Writers in the Storm

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October 10, 2011

What Scares You The Most: A Fear Series Wrap-Up

by Jenny Hansen

For the last few weeks, we've been talking about fear here at Writers In The Storm. It all started with a Thursday night chat at critique group where, "What are you afraid of?" turned into a really big deal.

Below are the posts we've done on the subject and I think we've covered the writers' fears REALLY well...

There was Laura Drake’s post – Fear of NOT Succeeding – that started the "Fear Throwdown." Laura worries constantly about running out of time.

Fae Rowen answered the challenge with a beautiful post called, “Fear of Success” where she shared that she fears not meeting expectations and submitting work that is less than perfect.

D.A. Watt balanced both sides last week with “Are You A Head Case? Fear No More!” Deb worries about dropping the ball in her personal list of responsibilities and spreading herself too thin trying to be "Super Me."

Jenny Hansen (that's me!) spoke on the Fear Factor of Dreams, summing up the other posts and discussing how our dreams can both help and hinder us.

But what about the things that scare everybody (including writers)? Below, are the top phobias in America. . .they might surprise you.

What is a phobia?

A phobia is a completely irrational fear. Sufferers know they are behaving oddly. But that doesn’t lessen the fear – in fact, it can make it worse.

Phobias are a subconscious reaction — logic and rationality don’t help. In short, it is a flaw in their perception of reality.

I looked up the 10 Most Common Phobias in America and was interested to note that the rest of the world fears different things than Americans. Some of the “World's Top 10″ — Fear of snakes, darkness, another person, dogs and the dentist – did not make the U.S. Top 10 Phobia list, which is shown below.

10 most common phobias reported by both men and women.

1. Arachnophobia – the fear of spiders. There is no escape from these eight-legged beasts. They live in our houses, gardens, and even our places of work. True arachnophobes are even scared of pictures of spiders.

2. Social phobia – the fear of social situations. More than simple shyness. This is an extreme fear of being scrutinised by others, or humiliated by one’s own actions. This is usually where the fear of public speaking falls.

3. Aerophobia – the fear of flying. In a plane, obviously. Often paired with claustrophobia.

4. Agoraphobia – the fear of inescapable situations. The result is anxiety and panic attacks, which can easily become self-perpetuating. Extreme agoraphobes are confined to their own home, which is the only place they consider to be safe.

5. Claustrophobia – the fear of confined spaces. Sufferers will stay well away from elevators, trains and tiny cupboards under the stairs. May cause panic attacks if escape is not possible.

6. Acrophobia – the fear of heights. Sufferers may have panic attacks and put themselves in genuine danger if they can’t get down. Often confused with vertigo – which is merely a dizzy or spinning sensation and not necessarily caused by heights.

7. Emetophobia – the fear of vomit. No one likes the sight or smell of vomit, but these sufferers will go to extraordinary lengths to avoid the stuff.

8. Carcinophobia – the fear of cancer. Although it’s not contagious, a carcinophobe will believe he has cancer because he touched someone else with the disease.

9. Brontophobia – the fear of thunderstorms. Also known as astraphobia. Child and adult sufferers alike hide away from thunder and lightning, lest they suffer panic attacks and have difficulty breathing.

10. Necrophobia – the fear of death. Derived from the fear of being buried alive, after early excavations of coffins showed scratch marks made by trapped victims. Also relates to coffins and corpses.

Which one of the above surprised you the most? For me it was #7. Fear of vomit? Huh. I can only speculate on what parents do when they have that one. Excuse me, little three week old Johnny, but you need to clean that hurlage up yourself…

Confession Time: I have a phobia.

I’ve been deathly afraid of heights since college. (Yes, I have an inciting incident for my handy-dandy phobia.) I have a hard time going up and down escalators and stairs and my stomach pitches whenever I stand on a balcony. And ladders? Forget it. I don't even like to watch my hubby climb one.

I’m going to make y’all a deal, right here in the middle of this post here at WITS: If you give me the scoop on your phobias and irrational fears in today’s comments, I’ll tell you the whole story of why I’ve been afraid of heights since about 1989. It'll happen over at my place, More Cowbell, but I will tell all.

So, do you have any phobias (and what are they)? Have you always had it, or was there a starting point that you remember? Did we leave any "writer's fears" out?

