There’s so much to be legitimately afraid of right now and each of us are most likely afraid of slightly different things, whether it be civil rights, the safety of our bodies, our lives, the lives and rights of those we love, or we may be afraid of the unknown, and of the future. There are also other kinds of fears, ones we can’t explain and live with every day. There is mounting evidence that fear and trauma are inherited, passed down through generations. We asked Entropy contributors to talk about their irrational fears, fears that have no clear basis in reality.
I have a phobia of the feeling of cotton being rubbed together. Like if you were to take a cotton ball between your fingers and smoosh it, or maybe if someone bit a cotton t-shirt. The idea of putting cotton in my mouth makes me want to die, and in fact, me writing this is making me feel very uncomfortable so I’m going to stop. Let’s talk instead about the woman who has a pickle phobia and goes on Maury Povich, who tries to “cure” her by literally unloading an entire truck of pickles in front of her. Needless to say she runs away screaming and crying.
I can’t stand bugs, and have bug nightmares. This stems I assume from a roach infested apartment in my childhood. They were everywhere. But we had mice too, and I’m not afraid of mice. I imagine bugs crawling into my ears, my nose, getting into my body somehow and eating me from the inside. I am also so scared of scary movies I cannot watch them, ever. I am really sensitive about all kind of TV and media. It doesn’t matter if I know it’s not real. It feels real, and I’ll have nightmares for weeks, for years even.
I have trypophobia and apparently it’s a common fear, like it’s an instinctive fear to keep us away from disease. I get physical symptoms when it’s activated, and then I’ll obsessively think about whatever triggered it because apparently I like to torture myself. I recently saw a commerical for something while I was working out at the gym, I wasn’t watching TV but I happened to see this on the screen and it was annoying to me: “trypophobia, don’t think you have it? Look it up!” What was that an advertisement for?
I’m not scared or roaches or ghosts, I kill roaches with my bare hands, but regrettably I am terrified of basic everyday stuff like going to the grocery store. Grocery stores, especially the big confusing crowded ones with a lot of options, trigger my panic attacks big time. I still buy groceries as one must, but I am scrupulously careful of which ones and at what times I will go. I always must have a list and get in/get out as quickly as possible. Other phobias: walking down a busy street as a woman being catcalled, Trump presidency, being institutionalized permanently, home invasions, rape, crowds, small talk, being asked what I do for a living. Yeah, I live in fear, basically.
I am self-possessed enough that people do not usually push back on declarations I make about myself, but few people are willing to believe me when I tell them I have a phobia of musical theatre. But it is real and intense and difficult to avoid feeling now and again—musical theatre is everywhere. While I don’t care for watching musicals on TV, it’s live theatre that gets into me like this. I’ve been dismissed/ejected from theatres over the years, even after psyching myself up to see friends in shows. Everything about them terrifies me. There are exceptions that make absolute sense to me: because the artificiality is part of what alarms me, I can sit through and enjoy things like Rocky Horror and Cabaret, which are about theatricality, but I’ve still never rolled the dice and tried to see them live. Sometimes people get hung up on that inconsistency and accuse me of lying to them. I am totally at peace with this. If my feelings about musical theatre are that important to them, they can just see what happens when you try to take me to see a production. I won’t be able to be around people again for days and the tears won’t stop.
The ocean. It made growing up in beachside Australia difficult. I remember the first time I went for a beach swim, I dove underwater and looked out to the ocean and all I could see was grey. From then on I didn’t vibe with it.
When I fly in airplanes I feel like my legs are hanging off a cliff the whole time. Also, anything having to do with toenails or fingernails.
I have a dear friend who hates cotton balls and over the years have come to realize this is a lot more common than I thought. As for me, I really don’t like buttons. Like a jar of stray buttons that are supposed to be on shirts. I don’t mind them on the shirts; there’s something about them off the shirts that is gross to me. It’s less of a fear, persay, and more of a disgust response. I have no idea why…maybe something about holes or eyes.
Strong wind. Natural disasters. And strong wind turning into a natural disaster.
As a kid I was super afraid of heights. The only good part was when another kid tried to tease me about my last night and me being afraid of Heights/Hights I would just calmly reply “yeah I am and?” Now I fear extended calm or quiet. I wish for it like anyone during a busy week but when it comes the sense of anticipation of some chaos or bad news to break it rises up in some inner murk.
Live bugs don’t bother me; I can put them under glass and take them outside no problem. Dead bugs, however, are dead to me. Probably dates back to when I was little and a grasshopper caught in my long hair. I murdered it trying to get it out, bits of wing and head squished into the tangle.
Microwaved food. Particularly meat and dairy. I grew up in the age of microwave cookbooks. This is more a sensory based fear than an idealogical one, but a real one nonetheless. Much more than revulsion/aversion.
The spaces under a subway train. I’m not even around them that much, and I really like trains. I’ve never even had a dream with a train in it (although now I will).
Spiders…ohhhhhh the spiders. Can’t even watch them on TV. And yet, I will not kill one. I still appreciate them as wondrous creatures that have something to offer. So I’m all about the catch and release when one is near, or better yet, standing in another room on the other side of the house while the husband performs the catch and release. Seriously, I will scream like my hair is on fire if the spidey falls out of that plastic cup before I get it outside.
Alligators. I was involved in a photographic mishap with my sister in the Cypress Gardens in 1970…my mother screaming, the gator churning toward us, my father trying to get the shot…and never truly recovered.