So, today’s the day that irrational fears are supposed to come out and play…and funnily enough, a black cat did cross my path this morning. But don’t worry, this is not my confession that I dread Friday the 13th. The things that people are genuinely afraid of, despite all logical evidence, do fascinate me though.
What got me thinking about this was not actually Friday the 13th (that was just a convenient little intro), but the fact that I ran head on into one of my biggest phobias this week. The dentist. Also known as Evil Wielder of Torturous Instruments. Now, I could argue that my all-consuming fear of the dentist is not entirely irrational – she has the capacity to inflict pain, which is a very real thing and therefore worthy of fear. But I had to question this logic as I lay in her chair this week, doing the big girl cry. The dentist asked me a very simple question, as she looked at my tears in bewilderment – “Are you feeling pain?” to which I had to honestly reply no. And of course she followed up with the entirely rational “Well then why are you crying??” Um. I can’t answer that, other than to confess abject terror. It didn’t help that she had uttered the two phrases I never wanted to hear…“root canal” and “wisdom teeth extraction”….there’s only so much a ‘fraidy cat can take in one sitting after all! And so she went about her business and I carried on crying, even though she really wasn’t hurting me at all. Quite embarrassing at 31. It doesn’t seem to matter how many Calmettes or how many fistfuls of ibuprofen I swallow before I pay the dentist a visit, pain or no pain, I am guaranteed to cry…which is probably why my previous dentist never told me I needed my wisdom teeth out…he couldn’t bear the drama!
There is only one other thing that I am genuinely afraid of, and it’s probably more irrational than the dentist thing. Boats. Yup, I am petrified of the things. Obviously not in an “Oh my god, look, there’s a boat, run for your lives” kind of way (because that would REALLY be irrational) but in a you won’t catch me voluntarily going sailing anytime soon kind of way. People always assume when I say I’m afraid of boats what I really mean is I get sea sick. Nope, this is not the problem. If it was, I would just throw back some drugs (to keep the Calmettes and ibuprofen company) and hit the booze cruise with glee. Others think it’s because I’m afraid of drowning. Again, no. I’m a pretty strong swimmer and when faced with the choice of being in the water or on a boat, I’d choose water every time. I’ll take my chances with what lies beneath thanks very much. I really can’t explain what it is about boats that does me in – something about that motion just freaks me out completely. I have almost come to terms with the more sedate kind of boat, mainly because friends keep insisting on having booze cruises, but still, if given the choice I would do my drinking on solid ground. But one of my most embarrassing experiences happened on a work outing when my boss did not buy the boat phobia story and insisted on taking me on a surf launch. There’s nothing quite like having the skipper of the rubber duck have to turn back to shore because you are having a full blown panic attack and your boss is afraid you are going to fling yourself into the sea. Did I mention that there were 80 year old volunteers on the boat who could not swim…and they were not in the least afraid? Cringe.
By their very definition, phobias are irrational. But you still have to wonder what triggered the fear in the first place. How do we learn to associate something as random as boats with panic and tears? And the real difficulty is that when a fear is based on irrational reasoning, it becomes more difficult to get rid of than a fear with a logical basis. So I guess Dr Jackison will have to put up with me doing the big girl cry at every visit….and if anyone ever wants to make my head explode they can just put me in the dentist’s chair on a boat!