May 3, 1995

Phobias Nothing New For Humans

Travis Griffith Shadle Park
 

Ever since the very first Neanderthal was born into this world, fears have been plaguing him.

Fears like claustrophobia (the fear of confined places, which must have been really hard for somebody living in a cave), acrophobia (the fear of heights; this only occurred when some poor hunter had to get on top of the killed wooly mammoth and when the man of the cave had to to fix the leaky spot on the roof, with his chosen woman yelling, “Ooo! Ugh!” which translates to “I thought we were going to the opera tonight! You are such a gorilla!”), and getting-stepped-on-by-a-really-big-animalphobia, which was the most common.

Although some phobias may seem hilariously funny, they are in fact very serious disorders (linonophobia, the fear of string) that should not be ridiculed. Unless you really, really mean it.

There are many different types of fears in our world today, about 300 listed, in fact, ranging from fear of public speaking to cattle. Yes, cattle, as in cows. What is there about a cow to be afraid of? Getting sprayed with milk if you irritate it? And, as a result, possibly resembling the little Elmer’s Glue man? You can imagine the situation here.

News person: “Another drive-by milking tonight, the third this week. Apparently a group of teenagers wanted revenge on an elderly woman for stealing their Spam recipe. The teens borrowed Betsy the neighborhood cow and milked her out the window of a fast-moving car, splattering the woman’s house and even getting a few drops on her. The lady was devastated. She is lactose intolerant.”

Here are two fears that do not go well together: A patient was described by his psychiatrist as having 20 different fears, two of which were the fear of crowded places and the fear of being alone. Now, what does a person do in this situation? You couldn’t go to busy places such as the mall, football games or women’s restrooms. You couldn’t even stay home to avoid these situations, because you’re afraid to be alone.

Most phobias are learned or are a result of an unpleasant experience. Phobic individuals may spend all their time worrying about their fears and be too frightened to carry out normal everyday activities, such as parrot training. This severely limits a person’s life because anybody who can’t engage in daily parrot training is missing out on a LOT of sore noses and high dry cleaning bills.

While phobias may plague people’s lives for a while, they don’t have to forever. There are ways to get rid of phobias, one of which is facing the feared object for extended periods of time.

To me, this sounds about as effective as trying to teach a gerbil to play polo. Just getting it to jump onto the horse would be hard, especially if this gerbil has equinophobia, the fear of horses.

In order for this gerbil to get over its fear of horses, it might use something called a hierarchy. This is where a person (or in this case, a gerbil) starts out by maybe seeing a picture of the horse (or whatever the feared item may be), then gradually move up until the person (gerbil) can hold the item without fear. For example, our gerbil’s hierarchy might look like this:

1. Seeing a picture of the horse

2. Seeing a statue of a horse

3. Seeing a stuffed horse

4. Seeing a live horse across the street

5. Seeing a live horse on a nearby sidewalk

6. Seeing a horse down the hall

7. Seeing a horse in the same room, at a distance

8. Seeing a horse sitting nearby

9. Seeing a horse move toward it

10. Having a horse jump beside it

11. Having a horse on its lap

12. Touching the horse on its lap

13. Picking up the horse and stroking it

14. Getting on the horse and playing polo

So, as you can see, this gerbil worked its way up until it could comfortably ride a horse with little or no fear (not all gerbils can do this; it takes a very special gerbil to overcome its fear of horses).

In conclusion, I want to stress my initial point that phobias are a very serious disorder that should not be made fun of, except for on very special occasions, which includes all the time. Some people truly do suffer from these absurd fears, and I can’t help but feel sorry for them.

Well, I should go. My brother was sprayed in the face with milk by Betsy, the neighborhood cow.


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