No passion so effectually robs the mind of all its powers of acting and reasoning as fear. -Edmund Burke
“What are you afraid of?”
“What’s your biggest fear?”
Simple questions, but the answers can be complex and revealing. Admitting fear makes us feel vulnerable; fear may be perceived as weakness. Fear is not contained only in the mind but can trigger tell-tale physiological symptoms… sweaty palms, a racing pulse and rapid breathing. In extreme cases it can cause dizziness, nausea or even fainting!
Fear vs. Phobia
Fear can be healthy and even useful to our self-preservation; it’s a primal instinct. But when a fear is irrational or takes over our lives then it can be devastating. Phobias are powerful fears of specific objects or situations, they vary in intensity but on the extreme end of the spectrum they can dictate the choices and quality of life of the affected person.
The word “phobia” comes from the Greek “fear” or “morbid fear”. Phobias can be treated through psychological therapy, controlled exposure to the trigger/source of the fear or sometimes through hypnosis with varying degrees of success. Here are some common phobias; do any of these ring a bell for you?
- Acrophobia: the fear of heights. Just don’t look down!!
- Trypanophobia: The fear of injections. My father has this one, he would much rather get the flu than get a flu shot!
- Ophidiophobia: The fear of snakes. This phobia is really common; there are also many cultural and religious taboos that may contribute to this fear.
- Mysophobia: The fear of germs. This is a great example of a fear that can be useful if kept under control. If the fear of germs motivates you to live a cleaner, healthier life then it’s positive. If, however, it makes you shy away from contact with other humans or you are washing your hands 50 times a day, that’s a problem.
- Arachnophobia: The fear of spiders. This is my personal phobia. Even the tiniest of spiders will put me into a panic; running, shrieking and climbing on furniture. My highly logical brain tells me that this reaction is disproportionate to the threat posed: I am a hundred times larger than this creature and could destroy it at will. But when the panic strikes, reason abandons me and you will find me standing on a chair with a broom in hand; wide-eyed and terrified!
- Phobophobia: The fear of phobias. During the great depression, Franklin D. Roosevelt mentioned in his inaugural speech as the U.S. President: “We have Nothing to Fear, but Fear Itself”.
These are just a few of the most common phobias; it is possible to have a phobia of nearly anything. Whatever you may be afraid of, this much is true: fear is limiting. Master your fear to live a fuller, freer life!