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"Having the fear" is a phrase that has entered the English language and means exactly what it says. The definition can be applied to numerous situations. It has been used both humorously and seriously to describe situations people face when they are going through crisis.
People who face a mid-life crisis and wish to quit their jobs, have been suddenly hit with - "having the fear". The term is used to describe the unknown; what will happen if they have no job to go to. They will still have responsibilities to meet and bills to pay. It is these factors that give people "the fear". The "fear" is the unknown factor of what will occur if they give up their day job.
The phrase was thought to have originated from the novel by Hunter S. Thompson. Published in 1973, his novel Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is a drug fueled, satirical dissection of the American dream. The novel brought Thompson to the public's attention, and he is forever identified with the phrase "fear and loathing".
"Having the fear" has also often been associated with an emotion felt during drug use. It is also a state of mind sometimes associated with existentialism. It is connected to a sudden realization that there is no purpose to life. For some, this can be overwhelming. However, "having the fear" is also thought to be the mind's way of saying that it needs more out of life. It is also thought to be a useful emotion in pushing someone towards new goals and ambitions.
The saying was used in an episode of the hit US television series Friends. Jennifer Anniston's character, Rachel wanted to leave her dead end job to pursue her dream career. But she was forever procrastinating over this as she did not "have the fear". Only by giving up her job and leaving herself with no means of income would she have the push needed to pursue her ideal job.
"Having the fear" is an excellent description of the state of mind that many people go through when attempting a risky venture. But overcoming the fear and taking the chance on something, whether it is a dream job or a new relationship, is all part of the fun. Many people are stuck in dead end jobs wanting to take risks in life, but the fear holds them back. It is only by confronting and overcoming the fear that many people achieve their desires and ambitions in life.