What are you most scared of? And would you call it a phobia?
A phobia, as defined by the Oxford dictionary, is an extreme or irrational fear of, or aversion to, something. I’m scared of lots of things but I wouldn’t say I was necessarily phobic about anything.
I’ve always been petrified of Great White Sharks. I was taken on the JAWS ride at Universal Studios as a small child. You ride around in this train and when you reach a rickety bridge it then “breaks” and you “fall” by the water’s edge. Cue JAWS coming out of the water and terrifying the living daylights out of you. And so my fear of the Great White was born. They have haunted my nightmares for as long as I can remember. Usually I’ll be bobbing in the water, miles away from shore (as if!) looking around panicked, not knowing where it’s coming from. Then I turn and see that fin sinking into the depths heading in my direction.
As far as I know nobody to date has died from a shark attack in their bedroom but I still can’t let my foot hang idly off the edge of the bed. I just can’t do it. It is completely irrational so maybe it is a phobia?
But here’s why I think it isn’t. People I know that say they have phobias cannot bear to look at pictures, or watch programmes, of the object of their fear. Yet I sit glued to documentaries about the Great White Shark. I am fascinated whilst simultaneously scared witless by them. I love Discovery’s Shark Week. If I come across the film Deep Blue Sea I have to watch it – even though I’ve seen it 64 times. I guess it’s the thrill of being frightened whilst knowing you’re completely safe, sitting on your sofa.
And here’s the crux of the matter. I’m not anti-shark. I think they should be protected. I think the practise of “shark finning” (where they cut the fin off the shark whilst it’s still fully conscious to then throw it back in the ocean to die in agony) is barbaric. It is estimated that 100 million sharks die this way every year. And for what? So people can eat shark fin soup (an Asian delicacy).
Yes, I want to protect them but let’s not get carried away. You’ll never catch me in one of those cages wanting to get up close and personal with Bruce.
Also, I’m not stupid. I like the ocean as much as the next person – I’ll happily swim and snorkel all day long – but I’m not dumb enough to do it at the wrong time. When these surfers get attacked you can almost guarantee it was dawn or dusk. They wanted to catch some waves before or after work that day. They may as well have rung the dinner bell. I’m a big believer that education is the key, you learn about whose ocean you’re in (it’s their home, not yours) and you respect that. Sharks don’t like the taste of us very much. Unfortunately you’re missing a leg before it’s figured that out.
But maybe you’re thinking ‘It’s OK for you, you’re not likely to bump into Jaws walking down the high street!’ What if your phobia is birds? They really are everywhere, you can’t escape them. Or thunderstorms? Or heights? Or lifts (elevators)?
Do people laugh at your unusual phobia? Maybe you’re like my sister’s boyfriend who is “phobic” about peas. Yes, peas. The thought of them makes him feel nauseas. They’re banned from all meals. He won’t allow a tin of them in the house.
I did some googling and here are some of the strangest phobias I found.
- Xanthophobia is the fear of anything yellow. Like daffodils!
- Turophobia is the fear of cheese. A life without cheese surely isn’t worth living.
- Coulrophobia is the fear of clowns. Actually, I might have this.
- Omphalophobia is the fear of the naval. Not the navy, your belly button.
- Ombrophobia is a fear of the rain. Move. Seriously, leave Britain.
- Trypophobia is a fear of holes. I’m assuming these people wish to be cremated.
- Nomophobia is a phobia for the 21st century! It’s a fear of being without mobile phone coverage/signal.
But I think we can all agree that the winner, hands down, is Phobaphobia.
Phobaphobia is the fear of… phobias.