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Recommended Podcast: This American Life's "Devil in Me" -- Explores a strategy for overcoming your inner demons

by Tom Johnson on Sep 16, 2007 •
categories: technical-writing

Devil in MeIf you enjoy podcasts, check out Act One of the "Devil in Me" episode of This American Life. The episode explores how Iraqi war veteran Sam Slaven returns from Iraq with post-traumatic stress syndrome and a fear of Iraqis.

Just being in the same room with an Iraqi makes him start trembling and thinking of ways to remove him (for example, by "choking him out").

Sam recognizes the irrationality of his fear. After he enrolls in college, he decides to join a Muslim Student Association (MSA). After several months of attending the MSA's meetings and activities, he develops a close friendship with a Muslim. The friendship completely changes him.

Sam's experience shows us one way of dealing with our fears: immersion in the very thing we fear. The producer's larger vision (of all the acts in the show) is to explore battles with inner demons.

Reflections

Sam's strategy might work well for physical fears, perhaps, but what about more abstract fears? For example, my wife is terrified of snakes (not sure why). If she were to watch Anaconda she would probably start hyperventilating and run from the room. Following Sam's therapeutic technique, one way of overcoming her fears might be to immerse her in a cage of snakes. :)

But what if your fear is more abstract -- fear of failure, fear of humiliation, fear of not becoming anything, fear of unemployment, fear of death? I'm not sure if the same strategy would apply.

At any rate, the therapist in the Devil in Me episode recommended to Sam that he approach his fears with a more gradual introduction of the thing he fears, rather than complete and immediate immersion.

Question for Readers

What do you fear the most? How do you deal with that fear?

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About Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson

I'm a technical writer based in the California San Francisco Bay area. In this blog, I write about topics related to technical writing and communication — such as software documentation, API documentation, visual communication, information architecture, writing techniques, plain language, tech comm careers, and more. Check out simplifying complexity and API documentation for some deep dives into these topics. If you're a technical writer and want to keep on top of the latest trends in the field, be sure to subscribe to email updates. You can also learn more about me or contact me.

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