Thursday, March 28, 2013

Phobias, Fears, and Drowning in Tears

Phobias... everybody claims to have at least one.  Mine, for example, is the fear of spiders.  Constantly, they stalk me with their tiny eight legs, pairs of puncturing fangs, and beady little eyes.

Just last summer, I was confronted by on of my little arch nemesis' as he emerged from under the stove.  Me with bare feet, him staring at me while standing on his four back legs, the others taunting me as he held them above his head.  Squishing him with my bare feet was not an option, so I left him be.  Satisfied with my defeat, he scurried back under the stove to share his triumph with his little spider friends.  What he did not know is that I would be back with a poisonous spray to end his reign as champion.

Although arachnophobia is one of the most common phobias, there are countless others out there.  And, although many are just as scary as spiders, to the person suffering they could seem even more deadly.  Some phobias may seem just plain silly, such as turophobia (the fear of cheese), but they are still serious to those suffering.

I have always found it odd that we sometimes classify our insecurities as phobias and hide behind them as though we are not hateful.  For example, let's look at Homophobia.  Now, I am sure that there are some legitimate people out there that fear homosexuals.  I mean, there are people that fear cheese, so I can believe this.  However, too many people that show hate towards the LGBT community classify themselves as homophobic, when in reality they are not... they are just hateful, or have an extreme misunderstanding towards the culture.  These people are not to be confused with those that just do not agree with or accept the lifestyle.  That is their opinion, and they are entitled to it.

So, if there is a blurred line between an actual phobia and not liking something, how are we to know the difference.  The simple test would be to confront the subject with that which they claim to fear.  If they run away in tears, it is obviously a phobia.  However, it is not always appropriate to do so.  For example, I would never place a young girl in a room full of happy clowns to test her fear of them.  I think I would just take her word for it.

Do we really need to know the difference between phobia and a strong dislike/hate?  Honestly, I don't think so.  Too often, we are quick to label someone/thing because we do not understand them/it.  Instead of calling me an arachnophobic, let's just say I hate spiders.  I do not fear them enough to run from a picture, video, or toy.  I am not afraid to stomp on a real one, assuming I am wearing proper footwear.  I just hate them and they hate me.  So, until I am officially and medically diagnosed with arachnophobia, I cannot say that I have it.  The only time I think it would be appropriate to distinguish a phobia from a strong dislike/hate, is when it is taken to the extreme by the sufferer.  If the fear is too extreme, they may need appropriate medication to live healthy life.

Many times, those that claim to have phobias seem to find a strange source of enjoyment in confronting their fears in the form of books, movies, and videos.  For example, I know people that claim to have a phobia of clowns, but enjoy movies such as Killer Clowns From Outer Space.  Or those afraid of spiders watching the video above.  I think  this is why I love the horror genre.  Anything can be made into something scary, you just have to play on people's fears, and those people that fear it will come out in droves to watch.  Why?  Because they know that they are safe within their homes/theaters.

Some phobias bring their sufferers to tears, and force them to stay within the confines of their homes.  Phobias such as menophobia, maniaphobia, levophobia, kolpophobia, and medectophobia seem to be silly reasons to stay at home, hiding from the world.  These are phobias that are hard to justify as just being something the sufferers hate, but can really cause someone to experience high anxiety and nervous breakdowns.

Phobias are real, but hate is just as real.  Although a world filled with hate is poisonous, I wish people would stop hiding behind phobias and admit their hate.  The dialogue that would open is just what we need to reach a common ground, and begin the process of healing our world from the mental harm our hate has branded us with.

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