the peculiarities of each derivative’s type in order to use them properly.
  • Hopes and Fears in Regard to the “Network Society” On the other hand, the importance of mass media and communication means has led to prevailing role of computers and other instant messaging devices over personal communication, and the resulting depersonalization of human relations.
  • The Culture of Fear The culture of fear is not new: it continues to breed with the sustaining efforts of the opportunistic politicians seeking votes from the public by playing on people’s emotions through mass media.
  • Embracing the Entire Globe: Globalization Is not to Be Feared! Despite the fact that globalization is designed to reunite people, restoring their economical, political and personal links with one another, there are certain suspicions that the effect of globalization can possibly harm the ethnicity and […]
  • The Pianist: When the Mercy Comes Where Angels Fear to Trod Among them, there is the film called The Pianist, a winner of the Palme d’Or on the Cannes Festival and the movie that has raised a great stir among the audience, them regarding the film […]
  • Fear and Trembling in Las Vegas In the book “Fear and Trembling in Las Vegas”, the author takes his readers through their experience in the chase of the American Dream.
  • Machiavelli’s Claim to Be Either Feared or Loved In describing a leader’s demonstration of his personal skills and knowledge for the attainment of the state’s good, Machiavelli focuses the importance of statesmanship.
  • Aerophobia or Fear of Flying The main aim of the careful explanation of the positive reasons of recovering from the condition is to enable the victim to have a feeling of absolute calmness as the session winds up and to […]
  • Phil Barker: What Is Fear? According to the author, there is some form of fear that is understandable and advantageous to an individual while there is also some fear that accounts for conflicts that result in war.
  • The Movie Tarnished as a Threat: Did They Fear Egoism, Altruism or What Hid in Between? Thus, it is reasonable to suggest that the movie gives a good example of what such people’s traits as egoism and altruism can lead to, once they have been too exaggerated.
  • The Fears Within: What Do You See in the Mirror? Without thinking much of what she should take with her, or where the trip would take her, Cassie had bought the tickets and soon was flying away to the islands where the world would be […]
  • Fear associated with sexuality issues in society This essay has shown how sexuality particularly in Africa is an issue that has for a long time served to propagate the fear of different people.
  • Fear’s Psychological Aspects The controls and the fearful research participants were quicker in finding a target that was fear relevant, which the research group did not fear.
  • SARS: It’s as Bad as We Feared but Dared Not Say The cornerstone of the study is the article written by Jennifer Eagleton wherein she described not only the SARS outbreak in Hong Kong in 2003 but also the way the media dealt with the crisis […]
  • How Far Did the CCP Control China Through Fear?
  • Does Fear Make Our Lives Decisions for Us?
  • How Does Iago Inspire Fear and a Looming Sense of Tragedy Through His Soliloquies?
  • Can Fear Beat Hope?
  • How Does the Reporting of Criminal Offenses Create Fear?
  • Does Global Fear Predict Fear in BRICS Stock Markets?
  • How Far Was Fear of Communism the Main Reason for the Rise to Power of the Nazi Party?
  • Did Hitler Use Fear to Control?
  • How Does Spielberg Create Fear and Humour Within Jaws?
  • Does Imagination Overcome Fear in the Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe?
  • How Does Fear Affect Personal Behavioral Development?
  • Can Fear Cause Economic Collapse?
  • Does Fear Increase Search Effort in More Numerate People?
  • How Does Bram Stoker Use Gothic Conventions to Create an Atmosphere of Suspense and Fear for the Reader?
  • Does Monetary Policy Credibility Mitigate the Fear of Floating?
  • How Can Fear Arousal Be Used as a Method of Health Promotion?
  • Does More Unemployment Cause More Fear of Unemployment?
  • How Can One Overcome Fear of Public Speaking?
  • Does One Gender Incite Fear Over Another?
  • How Are Characters Affected by Fear in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest?
  • Does Religiousness Buffer Against the Fear of Death and Dying in Late Adulthood?
  • How Does Culture Mold the Effects of Self-Efficacy and Fear of Failure on Entrepreneurship?
  • Does the Fear Gauge Predict Downside Risk More Accurately Than Econometric Models?
  • How Does Charles Dickens Build a Sense of Fear Throughout the Signalman?
  • Does the Media Affect People’s Fear of Crime?
  • How Does Fear Affect Our Society?
  • Why Do Males and Females Register Fear Differently?
  • How Can Fear Destroy an Individual?
  • Was the Cuban Missile Crisis the Result of Castro’s Fear of the U.S. Invasion?
  • How Does ‘Moral Panic’ Increase Our Fear of Crime?
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IvyPanda. (2024, February 24). 97 Fear Essay Topics & Examples. https://ivypanda.com/essays/topic/fear-essay-examples/

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IvyPanda . "97 Fear Essay Topics & Examples." February 24, 2024. https://ivypanda.com/essays/topic/fear-essay-examples/.

