27 June 2010

The Irrationality of Phobias



Sometimes, one is just scared of something and does not even know why. One just says one has a phobia.

A phobia is an irrational and sometimes inexplicable fear of something. That fear may be the consequence of a previous encounter with the source of fear – such as when a person got bitten by an animal – but it can also be there for no apparent reason whatsoever.

With phobias triggered by a previous experience, at least one knows why one has it. A person who had been bitten by a dog as a child may, consequently, become fearful of dogs ever since. In cases similar to this, the source of the phobia is always quite clear. What is irrational, I suppose, is that the fear – in the person’s mind – has stereotyped the dog as a possible source of harm whatever its temperament may be. Moreover, not all people bitten by dogs develop a phobia. Why some do is the question.

With other phobias, people do not even know why they have them. They are completely irrational.



For instance, for as long as I can remember, I have had issues with the leggy gagambang bahay. And I do not know why...

I can hold other types of spiders – used to play with the star-shaped black-and-yellow ones – but the gagambang bahay has this ability without even trying to make the hairs at the back of my neck stand up on their ends.

When I was much younger, if ever one dared to venture into my room, then it would be time to call in the original Spider Buster. That would be my younger sister; and I hope you choke while you’re laughing at me...

My eldest sister has an even more bizarre phobia. She is dreadfully afraid of anything with feathers.

When we were still in the Base, we used to have a pet maya that my older brother plucked from its nest and we all nursed to adulthood. The little maya was like a member of the family. It flew around the house very much like it belonged in it and would find a convenient place in the living room to bed in for the night.



Early one morning, we were all alarmed to hear screams and crying coming from the bedroom. As it happened, the little maya chose – of all places – to perch at the foot of my sister’s bed to give her a very much unwanted wakeup call.

Not that anyone was sympathetic... As Mom used to complain, my sister did not seem to have issues with birds when they came in the form of chicken fried golden and served on a plate.

I’m not sure you can still refer to certain fears as phobias if they are of the sort seemingly built into the human psyche. Take the matter of snakes. Most humans are naturally wary if not downright fearful of then. I guess it’s a natural defense mechanism, if anything; many animals are scared of snakes as well.

But certain human fears are a little more difficult to rationalize... It is almost universally stereotyped that women are scared of mice. I have seen movies, sit-coms and even cartoons which have female characters jumping on chairs – and sometimes even tables – at the sight of mice scampering across the floor.

The stereotype is totally unfair to women, of course! I have seen men show as much irrational concern at the sight of mice – but testosterone prevents us from jumping onto chairs.

The same can be true with cockroaches. If you agree, go Like the Facebook fan page called Walang Macho sa Lumilipad na Ipis. I have known men to even shriek at the sight of cockroaches flying through the air.

I can go on about the sorts of animals people seem to have issues with, but let me just tell this anecdote about an enterprising bayawak that thought it would help itself to free meals in our poultry farm when I was still a young teenager.

Before anything else, I must state that any bayawak that nests close to a poultry farm has to be dealt with immediately; else you will find dead chickens every morning. The one that set up shop near our farm was huge!

The bayawak normally marauded at night, and Mom was getting desperate about finding dead chickens almost every morning. However, it was getting cocky and decided to go raiding in broad daylight one morning. Unfortunately – for the bayawak, that is – the poultry hand saw it.

The latter quickly sprinted back to the house for reinforcements. That would be me, my kid sister and my kid brother. We all armed ourselves with thick strips of wood and rushed to the poultry house.

We positioned ourselves at the poultry house’s exits so it could not escape. My kid brother and I were at the front door holding our kahoy. My kid sister was at the exit door with hers.



The poultry hand proceeded to give chase. Cornered, the bayawak sprinted to the exit door. Seeing my sister standing there, it changed direction and headed to the front door where we waited.

Kaya lang, there was something really menacing about this scaly ugly thing that was heading our way. My kid brother and I looked at the bayawak fast approaching; then at each other; and decided to throw our kahoy at it and sprint out the door!

Now while you’re still laughing at our cowardice, the kahoy we hurled at it threw the bayawak off its track, making it do an about-face to try its luck where my sister stood. Except that my sister stood her ground, and with one swing of her kahoy felled the mighty bayawak. Spider Buster na, Bayawak Buster pa!

Suskup├┤! What was I even thinking taking on a bayawak? I bolt upright if a tiny butik├« falls on me from the ceiling; bayawak pa gordemet! Cold-blooded creatures, that’s another sort I have real issues with...

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