Alain de Botton, 34, is the author of Status Anxiety (Hamish Hamilton)
10 Ugliness. I get very upset by depressing hotel rooms and motorway underpasses. London is very ugly in parts. I’ve carved out a niche, I have my own house, which looks nice enough to me, but I fear being made to live in a horrible place.
9 Safety mechanisms in society breaking down. Take away certain barriers and things can get ugly quite quickly. That’s scary for the future. I’m not predicting anything, it’s just a feeling.
8 Feeling misunderstood. Underlying that is a fear of loneliness. Much of this goes back to my boarding school days. Between the ages of eight and 18, I was with people I profoundly disliked. Adulthood for me is all about finding congenial people.
7 My own nastiness. Most of my nastiness springs from feelings of vulnerability. I’m only nice because I’m afraid not to be nice.
6 The rule of bad ideas. From having been highly prejudiced as a society we’ve now moved towards the lack of any publicly admissible value system. It’s a kind of intellectual totalitarianism that stops debate.
5 Not sleeping well. I’m a light and nervous sleeper. What I’m really afraid of is tiredness, when I have to be myself, but can’t think properly. I neither have the pleasures of unconsciousness nor the pleasures of consciousness. I can’t really process any information, I can’t take any decisions, I can’t notice anything. Noise is a related paranoia: if there is hammering in the street, my fear is that it’s being done to annoy me.
4 Being bad. A basic childhood fear, of stepping over a line, and then being irredeemably bad. It’s about self-control. Unkindness, lust, stupidity-it’s a traditional ancient Greek/Freudian fear of the self in which there are all these destructive forces, potentially… I’m not attracted to letting myself go. Letting go too much-that’s the fear.
3 Letting myself down. As a writer one’s always aware that one is only as good as one’s project. So a lot of it is about finding the one that enables you to be you at your best.
2 Egoism vis ?vis my children. I fear that I’ll think that my time is more important than theirs. I feel that my parents were not good parents to me. I can see a scenario in which I’m not a bad person but become not a very nice parent. I’m about to become a father, so it’s quite a big fear.
1 Everything that’s out of my control. The thing about being a writer is that at least the words in your book can be controlled while the rest of the world is chaotic. Writing and thinking is a defence against intolerable anxieties. Spending most of my time alone in a room thinking is a way of trying to calm down all sorts of fears. For example, that my wife will fall in love with someone else, that I will cease to satisfy her. Love is a funny thing, it’s like a gift. Someone chooses to love you, but what happens if they suddenly decide you’re not that loveable?