Fears and Phobias

For years now I have avoided flying like the plague. I do it, but only in extremely important situations.

But yesterday I did a one day return to Newark to explore a business situation and other than a little bit of turbulence, the flights were quite uneventful.

Both planes were absolutely full, and I quite suspect that I might have been the only one even feeling the turbulence.

I took a few shots out the window as the sun went down and given that I was over a wing and the window was none too clean or scratch-free, they came out decent enough to share.

They are at the end of the blog. I hope you enjoy!

Earlier in life I had been traveling all over the place by air. There were stretches when I was doing a trip a week and sometimes more than that. I traveled throughout the US, into almost every country in Europe, Scandinavia, and even as far afield as Australia, New Zealand, and Singapore.

Somewhere along the way, there were a few nasty flights and a couple of close calls. One in particular that I can vividly recall as being when the doors of hell opened up and were about to welcome back their prodigal son.

So, I can understand the development of fear that began to rear its head about ten years ago. It was grounded in some real threatening moments.

But somewhere along the way, I allowed the fear to turn into a full-blown phobia to where I have been going to insane lengths to avoid flying.

Convincing yourself that a 16 hour each-way drive to Baltimore to visit for a couple of days with your daughter, is serious delusion. Yet, I managed to talk myself into that one with all sorts of justifications.

So, facing my phobia yesterday was an important action for me and I took it consciously. It needed to be tackled. It had become ridiculous. I have also booked another flight (for fun) and am planning one with Victoria who is now in Chicago for when she next manages to get Erin away from the piece of shit lowlife that kidnapped her baby a few years back.

These sudden decisions are becoming a small source of pride and while I don’t for a minute think that I won’t be fearful on the next encounter with turbulence, I hope I am one flight closer to being free of this phobia.

You see, phobias are enormously disabling and they can have a marked effect on how we travel through the life experience.

In reflection, much of my own development of this phobia has related to handing over control to a third party (the pilot) rather than the simple fear of dying. I have been fearless in situations with alligators more than twice my size, so it isn’t as simple as being afraid of dying. I am not. A number of years ago, I pushed my way into the home of a couple of aggressive young men that had been holding and raping a friend of mine in downtown Tampa and successfully extracted her. So it isn’t even the aspect of being in a dangerous situation.

No, I recognized some time back that, while I don’t particularly want to die right now, I am not afraid of dying.

But I am most definitely a control freak and this is something that can really dominate decisions and actions. I know how I got there.

There are many of us living in fear of certain things. These things might be a creature, an event, or a situation. And some of these fears might even be linked to something we experienced earlier in life. For example, a person badly bitten by a dog when they were young, might be terrified of all dogs now.

And that is understandable.

But all fear is treatable. And that is the important thing for us to realize. No fear is bigger than ourselves. In fact the fear is within us and we give it power. The “thing” that gives us the fear is more often than not, unaware that they cause such fear in us.

For example, many people are so fearful of spiders that they run away or attack the poor creatures. Even though the spider has no idea what it might have done to cause such a response. In most cases spiders (and snakes) are every bit as normal as other creatures that we fawn over. Most of these creatures look at us and have an immediate fear response based on the fact that our species has already killed them by the billions. So, at least their fears are founded in fact.

When I say all fear is treatable, some people rush to psychologists and counselors, looking for answers. Sometimes, we are just told to take medicine … “here have a Xanax before your next flight. That’s help.”

But my belief is that rather than treating the symptom, we owe it to ourselves to examine the cause. We need to examine the source of the fear and try to determine the degree to which it is nonsensical.

Most of them turn out to be without foundation and that is where we shine a light on it, pull it out of the dark reaches of our minds, and then set out to tackle it.

When I had Jax’s spider walking on me a week or so ago, I loved every second of it. Yet there were several people that I shared that with that recoiled in fear at the very thought. And a few weeks ago when I sent a picture of a snake that I had encountered to a friend, he almost died after the image opened on his phone.

Arachnophobes (if that even is a word) would be well served to find a spider and let them walk on their hands. Talk to the little guy and identify that he has much more to lose should the exchange go wrong between you both. And let a snake wrap around your hand. Talk gently to him and show him that he has nothing to fear.

These are the kind of exchanges that will chip away at the wall of fear that we so carefully craft for ourselves.

Bear in mind that once we address something we fear, it will also bring a source of pride in our bravery. There is no such thing as bravery in a world of no fear. Bravery is the act of doing something of which you are afraid to do.

In the absence of bravery, we are very much likely to turn our fear into a phobia and at that point it actually begins to shape our lives.

So, I guess what I am saying is, address your fear and exert a little bravery before your life spirals out of control. Then again, that is exactly the advice that a control freak might give.

… just a thought!