About Jenny:
Jenny fills her nights with humor: writing memoir, women’s fiction, chick lit, short stories (and chasing after the newly walking Baby Girl). By day, she provides training and social media marketing for an accounting firm. After 15 years as a corporate software trainer, she’s digging this sit down and write thing. In addition to being a founding member here at WITS, Jenny also hangs out on Twitter at jhansenwrites and at her other blog, More Cowbell.

0 comments on “What Scares You The Most: A Fear Series Wrap-Up”

  1. I'll admit to one, Jenny. I had to don my titanium panties before even LOOKING at the Google Images page of spiders. I have dreams where they chase me, married to have someone to kill them (only partially kidding) and, when that didn't work out, adopted a spider-eating cat. The only thing the varmint is good for.


    Can't wait to hear your fear of heights story!

    1. Ewwww. And you found a REALLY creepy spider picture. It gave me the willies. But, though I hate it, I did not have the same physical reaction I have to heights. When I was single, my dog killed my bugs. Now, thank heavens, my hubby does it.

  2. I'm claustrophobic. I didn't realize how bad it was until I had Grace. I'd been in ACTIVE labor for 19 hours and pushing for about 1. I was exhausted, and they wanted to put an oxygen mask on me. That thing came over my face, and I freaked out. That was the only time I got rude to anyone in the hospital, including the hubby (something that still amazes us both, lol). I couldn't handle it, so he had to hold it and give me a breath after every push. That was barely tolerable.

    I have some fear of death and spiders too, but I wouldn't call them phobias.

    1. Definitely a phobia, Stacy. After 20 HOURS of labor, I wouldn't have had it in me to be worrying about the mask. I did realized when I was pregnant that I have a major fear of blacking out. I nearly fainted every time they laid me on my back (it cuts off blood flow to an artery when your pregs) and the thought of fainting FREAKED me out.

  3. My fear is so deep that I had to scroll away from one of your pictures. It began with a nightmare at the age of five, a dream I can still see as vividly as the first night. It continued to grow and incorporate all things related to it. On one list of phobias it was considered more frightening to most than death itself. Of course, it's irrational, and according to most experts, it is incuraable. Phobias cannot be cured, only "managed." Does it "crawl" into the mind and find other places to weave its deadly web? Can one phobia cause a person to avoid things they might have loved to do, or do they also translate into the underlying reasons we are afraid to succeed? Yep, they can and do. To overcome this, I have attached myself to several great people who keep me moving, in spite of myself.

    So tell me, can you guess which picture flushed up that old fear? Can you tell what it is that still wakes me and pushes me to check under the covers? I won't say it out loud. I won't write it here. I left you two clues. You tell me ... what creeps into the dark corners of your mind late at night when you are the most vulnerable? Or ... how many times have you been in that half-dream state and found yourself on the top of a tall building, looked down and felt yourself begin to fall?

    1. That falling thing happens a lot in my sleep. But I cannot imagine having spider dreams. *shudder* That just sucks! And Laura found a horrid pic of that spider. Hairy+spider = freakshow.

  4. Interesting article. I feel like an oddball, since I don't have any phobias. Not a huge fan of snakes, spiders and vomit, but they don't freak me out. I have done a bit of mountain climbing and caving, so I have a healthy respect of heights, and being wedged in a very small passage on your belly hundreds of feet underground where it is pitch dark will check your courage. I wonder what percentage of the population claims a phobia?

    My youngest (17) loves watching the most brutal horror movies available. However, the smallest spider sends her screaming. Go figure.

    1. That is so funny about the horror movies, Derek. I so can't watch those. They give me bad dreams. I scuba dive and love the heights there because I can't fall. My phobia is specifically related to falling. Go figure...

      1. So funny, Derek - I'm the same as your daughter! See, but we KNOW the movies aren't real. Can't crawl over us when we sleep . . . Okay, thanks. Now I'm going to have bad dreams tonight!

    1. Ooooh, Brinda...I hadn't actually heard of a person who had that one. I wonder if someone had you watch The Omen early in your life? Or did you have a specific bad experience? It's a bummer because there's bird EVERYWHERE. *sad for you...*

      Do cartoon birds bug you or do you like them?

  5. Loved this . . . my fear is dark water. I live on a lake - lived around the beach when younger - but I cannot set foot in it. I swim like a fish in a pool, but if I ever fell in dark water, I'd either die of a heart attack or walk on top of it to reach dry land.

    1. I did better with dark water before watching films like Jaws. That movie changed my happy go lucky ocean swimming to something that has moments of angst. It's not a phobia though, and it's interesting because I don't worry about what "might be down there" when I am down there, but snorkeling makes me feel like shark bait.

