Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Fearing Fear Itself

Some people say you should do something that frightens you every day.

Since I just went on a long car trip involving my husband driving out of Houston on its freeways (12 lanes of cars weaving in and out at 70 mph) and then my daughter, a newly minted driver, taking over, I’d say I racked up enough fear time for a month.

Fear is a terrible feeling. I say this as a phobic person, well acquainted with feeling terrified. (If you couldn’t tell, I have a phobia about driving.)

I think of fear as physical symptoms (palms springing sweat, muscles so tense they begin to ache) tailor-made by million years of evolution to drive you to the most desperate actions. Consider: people suffering from panic attacks – feeling all the symptoms of fear – are convinced they are dying.

Some people love going to horror movies and on roller coasters. Is it because it feels so good once the movie or the ride is over? That’s the only thing I can figure.

One of the most insidious things about alcoholism or other types of substance abuse is the afflicted person is driven to do the very thing that hurts them. In a way, phobias are the same: if you are terrified of something, you will do pretty much anything to avoid it. 

And that is my conundrum. If I call a therapist to work on my fear of highways, that therapist will have me drive on a highway. That's the standard treatment for a phobia: making you repeatedly face your fear.

And I really, really don’t want to do that.

So, I don’t call.

But fear grows and spreads.  (I didn’t used to become nervous when other people drove.)

So, I’ve got to call.



  1. Hi Cheryl,
    I'm with you on the fear thing. I recently was told not to work with people who give me a stomach ache- and as much as I like the path of least resistance- doing the things I am most afraid of is sometimes very liberating. (well, after it's over!!). Anyways, if I was there we could try to encourage one another over all those anxieties that can limit life itself-
    but I digress. I love your insights and keep up the good work- I'm a fan!

    1. Thanks, Dorothy! I like reading your insights -- and seeing your photographs!