Words from a Reader

The “Writing Life Stories” e-mails I receive are such treasures. As soon as I see there is one in my inbox, I read it immediately. I look forward to them and never know how they will touch me. They can be interesting, informative, humorous, and/or touching.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Fears and Phobias

Tonight I watched a man overcome his fear of heights by being hoisted high in the air, and a woman put her hand in a bucket of worms although that was one of her biggest fears. The treatment for those phobias, a fear that is irrational and obsessive, is exposure therapy. It works.
At one time mountain roads terrified me. I clung to the car door or the hand grip in the car when we drove over Blood mountain. I wouldn't look over a precipice. But once I rode my own motorcycle down a steep mountain road, I no longer feared riding that curvy road in a car.
Wow, did that feel good. When we overcome that which held our emotions and our well-being captive, we feel as free as an eagle soaring over an Alaskan bay. We feel shame because of our fears and we don't talk about them, but talking about them and facing them head on is the only way to overcome. Writing about them is sometimes the first step.

  I recently realized that I lived in the fight or flight mode even as a  child.
What was I afraid of as a child? Snakes, the dark, bad people who might come in the night and harm my family, bad weather, and the death of my mother.
I didn't understand that those irrational fears were not normal. I don't know why I had such a fear of my mother's death. I didn't fear for my father.
Of course, I didn't think fear of snakes was uncommon. Mother deliberately frightened us.We lived in the country in south Georgia. Snakes lived in the barn, in the oak tree in our yard, under the smoke house, in the blackberry brambles, and she was scared we would be bitten.
Mother's words to my sister and me, were, "Run like crazy if you see a snake no matter what color or what size."
We saw a snake crawling on the oak tree, and we ran screaming to Mother. She came out and with a hoe chopped the snake to little pieces. We were told to stay clear of the reptile even after she cut off his head.
"Snakes don't completely die until the sun goes down, " She told us.
I admit the more I learned about snakes, the more mesmerized I became. In Sunday School I learned about the evil snake, the devil,  in the bible. My skin crawled when I thought of a snake. It didn't help when my brother played on my fear and tossed a non-poisonous snake at me. He never thought it would wrap around my neck and knock me to the ground. Terrified and breathless, I ran for my mother. My brother still regrets that act and says he never meant for the snake to touch me.

All of my nights were scary. While my little sister slept beside me and my parents snoozed in the next room, I curled into a ball, tense with fear, unable to sleep. When the wind whipped the limbs of the big oak tree outside our window, I was sure a hurricane was coming and the tree was going to fall on our house and kill us.

A jacket hanging on the closet door turned into someone evil waiting for me to close my eyes. The sound of a distant train became the footsteps of an intruder approaching my room. Many nights I didn't fall asleep until the wee hours of the morning, when exhaustion overcame my fears.

I became obsessed about my mother's life when I started school. Something told me I needed to be with her and  everything would be all right. This apprehension continued into my college years.  I am now free of that fear. When she passed away, I was forty years old and I had to face my worst fear. I didn't think I would survive, but I did. 
At this time in my life, I've been exposed to everything I feared, including my fear of flying, and I have survived. Even death has no sting.

Did you have childhood fears? How did you overcome your fears?

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Abbie Taylor said...

I know this sounds crazy, but when I was a kid, I developed a fear of policemen. This stemmed from an incident that happened when I was twelve, and my younger brother Andy was five. One day, Andy was playing with matches near an abandoned shack when it caught fire. The police picked him up on suspicion of arson, and my parents had to go to the station, leaving me home alone with my imagination. I pictured him being handcuffed, tossed into the back of a police car, and thrown into a jail cell. Would they come for me?

I don't know if Andy was actually handcuffed, but he did end up in a jail cell, but that was because Dad asked them to lock him in a cell so he could see what it was like. Andy told me later that there was a rotten peanut butter sandwich in the cell, and I've never liked peanut butter.

I eventually got over my fear of cops, and this became the basis for my novel.

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome

Glenda Beall said...

Abbie I had a fear of one cop. My uncle. He was tall and had a deep and kind of gruff voice. When I was a small child I was scared of him.
I think my brothers, teasing me as usual, used to tell me he was a policeman and he would put me in jail.
Some people are terrified of clowns. I love clowns, but I suppose if you are frightened by a clown as a child, you just don't get over it unless you have therapy.

Abbie Taylor said...

I've never been afraid of clowns, but that may have been because I didn't see them very well. I've heard of children being frightened by them, and that's understandable, especially if they're loud and obnoxious. That's an interesting comparison.

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome

tipper said...

Glenda-great post! You know I'm one of those people who are afraid of clowns! I don't remember being scared by one when I was little-I'm not sure why I don't like them. I think it must be that I feel like they are hiding something-because their face is painted.

I was afraid of storms-and bad people when I was young. I overcome my fear of storms after I had the girls. And as far as bad people-I just try to be smart and aware!