Hello, lovely reader! How are you today?
Fear is something that unites us rather than divides us. The most common phobias in the world include all of the usual suspects – claustrophobia, acrophobia and arachnophobia – and the bizarrely comforting thing about them is that people who suffer from them don’t have to feel alone with their fear.
Weirdly, a phobia is often defined as an irrational or disproportionate fear of something. How does that work? Being afraid of heights is perfectly logical, because you might fall and hurt yourself, so why do we call that a phobia? Likewise, nyctophobia (fear of the dark) makes sense because humans are hard-wired to mistrust the unknown. Ophidiophobia (fear of snakes) is also very reasonable, because snakes are creepy and poisonous and biblically untrustworthy. In case you haven’t guessed, I really hate snakes.
The strange thing about phobias and fears is that they make us feel vulnerable, whereas they’re actually very useful for helping us to work out essential parts of who we are. When we come across a fear in ourselves that seems strange to others (or vice versa), there is an immediate clash of confusion and incredulity: “How can you be afraid of snakes? They’re so cute!”
Leaving aside for the moment how ridiculous it is to call a snake “cute”, I think it’s worth mentioning that everyone’s fears come from somewhere. It might be an experience during the formative years of childhood, a reinforced impression that has formed over time or an isolated incident in adulthood, but everything that you’re afraid of makes perfect sense in the context of your life history. I don’t know where my snake issues some from – maybe watching Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom at a very young age – but they definitely have a valid origin somewhere in my psyche.
In modern life, we have many fears in common with other people: the fear of making a social gaffe, a fear of tripping over in public, or even a cold, clammy dread of falling victim to the whims of rail replacement bus services. Having these worries in common makes for empathetic conversation and stronger connections between us, which is lovely.
Having said that, we deserve just as much understanding and compassion when we express fear of something that another person is not scared of. Everyone’s fears are valid, even if we have no idea where they come from. If we make each other feel weird about our fears and phobias, we are preventing ourselves from getting over them by making us deal with them alone. Isolation is the enemy of progress, happiness and successful ball games, so let’s not do that.
Have a stupendously enjoyable Tuesday.