Wikipedia depicts the word phobia as a type of anxiety disorder, usually defined as a persistent fear of an object or situation in which the sufferer commits to great lengths in avoiding, typically disproportional to the actual danger posed. Most phobias have names that are very misleading due to the fact that most of them are derived from their Greek counterparts, taking the common ones as examples: claustrophobia (fear of confined spaces not fear of Santa Claus) and acrophobia (fear of heights not fear of acronyms). But even the names of the less common ones like phonophobia, xylophobia and hippophobia tend to be misleading (especially that last one on the list, if you don’t believe me look it up!)
Everyone has their own phobia, their own irrational fear. For me it’s herpetophobia – fear of reptiles and/or amphibians. In Indonesia, house lizards (or cicak as I like to call them) are very common. They mostly come out at night and are 100% harmless to humans, their diet consists of mosquitos, ants, spiders and other small insects. Crawling around the ceilings and walls are the norm for these lizards back home. But for some reason I cannot stand the sight of them, even just thinking about those pesky little reptiles now gives me goose bumps and causes me to shudder. My parents and brothers constantly tease me about it. “It’s just a cicak” my younger brother would say, “it won’t harm you” my dad would say, “it’s more scared of you than you are of it” my mum would say. I honestly don’t think that last comment is ever possible. I don’t know where this fear came from because I’ve never had any particularly disastrous or traumatic incident involving any reptiles. All I know is that as far back as I can remember I’ve always hated them. I refuse to sleep or take a shower when there’s a lizard in the room.
I know some of you will be thinking the same things that my parents and brothers have been saying to me for years. “Why is this girl scared of a little house lizard?” But that’s the thing about phobias. They’re irrational. Most of the time you don’t know why you’re scared, you just are. Try coming up with reasons for your own phobias if you have any, I know most of you will struggle with it. It’s easy to put down or laugh at other people’s phobias (I know I had a few giggles when I was reading Wikipedia’s list of phobias, some of them are just plain ridiculous to me). But truth is we shouldn’t because what seems silly and harmless to us can scare the hell out of others just like my case with the lizards.
With phobias, you’ve probably never even heard of half of them unless you study in that particular field. Just this morning, I was chatting to my brother on Facebook when he mentioned xenophobia. I had never heard of this particular phobia before. It turned out to be fear of foreigners. He was telling me about how Singapore is turning into a xenophobe as 40% of its population is foreigners and that number increases every year. You learn something new every day.
So think before you jump to conclusion and laugh at someone’s phobia, especially when you don’t know what that particular phobia refers to. As I mentioned before some of those names can be very misleading. Think to yourself first, ‘what if someone laughs at my phobia(s)?’ I know I feel embarrassed and self-conscious whenever somebody ridicules my irrational fear of those sneaky lizards.
I just want to leave you with a little something that I can’t get my head around. Phobophobia – fear of fear itself. Confused? I am.