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Diana Raab Ph.D.

Reflective Writing: A New Hobby

Reflective writing can help us manage fear..

Posted March 21, 2020


There are many ramifications of the present pandemic. In addition to the broad financial, social, and psychological implications, some believe that spending more time at home alone is a good opportunity to look inward. Self-reflection can result in a better understanding of both oneself and the universe. In addition, self-reflection through writing can become a wonderful new hobby!

When we reflect, we use cognitive, imaginative, and creative processes to examine our lived experiences. This refers to both inner and outer landscapes. To be able to reflect, we must be attentive and make keen observations about ourselves and others.

By engaging in a regular reflective writing practice, we unlock a wealth of knowledge and feelings. It also makes us think about the thought processes associated with our current situations, such as social distancing and quarantines. Writing about the present connects us to, or reminds us of, past experiences. This is one way to connect the dots, but getting our narrative on the page also helps us understand it.

Many medical schools have begun to include reflective and narrative writing in their curricula as a way to form deeper patient-doctor relationships. In addition to enhancing these relationships, reflective writing encourages medical professionals to look within. By engaging in this practice, physicians are encouraged to write about what their particular medical areas mean to them, as well as their patients, colleagues, and society at large. During the process, what sometimes emerges is a conflict between what might be learned in the classroom and what the clinician sees at the bedside. This can lead to profound introspection and reflection, which results in transformation.

Reflective writing encourages us to write about our emotional truth. Everybody has their own version of their own emotional truth, but reflective writing allows us to dip into our subconscious minds in the most conscious manner. It’s not about just reporting a story; rather, reflective writing encompasses the emotions connected to the lived experience.

There is so much power in words, so it would be safe to say that those who express themselves through the written word are trying to solve some sort of inner conflict, regardless of the genre they choose. They use writing as a medium that helps them see things as they are. It also allows them to compare the present to the past.

Some ways in which reflective writing can help us heal include the following:

1. It encourages us to pay attention to the now.

2. It helps us be more aware of our feelings.

3. It helps cultivate an understanding of where we are, where we were, and where we’re going.

4. It helps us recognize the importance of living in the moment without judgment.

5. It encourages our awareness of our present emotions—that is, whether we’re scared, happy, uncertain, depressed , and so on.

6. By stepping back from yourself and finding a new perspective, it’s easier to let go of old patterns of thinking and behaving.

Reflective Writing Prompts

  • Describe the effect of COVID-19 on your present life.
  • Write about someone else’s current situation.
  • Write about the first time in your life you were fearful and what it felt like.

In summary, reflective writing cannot replace therapy , but it partners well with this practice and also helps people connect with others as a way to combat feelings of isolation and loneliness .

Baggs, C., L. Mckhann et al. (2013). ”Healing Through Reflective Writing: Breast Cancer Survivors’ Experience. Clinical and Health Affairs. July.

Coles, R. (2010). Lives We Carry With Us: Profiles of Moral Courage. New York, NY: The New Press.

Johna, S., M.D., and A. Dehal. “The Power of Reflective Writing: Narrative Medicine and Medical Education.” The Permante Journal. Fall 2013. 17(4). pp. 84–85.

Diana Raab Ph.D.

Diana Raab, MFA, Ph.D., is an author, speaker, educator, and survivor. She’s written nine books of nonfiction and poetry, including the recent Writing for Bliss and Writing for Bliss: A Companion Journal.

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Home > Graduate Theses > 203

MSU Graduate Theses

Fears and reflections: discovering yourself through the personal essay.

