Lions & Tigers & Bears — Oh My!

What scares you?

I think we all have one or two (or more) things that completely unnerve us. I know people who are terrified of cats — something I find hard to understand as mine is sitting next to me right now. My father is afraid of dogs. Yes, it’s true. He tried to convince me to be, if not afraid than at least, wary of all dogs. His efforts weren’t completely successful. I wound up being relatively sane in my estimations of canine danger.

On the other hand, I will admit to an irrational response to rodents. I’ve been known to jump out of my skull at the sight of a rat scampering by. So I make it a habit to skirt around construction sites whenever possible. This is not an easy trick in New York where something is always being built or renovated.

Given the choice, I’ll still skip snake exhibits and avoid people that walk around with their pet constrictors wrapped around their necks on the street — I much prefer feather boas as accessories. But I’m nowhere near as fearful as I was as a child. Each time my dad read “The Secret Garden” (the children’s classic by Frances Hodgson Burnett) I suffered at the mention of the snake at the end of the first chapter, insisting that he read the second chapter to assure me that Mary is safely away from the scary snake before it was bedtime.

Parsing out FEAR from REVULSION or simple SQUEAMISHNESS is helpful in real life and is definitely helpful when developing a fictional character. The fatal flaw, the characteristic that makes the hero vulnerable and therefore human, is often a passionate fear. The detective that must swallow is squeamish reaction to dead bodies or fight his vertigo (agoraphobia, claustrophobia, etc.) is a typical, and sometimes very successful, gambit for softening the macho or otherwise too successful personae of heroic characters.

When I stumbled on a comprehensive list of phobias I began to ponder characters plagued by overwhelming fears of garlic (Alliumphobia), of chickens (Alektorophobia) of wild animals Agrizoophobia), of flowers (Anthrophobia), of staying single (Anuptaphobia) or of numbers (Arithmophobia). And those are just a few of the As!

Lions & Tigers & Chickens, Oh My! There are so many things to fear.


    • Candy

      That’s a room that’ll push a lot of buttons!

      I’m not particularly afraid of spiders, but I’ve traveled with a friend who went positively phobic when a daddy long legs crawled up the wall. Not only was she terrified, she wanted me to escort it out of the room without hurting it. I suddenly remembered what my dad went through with my sister and I. LOL…

      As for EXOTIC pets, a few years ago there was a big scandal about a man who kept big cats (yes BIG cats) in his apartment. Definitely a case of cruelty to animals as well as cruelty to neighbors. How much kitty litter does a tiger need? OH MY!

  1. Rodents didn’t bother me until… I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Estonia and trapped a tiny little white mouse in my apartment. I did a catch and release, scooping it into a shoebox, and never saw it again. But within the week I had a case of Scandinavian hemorrhagic fever, which was bar none the most painful and disgusting ailment I’ve ever contracted. My eyeballs bled. I had a temperature of 105. My whole body cramped up. I thought I was going to die and didn’t care.

    Obviously, I didn’t die. But rodents scare the hell out of me.

    • Candy

      OMG!!! You have succeeded where many have failed. You have managed to raise my already insanely high fear of rodents by an exponential factor…. OMG…

      You have also raised my admiration of you and your adventurous travels.