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How The “Culture Of Fear” Might Be Influencing Your Life

Culture of Fear

Maybe you’ve heard this term or maybe you haven’t. Culture of Fear is a sociological framework developed by Frank Furedi (as well as the title of his book) that seeks to explain and investigate how fear is used to control the public.

It is often applied at a political level, but this concept can also help you understand behaviors and drives in yourself, your loved ones, and people you interact with on a daily basis. Look closer and you will see how a surprising number of our decisions can be motivated by fear, and how the culture at large can push us towards fear-based choices such as the decision to settle for less than our greatest dreams. This can damage our self-esteem, locking us into a cycle of mediocrity that can last for years—until we finally begin to wake up.

In this blog we’ll cover what the Culture of Fear is and how fear might effect your life in the workplace. Stay tuned for our next blog where we’ll explore how fear could be influencing your relationships.


What Is The Culture Of Fear?

“The people don’t want war, but they can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. This is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and for exposing the country to danger. It works the same in every country.” 

-Nazi Leader, Hermann Göring 


Perhaps you’ve seen the above quote before. It was circulated a great deal post-9/11. This quote is an example of how those in power create a Culture of Fear to achieve their goals. Though not considered the beginning of the Culture of Fear in America, the events following September 11th 2001 made many people aware of the manipulation of fear by politicians and media for the first time.

Culture of Fear refers to the use of fear in public discourse to motivate. Specifically it usually refers to inciting fear in the public at large. 

A political candidate releases an ad claiming their opponent is soft on crime, showing images of violent or scary people. A whitening toothpaste ad shows a woman disgusted with a man’s yellow teeth. A man tells his daughter she better not pursue painting or she’ll end up a starving artist. 

In all cases, fear is used to motivate someone towards a desired outcome. 

A person living in this kind of culture faces a constant assault on their nervous system. (Learn how to calm your nervous system here) Fear can be deeply internalized and manifest as many types of unwellness. That unwellness may lead to the creation and dissemination of more fear, such in the case of the artist’s father above.

Fear is not by its nature a bad thing. The purpose of fear is to help you survive. If you see a mountain lion, fear motivates you to get as far away from that as possible. We’re not looking to eradicate it from our lives—just to recognize when it is appropriate or not. Dealing with the fear in your life can help you achieve your highest potential.

So are you influenced by the Culture of Fear in your life? Keep reading to find out.


culture of fear


Culture of Fear And Your Career

When it comes to the workplace, it is not uncommon for fear to be a major motivator. After all, at the societal level losing your job could mean losing your lifestyle, perceived respect of others, food safety or even shelter. Unemployment can constitute a threat to the most basic levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, specifically Safety Needs and Physiological Needs.

A fear mentality may say that you will never have enough to be safe. It may lead to the sacrifice of health and well-being in exchange for “security”, or conversely result in never trying for fear of failure.

To understand the influence of fear in your workplace you can ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you fear losing your job?
  • Do you fear your boss?
  • What part of your job do you dislike?
  • Does your job feel secure?
  • Have you made decisions about what career to pursue based on fear?
  • What would you like to do if money wasn’t an issue?
  • Do you struggle with fear of failure? (If so, you may want to read these 5 Tips For Overcoming Failure)
  • Are your actions at work motivated by fear? 
  • Think about a fear you have identified in your life, whether reasonable or not. Was this fear created or amplified by those around you? Your friends, your family? Your school or church? Television shows or movies you watched as a child or watch now? 

An acute fear left unaddressed may easily become an anxiety. We tend to forget the source of our anxieties and thus lose the ability to release them. They may lead to disinterest, disengagement and depression. Fear may also lead to anger, and we may direct anger at those closest to us because they are the only “safe” place in a world where anger is unprofessional and dangerous. We may feel deeply unhappy or unsatisfied and not understand why. 

In a Culture of Fear, our fear reaction is manipulated and triggered over and over again until we wind up just trying to survive, rather than thrive. We take no risks, we barely live. If we want to reclaim our lives we must start identifying our fears and recognizing which are reasonable, which are holding us back, and which can become calculated risks. It is exciting work, the kind of work that can breathe life into a stagnant routine. We can choose to reclaim our fear.

The best place to begin exploring your fears is with your therapist. They have the tools to walk you through examining and dismantling your fears. The Truism Center has locations in Grand Rapids, Grandville, Commerce Township, and Troy, as well as a virtual office that can provide counseling to anyone within the state of Michigan.  Schedule an appointment to talk with a qualified counselor today and you can begin working towards a healthier relationship with fear.

We’ll see you again in two weeks when we return to this discussion to explore how fear might be threatening your relationships.