• Jeff Johnston

The Fear of Living


We hear so much about death. Maybe because it’s unavoidable and part of life? We create stories to help us deal with the end. Stories to help give us closure and finality. We fear death for many reasons. Is it painful, is it scary, is it cold and dark and is it really just, the end. That’s it, lights out and the party goes on without you. But is it death we really fear or is it more of our fear of living? Let me explain what I mean.


The statistics don’t lie. 150,000 Americans died last year from alcohol, suicide and drug overdose. People are more anxious, depressed and unsatisfied as much as I can recall in my years on this planet and it isn’t getting better. There are plenty of obvious culprits such as a pandemic, a very volatile and vile election process, social media platforms pitting us against each other, substance abuse and mental health issues. However, could there be a more simple explanation? Could it be that our real fear is in LIFE itself and in being alive? The issue as I see it is in our inability to deal with many things while we are alive, not dead;

  • We are afraid of failure and disappointing others

  • We are afraid of compromising our strongest beliefs

  • We are afraid of investing in personal growth

  • We are afraid of responsibility

  • We are afraid of understanding different opinions

  • We are afraid of commitment

  • We are afraid of change

  • We are afraid of confrontation

  • We are afraid of being vulnerable

  • We are afraid of asking for help

  • We are afraid of loneliness

  • We are afraid of dealing with grief

  • We are afraid of being judged

  • We are afraid of uncertainty

  • We are afraid of “not knowing” and “missing out”

  • We are afraid of aging

  • WE ARE AFRAID OF LIVING

It would seem we are more afraid of dealing with what life MAY throw at us rather than the absolute certainty of death. Why is this? Could it be we are simply a function of the environment we grew up in? Possibly this could come from;

  • Overbearing and overprotective parents never allowing us to fail or feel pain

  • Poor coping mechanisms we developed that resulted in poor, negative habits

  • Believing everything negative people tell us and/or conspiracy theories

  • Think every low statistical probability will happen to us (plane crash, shark or bear attack)

  • Traumatic event in our lives in which we haven’t found ways to absorb into our personal story

  • Unrealistic expectations of what life really is-chaos in motion

I have never been afraid of death. The only fear of death I have is what I will miss when I am gone and how those I leave behind will deal with my death. It’s ok to be fearful of things, I understand that completely. Those who know me and read my book, “This Ones For You- An Inspirational Journey Through Addiction, Death and Meaning” know clearly my horror and sheer terror with spiders and clowns. Enough said.

It would seem to me that the main struggle with life for so many of us is that we have a poor relationship with living. Your personal life experiences will help you develop skills to survive the rigors of living. I once heard someone say, “experience is a function of exposure, not time.” I believe this to be so true. So, what are you waiting for, more time? Live your life right now, unafraid, fearless, with courage and awe but most importantly, Live Undeterred!

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