I have a lot of phobias, and I’m fanatic about avoiding what triggers a freak-out. Some I have overcome, and some of them linger like a bad smell that is trapped inside the walls.
Merriam-Webster defines phobia this way: “an exaggerated usually inexplicable and illogical fear of a particular object, class of objects, or situation.” I can trace the origins of most of my phobias, and let me say here, we need to be careful what we say to our children. Most of my fears came from childhood experiences over which I had no control.
- WATER – I never realized I had a problem with water until I tried to take swimming lessons. This might not have happened if the teacher had explained how to float and what to do if you went under rather than float. But instead, she screamed (in front of a large class of students), “Lie back, lie back, LIE BACK!!” So I did. I quickly found out I swam like a rock. That is, I sank to the bottom and stayed there. A lifeguard had to pull me out. That fear and humiliation have stayed with me.
- TRAINS – where I grew up, before the highway and an overpass was built, we had to cross train tracks to go into town. The crossing was long and flat, and you had a good view left and right of an oncoming train. There was no safety arm to stop cars, only bright red warning lights and clanging bells. My brother found it entertaining to stop on the tracks while those lights flashed, the bells clanged, and the train barreled toward the crossing. He told me, his very young, terrified baby sister that the car was stalled, and he couldn’t move it. Nightmare of trains crashing into us recur, and for years, crossing any railroad tracks anywhere brought me to a paralyzing state of terror.
- Mice – life on a farm meant life with animals of all sorts. My job was to put the feed into the troughs for the milk cows and to bucket feed baby calves. Mice loved the feed room, and I had to walk carefully to avoid stepping on them. And they were in the house too, but usually stayed out of sight. Something about the way those nasty little rodents chew and claw inside the walls at night, something about their hairless tails, something about how fast they move … all of these things still bring me to a completely over-the-top reaction. To this day, I go to ungodly lengths to avoid any place a mouse might be.
- TRAFFlC/TRAVEL – It’s not the destination that I fear. It’s the transportation that gets me there. I believe this fear came from hearing the details of horrific car wrecks and plane crashes when I was very young. I won’t share those details, but I will say this: a child never should have heard those things.
Oddly enough, I am not afraid of the following: heights, spiders, public speaking, meeting strangers, bugs, bees, and most animals.
Please share with me what your phobias are. Do you know their origins? Let me know in the comments.