According to the experts, we all have at least one or two (or even half a dozen) phobias tucked away in the recesses of our minds. You know – those tiny, irrational fears that manage to somehow wreak all sorts of havoc on our everyday, humdrum, ordinary lives.
The most classic examples of phobias we are already quite familiar with: agoraphobia, arachnophobia, claustrophobia.
Some of us, however, suffer from some really strange and seemingly-outlandish fears like vestiophobia (fear of clothes), bibliophobia (fear of books), zeusophobia (fear of God or gods), coprastasophobia (fear of constipation – yes, you read that right!) – not to mention at least a few hundred-and-some-odd other phobias officially recognized as reasons to call a professional and shell out some major bucks in pursuit of a cure.*
What actually is a phobia?
The Cambridge International Dictionary of English defines a phobia as “an extreme fear of a particular thing or situation, especially one that cannot be reasonably explained.”
The Mayo Clinic characterizes a phobia as an “unrelenting irrational fear accompanied by a strong desire to avoid all related fear-inducing situations; in some cases, the inability to function due to such inexplicable, paralyzing fear.”
Heaven knows, enough of these unexplainable, inexplicable fears are alive and well right here in Hampton Roads.
Those among us who have committed ourselves to life in the Armed Forces in the Hampton Roads region of Virginia (or ceremoniously sputtered the words “I do”, committing ourselves to the unrelenting horror of duty days, deployments and every kind of military-related chilly willy in between), possess our own untidy collection of phobias to wrestle with.
I’m talking the genuine article here. The stuff living nightmares are made of – especially if you are like me and yearn to enjoy a semi-sane existence from one hurricane season to the next as a Hampton Roads resident.
Heck, we could probably churn out a Four-Star Academy Award stunner simply from the abundance of phobias that abound right here in Hampton Roads. Yes, even minus movie credits extolling “Steven Spielberg, Directing.”
Consider just a few of the phobias we contend with in our community on a regular basis:
From morning till night, cars approach the tunnels in our community with a “gotta get there” forward-thrust motion leading either toward the naval bases or away from them. Then, what happens? Brake lights instantly glow.
Egads! It’s “Tunnel Terror Time” and those among us who suffer from this phobia know how horrifying the experience of driving underwater can be when we are traveling through a massive tube of solid concrete at a snail’s pace.
Suddenly an all succumbing fear takes over. We pull back, resist, do our darnedest not to assert ourselves into that tunnel no matter how desperate our need might be to reach the other side.
So what do we do? We crawl. We inch. We scream silently in icicle-laced fear behind the wheels of our cars. God forbid an accident causes us to come to a screeching halt while we’re actually in the tunnel. We would instantly scramble from our cars like roaches scattering from a sudden flick of a light switch in a local greasy spoon during the wee hours of the morning.
The most courageous phobics among us attempt to lead-foot their way through the tunnels. Their theory is speed alone will set us free. Unfortunately, these few gutsy phobic motorists are able to travel only as fast as that car in front of them – a car most likely navigated by a driver crippled with an acute case of, you guessed it: Tunneltravelophobia!
If you’ve shopped at the Exchange or the Commissary, strolled through the mall or been escorted by a hostess to a table in a local restaurant, chances are you’ve witnessed one of the most traditional phobias afflicting the general population in our community.
You know the one: Unruly children holding their parents hostage through their own horribly inappropriate behavior. How many of these phobics are out there? Apparently, hundreds – if not thousands. Everywhere we go it seems these phobics abound.
We sit and shudder, observing children placated by parents who are so terrified to exert control over their offspring that they instantly cave in and give them whatever they want in our presence. Among them of course are those parents who ignore a child’s screaming and crying in a store (like, say, Walmart?) simply because they’ve become so immune to it. Not to mention those parents who allow their children to disturb the peace and quiet of others trying to eat in a nice restaurant because they just can’t bring themselves to properly discipline them in public.
How refreshing it would be to see parents proactively asserting themselves in our midst, actually dealing with the bad behavior of their children and not rewarding them when they act up. Children forced to behave without a bribe…what a concept!
It’s amazing to me how many people with white skin are phobic about giving a friendly smile at strangers they encounter on the street.
The hubster and I started walking five miles a day shortly after last Christmas. We religiously hoof our way from one end of our Norfolk neighborhood to the other – rain or shine, regardless of the cold, heat or humidity.
We constantly marvel how it is always those of ethnic origin – Afro-American, Filipino, Puerto Rican – never fail to smile with a, “How are you?” or “Good afternoon or evening” as we purposefully slog passed them on our walking route.
White people? We never get so much as a friendly momentary glance from them. Phobic? You bet they are. So phobic they can’t even acknowledge strangers on the street, even ones as white as they are. That’s just plain sad.
- Military marriage-ophobia:
Those afflicted with this terrible phobia come from all walks of life, the four corners of the globe. They profess to dearly love that guy or gal in uniform they’ve been going with for eons and insist that they want to get married, they really do. And they will even go so far as setting a date and making plans for those sacred “I do’s” to be exchanged.
Then what happens? They inevitably shrink back in utter terror at the thought of formally committing themselves to a marriage constantly subject to the call of duty. Just imagining the topsy-turvy world of married military life is enough to make them literally run for the hills.
OMG, they think, surviving lengthy periods of separation, alone. Managing somehow to courageously establish a life in strange places around the world while that spouse is off defending freedom half a world a way. Facing the monumental challenge of birthdays and holidays and anniversaries spent alone. Eating alone, sleeping alone? OMG, no way!
As if the lives these military marriage phobics are now living with the ones they love in uniform is any less challenging and scary without the license and wedding rings.
* Phobias taken from TIME.com: “Phobias From A to Z”