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The Thing We Fear More Than Death

Surveys about our fears commonly show fear of public speaking at the top of the list. Our fear of standing up in front of a group and talking is so great that we fear it more than death, in surveys at least.

The fear is not just about public speaking, but is also faced by many others who go in front of a crowd and perform, like athletes, actors, and musicians.

As a social psychologist, teacher, and a sufferer of social anxiety, Dr. Signe Dayhoff suffered through intense fear of public speaking every time he got up to teach a class. “My tongue stuck to the roof of my dry mouth and I couldn’t swallow, I blushed, sweated and trembled,” he said. Eventually it got so bad that it interfered in his ability to do his job. Getting help, he found he could deal with the situation better. “As I recovered 12 years ago, using cognitive-behavior therapy, patience, persistence, and practice, I found that nearly 20 million individuals at any one time suffer from some form of social anxiety. They fear being negatively evaluated in anything they do; fear being rejected; fear being abandoned.”

When faced with standing up in front of a group, we break into a sweat because we are afraid of rejection. And at a primal level, the fear is so great because we are not merely afraid of being embarrassed, or judged. We are afraid of being rejected from the social group, ostracized and left to defend ourselves all on our own.

On December 3rd, clients of Haven Toronto face the fear of performing in front of a group when they go onstage during ‘Improv Haven’, a comedy fundraiser.

Members of NOTORIOUS, an improv troupe, have been hosting workshops for elder homeless men at Haven Toronto. Taking what they have learned, these clients will perform as a homeless troupe at the Comedy Bar, 945 Bloor Street West.

Tickets for ‘Improv Haven’ are $20 in advance, $25 at the door. Proceeds support Haven Toronto and elder homeless, marginally housed and socially isolated men age 50+. For more information and tickets, visit




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