Thursday, April 25, 2013

What's to fear? Oh... I see...

A few weeks ago, my physiological psychology (neurology) professor was bestowing upon us all kinds of knowledge-y bits concerning the emotion we call fear. Have you ever thought about what it'd be like to describe fear to someone who'd never felt it before?

"You see something that might hurt you, and your blood starts pumping pretty hard. You have an urge to run."
"Ah... I remember you saying that you're afraid of cows. Do you think they'll hurt you?"
"Well... no. But it's just... they're... cows. You know?"

Behold, the face of terror made manifest.

Fear of fire might be easier to explain, or even fear of dogs. But cows? Come to think of it, there are lots of "common" phobias out there that may not be completely rational. Let's take a closer look:

(DISCLAIMER! If I poke fun at one of your greatest fears, don't get all huffy. You'll have your revenge at the end of the post.)


This is a fairly common one, and rightfully so! A fall of a few feet can off a person; even a few inches can lay on the hurt, if physics happens to be in that kind of mood at the time. That being so, the basic idea of acrophobia (fear of heights) makes sense. But why, then, do I get nervous when I'm on a balcony 20 feet up, but not when I'm on a roller coaster?
Screaming around a massive track at 2 to 3 G's, being tossed around like a Nerf football at a family reunion? Feeling great. Near the top of a 16-foot ladder? Activate panic mode, and pray for gravity to be merciful.

Heh heh... "Mercy" ...


Too many bugs are venomous, whose bites can kill, maim, or make your shin look like Mount Kilimanjaro. Given that, one's instinctual fear of them makes sense. But moths?! 

I know of folks who are deathly afraid of moth, butterflies, potato bugs, you name it. I'm not the biggest fan of creepy crawlies myself. (Living in the South for two years intensified that hatred fifty fold. I'm looking at you, cockroaches.) Still, butterflies? What are they going to do, flutter? Mosey? Peacefully glide into your nose and suck out your brain? You've been watching Jumanji, haven't you?


Why clowns?

That's why. 'Nuff said. Moving on.


There's some real social psychology at the heart of this one: We have our pride to defend, and that's pretty tough when you're stumbling like a newborn giraffe over the word "implications." That, and there's no real escape when you're speaking to the masses; you can't just bound over the podium and make a break for it. Well... you could, but they probably wouldn't invite you to speak in church again for a while. Don't get any ideas.

"The pews are hurdles! The pews are hurdles!"

Jerry Seinfeld once joked about the fact that public speaking is the #1 fear in America. It's ranked higher than death. That means, according to Mr. Seinfeld, most people would rather be chilling in the casket rather than giving the eulogy. Huh.

Remember how I mentioned y'all would be getting your revenge at the end of the post? It comes in the form of a confession. One of my greatest fears?


'Tis true, I'm afraid. A phobia that's most often associated with children's books and comforting monologues from Mr. Rogers haunts me to this day. You're probably laughing. I'm okay with that. Really though, it's cool; I acknowledge that it's an fairly irrational fear. True, if you're struck by a bolt of lightning you can be cooked from the inside out, but there's really nothing to fear. Even a near miss can cause hearing loss, but hey, no sweat. It's just nature's pure, unadulterated fury being manifest in a flash of white-hot electrical ire.

When Mother Nature finds the toilet seat up.

My grandma has never been a fan of lightning, and the same goes for my mom. Did I inherit this terror from them, genetically or via observation? I like to think so. Makes me feel better about the whole thing.

Serving a mission in South Carolina didn't help this one much, either. During the summer months, they have a thunderstorm roll in at 5:00 pm (you can set your watch by it) that sticks around for about twenty minutes, then goes on its merry way. You'd think that repeated exposure would snap me out of it. Nope. Nope nope nope. If the sky is a-rumblin', I'm inside, reminding myself that being nearly as tall as a lightning rod doesn't mean I'm in any increased danger.

So, what are YOU afraid of? Leave a comment below, and spill the beans.
Unless you're afraid of legumes. We understand.


  1. Electrical ire? A butterfly sucking out your brains? Brilliant. I loved it.

    I'm intrigued by the physiological aspects of fear that you mentioned learning. And by trying to describe fear. Well done, sir!

    I love swimming, but diving totally freaks me out. Bad. Oh. And signs. But to be fair, they ARE quite dangerous.

  2. My biggest fear is someone breaking into my house when I'm all alone. I'm a woman. It's legitimate.

  3. Spiders. I'm absolutely terrified of spiders. One day, I swear, they're going to eat me till I'm dead and then consume my rotting carcass. Ugh.
    I'm also afraid of dolls. I've never seen Chucky but the idea is the same. Those things are just creepy. No porcelain dolls for me. Ever.

  4. You make me go from "passive computer face" to "laughing out loud"! Also, I know people who are afraid of lightning because--get this--THREE people have been hit by lightning in their family resulting in one death. So, yeah, it's legit.

    I'm afraid of spiders, B-U-T I was bitten as a child and got a big ol' purple bite-mark on my arm. ALSO, I am deathly afraid of chihuahuas! I love animals, but again...I got bit. I swear I handle animals with SO SO SO much love and care, they just think I'm tasty!