      The mind is a trippy, trippy thing!

    2. C. Hope - DO NOT READ THIS!

      I don't have a phobia about it, but dark water scares me too....since my mom told me that when she was skinny dipping in a lake as a teen - she stepped on a drowned body!!!

      OMG OMG OMG... she got over it, but I never got over just HEARING about it!

      1. O.M.G. I had a fear of dark water before reading this and now I have a phobia! Blech! It's going to take panties of steel to get me in lake for the rest of my life.

  6. Sign me up for your phobias, Jenny. Fear of heights BIG time. I have no clue where or when mine started, so there is no "tell all" for my tale. Can't wait to read about yours, tho'.

    Escalators? Without holding on? ACK attack! I went through a period of time when even holding on didn't help. I experienced vertigo, sensed I was falling forward, sweaty palms clutched the handrail, forced myself to breathe in, breathe out. It went away. Can't pinpoint when or why on that either.

    As a writer? My fear is this ms won't be good enough. With two completed (unsold) mss, I don't want to face rejection again. I think that's why inner editor (Gracie) wields such power. That fear is beginning to fade. With craft lessons (Go Margie, Tiffany and D Maass!), I better understand what I'm doing this time 'round. My brief career as a contest slut also helped. On to the GH! Catch you on Cowbell. Posting Row 80 on my blog today.

    1. OK, good. When we finally meet up at a conference, we'll take the elevator together or each clutch a bannister going down the stairs. 🙂

      I'm glad the contest slut period is giving you positive things. Any action you can take that makes Gracie shut her piehole is a good one. CONGRATULATIONS! Every mss teaches us lessons, and gives us stuff to clean up once we learn them.

      I can't wait to see your ROW80 post! Tweet me the link, will ya?

  7. Whoa, so many phobia friends here! I don't feel so alone anymore (a fear, not quite a phobia). Put me in a closed in room or try to put a mask on me and I'll freak out. Definitely claustrophobic.

    Snakes are another issue. My daughter had the sweetest little ball python and while I would allow her near me and looked calm on the outside, inside I was a mass of goo. Blurgh!

    1. Exactly how big is a "ball python," Tameri? I hear python and think "big ass snake as tall as I am."

      I don't mind snakes as long as I don't think to much about them, and they're not able to wrap around me and choke me to death. Otherwise, I'm pretty OK. 🙂

      1. Ball pythons grow to be about six feet or so, but Alexzandra's was just a baby - maybe a foot and half long and about the width of my thumb. At first. By the time Alexzandra moved, the snake was three feet long and 2" in diameter. She was getting too big for my comfort zone! My daughter wanted us to 'watch' her when she moved away and I had to say, heck no!

        Alexzandra would do yoga with the snake wrapped around her neck. She said it was calming for both her and the snake. I say she's a hop, skip, and jump away from looneyville. Calming? More like terrifying.

  8. Snakes, definitely snakes. Won't even look at them in a zoo. I used to dream of them zig zagging through mid air and chasing me through a jungle. How weird is that?! Used to be afraid to get behind a podium too, but I forced myself to do it until now only my knees knock together. I just speak over the racket 🙂

  9. Okay, I had spider dreams last night you guys - TOLD you I would!
    Better than the usual though - a fairly small white one with black markers - AND
    I had Raid!

    Teach that little @^^$ to scare me!

  10. I was shocked that none of my phobias appeared on the list.
    Being of the poltergeist generation, Coulrophobia is very high on my phobia list. I mean, really under those painted smiles, clowns could be plotting anything...
    After that comes Trypanophobia - because needles are only doing one of two things - putting something into your body that probably shouldn't be there, or taking something out of your body that should stay in. Not to mention they're sharp and they hurt like hell.
    Last, and I know this one is silly, but I have suffered from Mottephobia ever since I looked at a moth under a microscope and saw all of its pointy little teeth. I guess that's how they eat holes in all our old clothes and such. Still, I couldn't shake the image. I'm mostly over it now, but I still shriek and jump like a little girl when one crashes into the wall above my head or lands on the book I'm reading.
    Spiders I can handle, but flittery, floppy, dusty moths - no thanks.

    1. I think those clowns are creepy too - a little too smiley and RED for me. (And it's not just because of Stephen King's IT. That was just a contributing factor.)

      I don't get to have any needle phobias because I've had to (often) give myself shots. Sounds like that one would send you over the edge. Am I right?

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