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Sunday, 16 November 2014

Fear - A natural part of life

Halloween is over. You've washed off the fake blood and gore, packed away your cob webs and scoffed the last of your treats. It was fun frolicking about with your wildest fears, but now you just can't seem to shake that awful feeling that somewhere, somehow a duck is watching you. Is this you? Chances are if you suffer from Anatidaephobia, it is.
A Duck is Watching me

'I'm afraid of the dark, 'specially when I'm in a park and there's no one else around. Oh I get the shivers' So says Des'ree. What do you fear? 90s music perhaps?


Does the thought of whipping up something for dinner turn your guts to soup? You could have a touch of Mageirocophobia (fear of cooking)

Think that dewlling in the desert is the sea change for you? You'll never have to deal with Ombrophobia out there (fear of being rained on)


Find your heart racing at the sight of a man's face half obscured by facial hair? Sounds like your Pogonophobia is acting up again (fear of beards)

Well fear not, because you're simply suffering from an extreme bout of irrational  dread -A phobia. But the good news according to science broadcaster and compiler of A Duck is Watching Me: Strange and Unusual Phobias, Bernie Hobbs is that most phobias are easy to treat.

Fear is healthy and absolutely necessary for initiating the flight or fight response, crucial to our survival and precisely controlled by a chain reaction of hormones.Without it I would undoubtedly waste a lot more time sitting around passively watching deadly spiders slink up and down my limbs rather than keeping a respectful hundred foot distance from them.

But while most of us have the ability to process real threats and rationalise our way out of stressful situations, phobia sufferers are typically not able to talk themselves calm.

This collection of phobias conveniently groups like fears into obvious, easy to navigate chapters: animals, people, places and so on so you can look up the name of your inability to keep anything tidy and clean (for instance) in a snap. Many of these phobias have bizarre and curious origins, you'll wonder if they are in fact real. The pronunciation of their names alone is enough to strike fear into my wee weak heart. But real they are and for many of those who suffer from them, instantly recognisable.

Hobbs points out that some phobias originate from a learned response to a stressful experience - a redheaded bully stealing a young child's lunch on a daily basis. Avoiding redheads rather than learning to manage the fear (and bullies), can lead to a phobia (of redheads for example).

Disturbingly, they may also be passed on down the gene line according to recent studies, in mice at least. Thankfully desensitisation and behavioural therapies can successfully help phobia sufferers to live a life without terror.

Every fear is paired with an amusing illustration, photo or painting from the National Library's collection pertinent to its decription, making this book not only an entertaining insightful reference book but also an unusual quirky gift. Definitely on the recommended for Christmas list.
 
You'll find a Duck is Watching Me: Strange and Unusual Phobias in all good bookstores and on line here .

National Library of Australia November 2014

Know a child who suffers from the a crippling fear, say the Dark? Then stick around for my upcoming review of Orion and the Dark. It's an incredible fear remover.