Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Phobias by Stuart R. West

Phobias are a funny thing. Everyone suffers one.
If you look up the word "phobia," it's categorized as an anxiety disorder; a fear of a situation or object blown way out of proportion to the actual threat. Try telling that to the phobia sufferer.

I have a friend who's deathly afraid of clowns. Why? Dunno. But I suppose it makes sense to him, his mind working overtime to try and persuade logic to over-take the irrational fear. Granted, serial killer/clown John Wayne Gacy didn't do too much to promote clown good-will, but I hardly think clowns generally pose a threat. Even so, there's even a name for it: Coulrophobia. The fact the fear is predominant enough to earn its own name implies its more widespread than I thought.

My phobia? Heights, aka Acrophobia. Which is strange. It didn't happen until later in life. As a youth, I'd recklessly climb aboard the most rickety-looking, splintery old roller-coasters with wild abandon. Absolutely fearless. But sometime, somehow things changed. I didn't even realize it until my daughter and I visited a (supposedly haunted) lighthouse in Florida. It wasn't the thought of ghosts that inspired my fear. At the top of the tower, I hugged the walls, too terrified to look down while other tourists found me very amusing. How do phobias build later in life? Is it like hair-loss?

The most outrageous case of phobia I've ever seen is my wife's (thank God she doesn't read this blog). A medical professional, she doesn't flinch at anything, even discussing gory details with a blase attitude over dinner. But...spiders. Yep, arachnophobia. The eight legged varmints turn my strong soldier of a wife into a quivering pile of jello. When she was in college, she took parachuting lessons. On the day of her big jump, she spotted a spider in the airplane. The instructor had to physically restrain her from jumping out early. Once, on a busy street, she jumped out of her car, leaving the passenger inside to deal with it. Anything to get away from the dreaded critters. At home, her screams are legendary. I'm used to the tiny, startled "eeks." Those are categorized as "Be there in a second, honey!" But the full-on, blood-curdling shrieks when she spots an arachnid? That hits the "Code Red! Jump over any obstacles to get there ASAP!" category.

There's a phobia for nearly everything and a correlating name to go along with it. Fear of hair (Chaetophobia), fear of cooking (Mageirocophobia), fear of smells (Olfactophobia), fear of long words (Sesquipedalophobia--which I think is kinda ironic, really), the list goes on and on. It's quite fascinating, really. If you're truly interested, look up The Phobia List.

I suppose everyone's allowed a phobia. And only the sufferer truly understands their own fears, even if they're at a loss for words how to describe it. And I have to say, a lot of times I write about some of my own fears in my books, I suppose as a form of therapy. Yep, even danger at heights!

What say you, folks? Let's hear about some interesting phobias.
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