Hi. I’m Terri Herman-Ponce and I have phobias.
I think a lot of people have phobias, in fact, of all different kinds and levels. Some folks have extreme phobias, which I’m not going to address here, but I really do believe that many folks have some kind of fear (or fears) that they deal with.
As for me? I’m afraid of wasps. They freak me out so much that I’ll squeal like a little girl and clench my eyes shut (along with my jaw) if one gets near me. I’m not sure when or why I developed the phobia, because I’ve only been stung once or twice in my life and nothing bad ever happened. But I can tell you this. I hate the way they look, I hate the buzzing sound they make, and I particularly hate them in September when they become what I call “angry bees”. But here’s the interesting thing. I adore bumble bees. I think they’re cute and I just love to watch them settle into a flower and get their fill of nectar. Oh, I know they sting, too, but they’re different. At least to me.
I’m also afraid of escalators. Not the short ones that you use in department stores but the long, big ones that are found in subway stations. They scare the crap out of me. In fact, I hatehatehate them so much, I’ll take an elevator just to avoid them. Yeah. That says a lot, considering how much I prefer to take the stairs and get as many steps into my day as I can. But the gods forbid if I ever have to take one. I’m usually good for about the first ten or fifteen feet. After that? I’m clenching the rail with a death grip and staring at the ass in front of me. Doesn’t matter if it’s a guy or a girl, I’ll focus on it and repeat a mantra in my head — “I’m almost there. I’m going to be fine. I’m almost there.”
Don’t laugh. I really do that.
Yeah. I know. For those who don’t suffer these phobias or no phobias at all, it’s probably hard to understand what the heck makes a person break out into a cold sweat and freak out over something so seemingly small. Let me tell you, though, that phobias to the person experiencing them don’t feel small at all.
Which got me to thinking. Are phobias really that bad? Again, I’m talking phobias that can freak out a person a bit and not the ones that can bring someone’s life to a halt and that may require the help of a professional to overcome. Anyhoo, think about it. What is it about phobias that causes us to react or act? I think in some sense that facing your fears can definitely make you stronger. In fact, when I think back to the times when I actually rode a reallllllly loooooooonnnnnng escalator, I actually felt proud of myself after I’d accomplished what I thought was an impossibility. I felt empowered.
And as I think back on those scary moments now, I can see how so much of my fear was conjured up in my mind. Like I’d created an imaginary line that I was afraid to cross, without ever considering what could happen if I actually crossed it. Turned out nothing bad happened at all. Oh, I may have stared at the butt in front of me much longer than was necessary, but I had a focus. I had a drive. And I had a will to overcome something that scared the bejeezus out of me. And I did it!
So what does this mean? I think it means that even though a person can feel fear or experience a phobia, managing a particular phobia can bring strength. I’ve found that talking out my phobias, and poking fun at them, actually helps lighten the emotional and psychological load that comes with them. And, of course, taking baby steps in extending that imaginary, frightening line also helps. In the case of wasps, I no longer run away. I sit there waiting for the event to pass, and even though my eyes are clenched shut and I’m freaking out on the inside, I no longer run away.
Small steps equate to big strides when it comes to phobias, and I think it’s those subtle shifts in behavior and attitude that turn them from something “bad” into something constructive. So what about you? Do you have any phobias you’re trying to overcome? Or did you have any that you’ve now dismissed completely from your life?
Oh. PS and just for the record — whenever I discover a wasp in my laundry room, I still go to Left Brain to get rid of it. No, I don’t consider that running away. It’s just one of those things that will forever be his job and not mine. 🙂
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