Phobias vs Fears: Unreason vs Reason

I’m sitting in church right now. I should be paying attention, but I’m struggling to keep from breaking down into tears like a little child who’s toy was took (bad grammar is intentional).

So I thought I would share my thoughts on the difference in fears and phobias.

You see, in my Church, congregations are defined by geographical boundaries rather than preference, not unlike Catholic congregations. When an LDS congregation, called a ward, is too large, it is often split into multiple congregations or wards. When one is too small, it may be added to by redefining the surrounding ward boundaries. When you have two very small wards next to each other, they simply join them together.

Well, this week they unexpectedly dissolved our ward, dividing it into the three surrounding wards. My big sister (figuratively not physically) who lives across the street is now in a different congregation. And while my meeting time is the same, I now meet in a new building, with new people and new responsibilities (oh, we also have lay leadership, so every adult member in good standing holds positions of responsibility ranging from congregational leader to nursery cat herder).

But with the new congregation comes new social anxiety and new agoraphobia. Hence, the fetal position that threatens to overcome me at any moment.

So what is the difference between fear and phobia?

Well, I’m afraid of snakes. Growing up in the high deserts of the Rocky Mountains, we had 3 main kinds of snakes: garden snakes; small, harmless and common. Bull snakes; large, predatorial against other snakes, but harmless against humans. And finally diamondback rattle snakes: aggressive, intimidating, and one of the most poisonous snakes in North America. One who wandered the deserts like I did had to be constantly wary, aware, and armed (usually a .22 pistol, a small shotgun, or at least a rock). I am scared of being bitten by one of these dangerous creatures without the ability to reach proper care. But, despite my fear, I have never hesitated to wander the desert given the chance. Why? Because the fear is both reasonable and capable of being overcome with proper preparation.

On the other hand, I’ve a phobia of spiders. Seeing even the littlest folder spiders, small, harmless and the color of a file folder, these little monsters live in my house by the dozens. And every time I see one my heart races and my palms sweat. The internet is full of jokes about burning down a house because of a scary spider…. but I’ve legitimately considered it for even these inoffensive things. The difference? No preparation can help me overcome my crippling phobia of the eight legged demons.

Fear is both reasonable and overcome-able – phobias…. well, not so much.

So this is a long way of saying…. I’ve a phobia of groups of people. It gets a little better if I can remain anonymous. It gets a lot better when I’m no longer anonymous. We’ll be gathering after our first meeting for the bane of introverts: the meet and greet. I’m not looking forward to that. As I’ve mentioned before, the cane acts like a magnet to the curious. I’ll no doubt be surrounded in just minutes.

So, I’m having some anxiety.

But I’m here. And that’s an important step.


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