Elizabeth Ann Mitchell

Date of Graduation

Spring 1997

Master of Arts in English

Committee Chair

Nancy Walker

This thesis includes two parts: a critical analysis of personal essay considering a second-person view of how to fearlessly write personal essays and a collection of my own personal essays. The critical element includes examples of works that I consider support my theory of reflective journal writing as initial personal essays. This second-person instruction includes putting aside one's fear of audience and fear of one's self-revelations, as well as reflecting on how these fears detract from my own personal essay writing. The majority of this thesis consists of my own personal narratives in which I discuss relationships (sibling, children, parents, neighbors) and circumstances that make me the person I am at this point in time. Each essay focuses on one idea (perfectionism, insecurity, homesickness, travel, self-centeredness) while including the middle child outlook. Each theme connects to one another by my middle child experiences, and at times, by examples of my parents' dispositions. I have attempted to share with the readers how my position in the family defines who I am as an adult and how my parents' originality joins each relationship in our family with one, small thread. It is my hope that these essays benefit each other as a collection. Contents: Fears and reflections through the personal essay -- Most everyone's in the lake -- Insecurity blanket -- Mainland girl -- Minimum losses -- Perfect fear of regrets.

Subject Categories

English Language and Literature

© Elizabeth Ann Mitchell

Recommended Citation

Mitchell, Elizabeth Ann, "Fears and Reflections: Discovering Yourself Through the Personal Essay" (1997). MSU Graduate Theses . 203. https://bearworks.missouristate.edu/theses/203



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Wrestling with my husband's fear of getting covid again.

Malaka Gharib headshot

Malaka Gharib

Exhausted wooden figure dragging a white FFP2 or KN95 mask, destined to prevent the spread of the coronavirus or COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2022, while I was 7 months pregnant, my husband and I got COVID. While it was a mild case for me, he had scary, lingering symptoms. He said it felt like there was "an engine humming in his chest." He experienced frightening fits of insomnia. And his personality changed — my normally upbeat husband became uncharacteristically depressed.

After a few months, his symptoms went away, but his fears of getting COVID didn't. He is immunocompromised and his doctors warned him that if he got sick again, it may complicate his autoimmune disease. Plus, he didn't want to repeat his traumatic ordeal, especially with a baby on the way.

There are more reasons to be anxious. State and national measures to prevent COVID are falling away, like most recently, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's decision to end its 5-day isolation guidance . And the disease is still very much a threat. Yes, vaccines and boosters can protect against severe illness, but vulnerable people like my husband are still at high risk. To top it off, there is a lot we don't know about the coronavirus. Emerging evidence suggests that the neurological symptoms of COVID can persist years after an infection.

Pain, fatigue, fuzzy thinking: How long COVID disrupts the brain

Shots - Health News

Pain, fatigue, fuzzy thinking: how long covid disrupts the brain.

So while the rest of the world seems to have moved on from the pandemic, in our house, it is still 2020. We wear masks when we go into public indoor spaces. We don't eat inside restaurants. We don't go to movies. We have people take COVID tests before they enter our house. All this leaves me feeling torn between two emotions. I want to keep my husband safe and healthy. But I also want our old life back.

'A family problem'

It feels selfish and trivial to say that amid my husband's plight. He is terrified that if he gets COVID again, it will be as harrowing as the first time. And it could trigger a flare up of his chronic illness.

But my feelings as his spouse are valid too, says James C. Jackson , a neuropsychologist at Vanderbilt University and author of Clearing the Fog: From Surviving to Thriving with Long COVID, A Practical Guide .

There's this sentiment that if spouses of those who have experienced long COVID complain, they're "missing the real victim," says Jackson. "But that's problematic from so many standpoints. For one, it fails to recognize that long COVID is a family problem."

Millions of people have long COVID brain fog — and there's a shortage of answers

Jackson has seen how one partner's experience with a traumatic bout of COVID can affect the other partner firsthand. Every other week, Jackson meets with a support group for family members of people who were critically ill with COVID. Many of the participants are women who "are having to negotiate their husbands' fears of socializing, traveling or even going to the doctor," he says.

As a result, the women tell Jackson that "we used to live this really full life, but fear of going out has truncated our lives so much." I can relate to that. My husband and I used to host big parties, go to concerts, travel on a whim — and now we can't do those things without seriously considering our risk of getting COVID. I mourn the life we used to have. And I know he does too.

Compromising on risk

Jackson says the main problem area he sees with couples in this situation is their individual assessment of risk.

That's actually been one of the biggest points of contention between me and my husband. It's been hard to agree on a set of responsible COVID protections for our household. I don't think it would be terrible, for example, to eat inside a restaurant every once in a while. But he says there's still a possibility we may bring COVID home from our outing, and that scares him. It's a fair concern.

