The Fear Doctor Writes Philosophical Prescriptions For An Anxious World

Sometimes, you just need to tell someone what you’re afraid of.

It’s been the kind of month that makes you feel anxious about the world. In response to the events of the last few weeks (to name a few: terror attacks in Bangladesh, Baghdad, and Nice; the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile; and the deaths of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge) a San Francisco artist headed to the street last week with a makeshift “fear doctor” booth, where he offered to listen to the fears of anyone who walked by, and write them a prescription–of custom advice, not drugs–to help them deal with what makes them afraid.


“I think the world is filled with a lot of fear. We’ve seen the side effects of that, tragically in the last few weeks in a very real way,” says artist Hunter Franks. “And so this felt like a very pertinent time to go out and to give people the space to connect and share and to hopefully start realizing there’s always a way for love and compassion and connection to win the day against fear.”

Franks–whose other projects include getting strangers to talk to each other and a dinner party on a freeway–has been exploring fear in his work for a few years. “At some point, I evolved this idea to a prescription formula where folks could stop by, akin to Lucy’s booth in Peanuts where she says ‘the doctor is in,'” he says.

Many people asked for help with personal problems: a fear of being alone in old age, a fear of settling, a fear of not finding success. But others focused on social challenges. One person had a fear “of the world going the wrong way.” Another had a fear of never finding social justice. One man was afraid of martial law in America.

After listening to each person for a few minutes, Franks typed up some advice (which you can see in the slideshow above). It’s useful, he says, for others to see what people were afraid of. “What I’ve realized with the project is that all of our fears are related somehow. There are strands that run between them . . . If people can connect those and realize that other people have the exact same fears, they’ll realize that we’re all much more similar than we are different.”

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About the author

Adele Peters is a staff writer at Fast Company who focuses on solutions to some of the world's largest problems, from climate change to homelessness. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley.