Frank Faranda is an expert psychotherapist, who has earned degrees from the likes of Columbia University, Adelphi University, and New York University. Though his influences include attachment theory, Parts work and more, his most recent studies have honed into the way fear and imagination affect our daily lives. In this interview, Frank delves into the life events that led to his book, The Fear Paradox: How Our Obsession with Feeling Secure Imprisons Our Minds and Shapes Our Lives, advice for readers, and how the existence and eradication of fear has impacted his own life. Frank currently practices psychodynamic psychotherapy in New York, New York. Learn more about Frank’s approach to addressing psychological pain, emotional injuries and more on his website: https://www.nycpsychologist.net/my-approach.
I understand that you’ve studied psychotherapy and psychoanalysis extensively at institutions such as NYU, Columbia, and Adelphi, just to name a few. What sparked your interest in this topic?
In many ways, the original spark for my interest in psychological healing grew out of the difficulties of my childhood. You might say, the first training I had in psychotherapy was trying to heal my mother. For many of us in the field, our longing to help our families, and the difficulty in doing so, forms a foundation for our work. It is what could be called the basis of a “calling”.
How did you narrow your field of study down to how fear and imagination affect our everyday lives, relationships and culture?
I originally began to study imagination and the ways in which this part of us contributes to how we come to be who we are. I soon discovered that what makes it difficult for us to envision and manifest our best selves is fear.
What was the catalyst for penning The Fear Paradox: How Our Obsession with Feeling Secure Imprisons Our Minds and Shapes Our Lives?
I realized that I needed to lay out a broad arc of understanding for how our minds became so dominated by fear. This led me to understand the ways in which fear fostered the emergence of imagination. I began to see that so much of what makes us human is our relationship to the dark.
Can you talk a little about how fear has impacted your life, both through its existence and eradication? What was that process like for you?
As I hint at in the book, I am not immune to the impact of fear. For many years I ran from the pain of my life, my childhood, this was a fear of pain and it kept me from healing. By the time I was in my twenties, I found myself alone and unfulfilled. Thankfully, I found psychotherapy and the skilled guidance of my first two analysts, John and Alexandra. After about ten years of work, I was ready to go back to school and begin a more meaningful life. I found my wife and we had our son. I found meaning when I stopped running from myself.
What was the writing process for The Fear Paradox: How Our Obsession with Feeling Secure Imprisons Our Minds and Shapes Our Lives like?
I tend to follow a simple prescription that I heard quoted a long time ago “Don’t write till you’re ready, and when you’re ready, write like hell” I spent many years gathering data and studying fear and imagination in my work. The entire process was about 7 years. 4 years of research, a couple years of planning and preparing the idea and a year and a half writing.
You mention in your book, “Even though the world can be a dangerous place, it can also be quite beautiful when you risk peeking out”, how would you advise readers to take this first step?
My advice to my readers might go something like this: make sure you know when you’re unhappy and dissatisfied. Dissatisfaction is the driver of desire and desire leads us to love. Love is the best antidote to fear. In many ways, the only human feeling that is capable of solving fear is love. And if you can’t make this happen on your own, I’ll help you find a good therapist.
What is one piece of advice you’d like to share with readers who have experienced fear amidst the current global pandemic?
Remember, fear is not always the enemy. Wear a mask. Social distance.
On that note — what do you hope readers ultimately take away from The Fear Paradox: How Our Obsession with Feeling Secure Imprisons Our Minds and Shapes Our Lives?
Don’t run from your pain. When you stop and sit in it long enough, you find yourself.
Rapid fire favorites:
Favorite university campus? Columbia.
Favorite city? Venice
How do you take your coffee? Black and strong
Favorite era? Classical Greece
Favorite sports team? I watch tennis.
Favorite dish? Baby back ribs
Best concert you’ve been to? Unfortunately, I don’t remember most of them.
Favorite childhood memory? When my father took me to buy my first two wheel bike.
How Our Obsession with Feeling Secure Imprisons Our Minds and Shapes Our Lives (For Readers of Culture of Fear)
A history and culture of fear. Over the last five hundred years, life for the average human being has changed dramatically—plagues no longer wipe out entire families, and no longer do we empty our chamber pots into the street. But, progress in the West has shown that no matter how many dangers we neutralize, new ones emerge. Why? Because our level of fear remains constant.
Fear in contemporary society. For years, Dr. Frank Faranda studied a state of fearfulness in his patients—an evolutionary state that relentlessly drove them toward avoidance, alienation, hypercriticism, hyper-control, and eventually, depression and anxiety. He began to wonder what they were afraid of, and how embedded these fears might be in contemporary society. This book aims to break us free from what he found.
Fear not. Faranda’s Fear Paradox is simple—even though fear has a prime directive to keep us safe and comfortable, it has grown into the single greatest threat to humanity and collective survival. As a consequence, fear is embedded in our culture, creating new dangers and inciting isolation. With global pandemic disruptions and rising anxiety levels, now is the time to shine a light on our deepest fears and examine the society that fear is creating.