Fear Thesaurus Entry: Being Returned to an Abusive Environment

From Writers Helping Writers:

Debilitating fears are a problem for everyone, an unfortunate part of the human experience. Whether they’re a result of learned behavior as a child, are related to a mental health condition, or stem from a past wounding event, these fears influence a character’s behaviors, habits, beliefs, and personality traits. The compulsion to avoid what they fear will drive characters away from certain people, events, and situations and hold them back in life.

In your story, this primary fear (or group of fears) will constantly challenge the goal the character is pursuing, tempting them to retreat, settle, and give up on what they want most. Because this fear must be addressed for them to achieve success, balance, and fulfillment, it plays a pivotal part in both character arc and the overall story.

This thesaurus explores the various fears that might be plaguing your character. Use it to understand and utilize fears to fully develop your characters and steer them through their story arc. Please note that this isn’t a self-diagnosis tool. Fears are common in the real world, and while we may at times share similar tendencies as characters, the entry below is for fiction writing purposes only.

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Fear of Being Returned to an Abusive Environment

A character who has escaped an abusive environment, whether as a child or an adult, and is determined to remain free will do anything to avoid going back to it. A fear of returning—voluntarily or against their will—to this place will trigger a host of physical, mental, and emotional reactions for the character, even if the event is unlikely to happen.

What It Looks Like
Becoming physically ill (nausea, headaches, stomachaches, hair loss, rashes, etc.) 
The character pleading their case to anyone who will listen
Threatening to harm themselves if they’re forced to go back
The character becoming desperately eager to please their current caregivers (to stay in their good graces)
Suffering from PTSD
Taking drugs or using alcohol to manage the fear 
Having nightmares about the environment or the abusive people there 
Pulling away from everyone
Becoming hypervigilant (watching for the abuser, whoever would bring news that the character has to go back, etc.)
Carrying a weapon
Becoming obsessed with self-defense
Creating an escape plan in case they’re forced to return
Hoarding money, travel supplies, and food so they can leave quickly if needed
Running away 

Common Internal Struggles
Having mixed feelings toward the abuser (especially if that person is a family member)
Trying and failing to stop thinking about abusive episodes
Wanting to fight the system that would return them to the abuser but feeling powerless to do so
Fantasizing about neutralizing the abuser
Feeling paranoid that the abuser or someone in his employ is watching the character
Feeling as if they will never be truly free
Struggling with suicidal thoughts

Link to the rest at Writers Helping Writers