[LMB] OT: Being scared (was Australia)

kerry weisselberg kerilli at gmail.com
Sun Jan 2 11:51:52 GMT 2011

Howard wrote:
> I wonder what makes some people be scared of animals they know are harmless, while other people don't get scared.

I had no inherent fear of spiders - as a small child in England I
would round up the largest ones I could find and put them in my apron
pocket as impromptu 'pets'. My father had no fear of them at all (in
spite of having grown up in the U.S.), and I simply followed his
example. Mother heroically quashed her fear - the oft-repeated phrase
"he's lovely, darling, but I think he'd be happier out in the garden"
stuck in my mind. I collected bumble bees too (they  got the same
treatment, Mother remembers slightly annoyed buzzing giving them away)
and was never stung.
Fast forward around 5 years, my father died, and my truly
arachnophobic aunt lived with us for a good while. Arachnophobic
enough that on one occasion, when a tiny 'money spider' (harmless, 2mm
across) was near the door of a room she was in, she stayed in that
room for a few hours until help arrived. My fear of insects & spiders
rose exponentially.
When she moved out again, it took me literally decades to get over my
fears to the extent that I have. I have to use a glass and piece of
cardboard to pick up the really big ones I find now, but can manage
all the others with bare hands. My partner Alan, who grew up in South
Africa, can't handle a spider, the ingrained fear runs too deep.

I found out recently that there is no word for shark-phobia, because
it isn't a phobia, it's a rational fear. However, Alan, having
free-dived with sharks (including tiger sharks and bull sharks) and
observed them for decades, doesn't fear them at all. I thought I was
terrified of them (watched Jaws too young, I think) but when
snorkelling on holiday I saw a large shark (in waters I'd been assured
contained no big sharks, no man-eaters) and, without thinking, finned
off after it, fascinated, although simultaneously my subconscious was
screaming `what are you doing?!'

Interesting thing, the human brain.*


*understatement of the century, I realise.

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