#9 Fears

Fear is a very interesting topic. Everyone has them, and it always makes a good conversation. Sure, more often and not you get the common ones, but sometimes you come across an oddity. In my old school for example there was a girl who was afraid of stickers. Indeed, it is such a well researched topic, that on my course we dedicated half a term to it in one module…more on that later.

My personal fears are fairly ordinary. At the top is spiders. I hate them with every fibre of my being. I won’t go near one, even to kill it. Nor can I look at pictures of them. Below spiders then come bees/wasps, and then all other creepy crawly creatures, with the exceptions of butterfly’s and ladybirds. I wonder if this shows a bias in my upbringing, that I’m not afraid of butterfly’s and ladybirds because they are never shown as ‘bad’? (Though in my defense, if a ladybird was anywhere but on my hand I would be afraid. Likewise, if I look too closely at a butterfly and see the hairy body, fear grips me like a vice!)

Aide from buggy things then, I am also afraid of the sea. This is maybe an odd one. I’m not afraid of looking at the sea (I don’t scream and hide my eyes from classic desktop backgrounds of beaches for example), nor am I afraid of playing/swimming in it. So long as I can touch the bottom. As soon as I can’t I panic. It just seems too deep. Too vast. The bottom is literally miles down in some cases, and there are even mountains submerged in some places! The part of finding Nemo where they ‘just keep swimming’ terrifies me for this reason, and I can’t look when the scene of the ship on the edge of the precipice comes on. Equally I don’t think that sea creatures help – sure there are some cute ones, like dolphins and seals, but you also get some terrifying ones, like jellyfish, and those fish with lights on their heads :/

Other than that I don’t think I have many ‘fears’ per se, merely things I really don’t like, such as public speaking, and people touching my neck.

When doing our module on fear though, I learnt that my fears are pretty typical. The fears of spiders and snakes for example are more common for women. This has been discussed in two lights: evolutionary – that women learned to fear these as they could be potentially lethal in their caves, or social: that men are simply called babies if they act afraid, and so suppress their fear. Most fears are actually believed to be somewhat evolutionary, for example people fear things such as spiders and snakes, but few people fear guns, despite the fact that the latter is far more likely to kill you.

Within the module we also discussed two very interesting ideas: inducing fear, and removing fear. J.B Watson did an experiment on inducing fear, popularly called the Little Albert Experiment. He took a little boy (Albert) and showed him a white rat. Little Albert was quite happy with this arrangement, and played with the rat, showing no fear. Watson then started to make a loud banging noise every time the rat came near Albert, and Albert then started to show fear towards the rat even when the banging noise ceased. This is a case of classical conditioning: Little Albert learned to fear the rat. Furthermore he this fear later generalized to other white furry things.

If fear can be learned therefore, it can also be unlearned, and this has been the basis of many theories regarding removing phobias. Now the quickest way to get rid of a phobia would be to remove the amygdala – a part of the brain heavily involved with fear and the fight/flight response. But obviously removing brain parts would have very serious consequences! An easier way of removing phobias is exposure, as is fairly common knowledge.

There are two main ways of doing this. One is systematic desensitisation, in which people make a hierarchy of things they are scared of. So if I wanted to get rid of my fear of spiders, my hierarchy (from low to high) would go something like this: seeing a picture of a spider, seeing a video of a spider, seeing a real spider from a distance, seeing a real spider up close, touching a spider. The therapist then teaches the person deep muscle relaxation: a state not compatible with fear; and takes the person through their hierarchy  which eventually gets rid of fear.  The second, much funnier, but unpopular method is flooding, in which the person is literally put with their fear, so for me; a room of spiders. They learn there is nothing to fear, and so stop being afraid. You can see why its unpopular!

Hope you enjoyed the post, let me know what your own fear are 🙂

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One thought on “#9 Fears

  1. The flooding technique is a bit like chucking someone in the deep end and keeping your fingers crossed that they’ll swim….works for some and not for others. I have but just one huge fear…betrayal 🙂 Nothing on this earth keeps me up more at night than that one thing.

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