Dear Life Kit: My husband is living under COVID lockdown. I'm ready to move on

Dear Life Kit

Dear life kit: my husband is living under covid lockdown. i'm ready to move on.

In these situations, Jackson says compromise is key. The best outcomes in relationships are when partners "with polar extremes of safety move toward the other in a way that is a little bit uncomfortable for them," says Jackson. For me, that might mean being OK with dining al fresco most of the time. For him, that might mean acquiescing to eating indoors sometimes, maybe during less busy times of the day.

"I would call that a good outcome if a couple finds a way to accept some differences and adapt to a new normal," he says.

Unpacking anxiety

I told Jackson that I want to be more supportive and empathetic to my husband's needs. But sometimes it is tricky to parse out what is a valid health concern and what might be anxiety.

The reality is that if he gets COVID again, he could get really sick. So some of our efforts to protect our household from the coronavirus are warranted. But there are moments when his measures are unnecessary — for example, when he wears a mask outdoors and no one is around. When I bring it up, he gets defensive.

"That's a hard conversation to have with long COVID patients. Many of them feel like they've been gaslit in the medical community and have had to defend themselves in the context of people not believing that long COVID is real," says Jackson.

How to support people with long COVID

How to support people with long COVID

So approach this topic with care. You don't want to invalidate your partner's emotions or tell them how to feel, says Ranak Trivedi , a clinical health psychologist and a health services researcher at Stanford who studies the relationship between family caregivers and patients with chronic illnesses. Saying things like "you're making a big deal out of this," for example, is not useful.

Instead, make sure that it's "science that is contributing to the beliefs he's having" around COVID precautions, says Jackson, and not other emotions like depression, anxiety or anger that may be affecting his quality of life.

I told Jackson that's not an easy thing to communicate — and he agrees. "Sometimes people have a hard time considering something when a spouse brings it up," he says, because it may sound like lecturing or nagging or come with emotional baggage from the relationship.

That's where a therapist or a couple's counselor could help, especially one who has experience working with patients who have had long COVID or chronic illness and understands the science and the high stakes. They may be able to help my husband "step back, be reflective and say, 'Maybe my anxiety is getting tangled up in this,' " says Jackson.

Keep communicating

Sometimes I feel like I'm at an impasse with my husband on this topic, so I don't bother revisiting our restrictive COVID precautions. But Laura Murray , a clinical psychologist and a senior scientist at Johns Hopkins University who specializes in mental and behavioral problems, says "always keep trying to communicate."

"If one way doesn't work, try another way," she says. "It could be writing a very heartfelt letter. You might say: I love you more than anything. I want our family to do normal things. And I'm worried about you, worried that your life has become so much about avoiding COVID."

The secret to lasting love might just be knowing how to fight

The secret to lasting love might just be knowing how to fight

Don't forget to ask your partner how they feel too, says Murray. "Is this the life that he wants? Does he foresee an end to this? Or is this something he would like help with?" That may make it easier to segue into a more productive conversation about solutions and compromise.

A little gratitude goes a long way

Instead of narrowing in on what's not working in your relationship regarding this matter, focus on what is , says Trivedi. "We do have strong scientific evidence from couples' work that to get people on the same page, you need to have empathy and gratitude for each other."

For my husband, that might mean him telling me something as simple as "I thank you for taking all those precautions for me. I know you're doing it to take care of my needs and I really appreciate that," says Trivedi.

Giving thanks is good for you. Here's how to make it a habit

Giving thanks is good for you. Here's how to make it a habit

And for me, that might mean thanking my husband for overcoming some of his COVID fears so we could go on vacation with our son.

In January, we flew halfway across the world to visit family in Dubai. At first, I thought that the stringent COVID precautions he was taking to protect himself on the airplane were over the top. In addition to wearing an N95 mask for 13 straight hours, he kept a personal air purifier at his seat at all times. But now I can see those actions for what they are. He was doing everything he could to make the trip work. In his way, he wanted to see me happy.

The digital story was edited by Meghan Keane, Carmel Wroth, Audrey Nguyen and Beck Harlan. The visual editor is Beck Harlan. We'd love to hear from you. Leave us a voicemail at 202-216-9823, or email us at [email protected].

Listen to Life Kit on Apple Podcasts and Spotify , and sign up for our newsletter .

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