Phobophobia

30Oct12

I had planned to write about fear all along with Halloween coming tomorrow. It seemed like a good topic that could bring some interesting conversation. With all that has happened in the last few days with Hurricane Sandy and the destruction left in its wake, it seems like an even more appropriate topic.

We all have fear. Some may want to deny it exists within us, but it does, in one form or another. For some people it can become all-consuming, and for some it may even seem to be a bit irrational to people on the outside, but whatever form it may take, it is very real to each one of us. And for everyone it seems a little different. One person maybe afraid of snakes or rats while another person embraces them and has no problem with them. All of it can seem very real to the person involved, and it could be from some kind of trauma or experience that may have occurred early in life. Whatever the reason may be, it’s there and it feels real to each of us.

I have a love for horror movies. Not so much the blood and gore movies that are out there, although they have their place as well. I really like the stories that are going to scare you and that play on your fears. The really scary movies, in my opinion, are the ones that surprise you, but also use the ideas and real fears people have to make things scary. Is it scary when a psycho killer is out there chasing you through the woods or an alien is tracking you somewhere? Sure I guess it is, but it’s more scary when things seem like it is something that could really happen to an everyday person. Now of course we go into these movies knowing they are just movies, but if they are really good, they can plant a little seed in your head and make you wonder “could this really happen? This seems real, what if…” Those are the ones I really like.

Do I have fears? You bet I do. I had some before I got sick and I seem to have even more than I did before. I’ll let you in on one of my fears today and then talk about another one tomorrow. One of the fears I have always had, and it may seem irrational because it is not likely to ever happen (I hope) is about being buried alive. The notion of that paralyzes me. Being trapped in a small space with no way out, knowing that you are going to die and there’s nothing that you can do about it to me is very scary. Now, I’ve never been in a situation that this has happened, and God willing I never will be, but for some reason I have that in my head and it really scares me.

I think there are other fears that will all deal with every day. Maybe we just get startled by something like a spider or a snake. Maybe when we are walking out to the garbage can at ten o’clock at night and hear a noise we jump a little and wonder what it is. Every night when I take the dog outside, I look at this one spot out in the woods, half expecting someone or something to come jumping out of there. Whatever it may be (or not actually be, whatever the case), it is very real to the person who feels it. For some it can carry to the point of anxiety and panic attacks so bad that you can’t even go outside.

So if fear can be so upsetting, why do we love it so much? Why do we like to go to these movies and get scared out of our wits and then think about it all night long, to the point where you need to leave a light on? I think part of it is likely learned from society long ago. Our culture has been rooted in fear for thousands of years, whether it is fear of a higher power, fear of the dark and so on. Children have been told stories for centuries that center around fear and terror, including most of the fairy tales that we tell our kids. And we love it from the time we are kids. We like the stories of the wolf threatening three little pigs or Red Riding Hood, or the wicked witch who wants to eat Hansel and Gretel.

Part of it may be that these stories and movies do not actually scare us. Deep inside we know they aren’t real, but we get a rush and a thrill from them. They excite us and make us wonder what is going to happen and we love that. Another part of it is that since we know it isn’t real, we also know it is all going to turn out alright in the end. Even if it doesn’t, it was just a book, movie or story. This gives us that adrenaline rush we love while all the while knowing we can return to the safety of our lives. However, I think it also lets us connect, in a way, to those people of long ago who had to live with the actual fears of living in the dark, amid unknown noises and fears.

Whatever the feeling may be that we love or hate (and I know many people who hate horror movies too), fear is real, and, in a way, I guess it is a good thing. We still teach our children to be afraid of certain things, like fire, strangers, sharp objects, etc. Yet, there are still things we find outside of that we are afraid of as we grow up. We live with it, we tried to hide it, maybe we are the only people who are aware of it, but somewhere, in the dark recesses, it’s there and every once in a while it  comes out.

So, what’s your fear? what are you afraid of? Don’t worry, there’s no such thing as an irrational fear – spiders, snakes, clowns, the dark, blood, bugs, Barry Manilow – whatever it may be, if it’s real to you, it counts. Let me know – if you can face it.

Tomorrow we talk about nightmares. Sleep tight.

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