What Are Men’s Darkest Fears (And How They Appear In Fiction)?

There was a video essay about the film “Return to Oz” which detailed how much it perfectly captured the original spirit of L. Frank Baum’s books. One example is noting how most of the common fears that children have are experienced by Dorothy. It does make me think about what are men’s darkest fears and how they can appear in literature.

Common Male Phobias

  • Astraphobia: thunder
  • Dysmorphophobia: being maimed
  • Iatrophobia: seeing a doctor
  • Odontophobia: dentists
  • Ophidiophobia: snakes
  • Phalacrophobia: going bald
  • Trypanophobia: injections

Men’s Darkest Fears That Are Common

This is a different category from male phobias. While phobias are apparent and obvious to note, fears are more subtle. Nonetheless, men’s darkest fears can manifest in a myriad of ways. These fears tend to involve either appearing or being any of the following feelings below.

  • Failure: perhaps being afraid of disappointing others or themselves, and/or of living with the anticipated sense of shame they believe accompanies failure.
  • Foolishness: this is the fear of appearing foolish, meaning that a man will lose credibility and not be taken seriously. this keeps a man from speaking up in a group or taking on a challenge.
  • Incompetence: fearing that they don’t have what it takes to accomplish a task or to succeed in a job or relationship.
  • Irrelevance: fear and stress in wanting their lives to achieve deep meaning and purpose.
  • Weakness: one of the biggest fears for men, as they tend to believe they are not supposed to be weak or even to be perceived as such.

You can definitely see the common fears appearing in William Shakespeare’s plays from the anti-heroes and the villains. Their fears have an underlying influence to all of their decision-making. They are the reasons why his plays withstood the test of time.

In the case of Hamlet, he is a character consumed by fear. His major weakness is his hesitation, since he does not want to become a failure in his plans. Macbeth has the fear of irrelevance, since he wants to be king and his wife cannot produce an heir. Brutus from Julius Caesar feels that he is not living up to the ideals of his ancestor in overthrowing tyrants, which is why he justifies to himself why he must overthrow Caesar just as his ancestor overthrew the Tarquins.


  • Foster, B. J. “The 5 Biggest Fears Of Men.” All Pro Dad.
  • In Praise Of Shadows. “Return to Oz is an Absolute Nightmare.” YouTube. 2023.
  • “List of Phobias Most Common in Men.” PACE. 2021.

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