All of us are born with a set of instinctive fears.
Fears of falling, of the dark, of fire, of death and of the unknown. There are others that seem to be acquired as we age like of bugs, snakes, dogs, enclosed spaces and heights. And there are the ones that affect the chosen few like the fear of guns, lobsters, of falling on lobsters in a dark enclosed space for a great height, speaking in public, leaving the house to go shopping and of the words- Some Assembly Required.
I know, being married to a licensed psychologist, that there is a list of phobias that range from aardvarks to zygotes and everything in between. I have a few of these psychological fears in my bag of flaws that I carry around. I have had a huge fear of heights (acrophobia) since childhood that I seemed to be born with and have tried to conquer many times without success.
It was almost paralyzing at times, so I tried to beat it. Trips to the top of the Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge, Sears Tower and Washington Monument were nerve shattering but ineffective. Trips on mountaintop ski lifts, state fair gondolas, sightseeing trams, monorails and sky trains were white knuckling and unavailing. Going down the edge of the Grand Canyon on mule back was a mind numbing and done in vain as well.
A few years ago, I asked the glass elevator operator at the Seattle Space Needle if anyone has ever passed out in the elevator in the 13 years she worked there and she said emphatically “No.”
Apparently I was going to possibly be their first. (I did make it and stay conscious, but it took eleven minutes to get out of the back of elevator, open my eyes and step onto the observation deck. Luckily there are other working elevators and not just one).
I thank God sometimes that my son did not inherit this. Four years ago, he tried to coax me to walk the catwalk above the jumbotron at top of the arena at Madison Square Garden when we were working with the New York Titans.
After three steps, I panicked and retreated quickly to the safe confines of the windowless Knicks locker room. Up there, I felt like Will Smith’s character at the end of “I Robot,” except 100 times less brave. In the meantime, my son went rappelling and snapling in Israel last week.
Over the last five years, I seem to have developed a slight fear of enclosed spaces (claustrophobia) and a few others, but they are not so strong. However they do get to make my pulse race and beads of sweat to develop on my brow. Many people can empathize with me over these fears as I can with many of theirs.
Two weeks ago, one of my co-workers had a phobia freak-out fest over something that I had a hard time actually wrapping my head around. We had one co-worker playfully dress up as Father Christmas and suddenly, without warning, another run screaming from the lunchroom in sheer, unadulterated terror and hide behind her desk. It was Santaphobia, the actual fear of Santa Claus. I was amazed.
It seems that this is more common than I would have believed (according to my wife and Mr. Google) and it also seems to run concurrent in some adults with (Coulrophobia) a fear of clowns.
With clowns, I could possibly sympathize and there have been some very scary portrayals. But how could someone have the same reaction I had when seated in the last row of the upper mezzanine, corner seat, overlooking the parking lot at Shea Stadium to jolly old St. Nick? How is that grandfatherly Ho-ho-hoing, pudgy, sweet, jovial character with snowy hair, who leaves presents a threat? This was beyond me.
At what age did this manifest and why? Was it being forced to sit on a strangers lap and tell him our wants after countless parental lectures to the contrary that lead to this? Was the phobias activation some sort reaction to that of a youthful stress test with photographic proof? Was it the beard, big belt and black storm trooper boots? Was it the constant threat of being watched, of getting coal instead of a Milton Bradley colorforms or Lincoln Logs and having to be nice instead of naughty?
Another co-worker here has a huge fear of clowns as well but loves Santa immensely. So we truly wondered together what would make any adult not be able to rationalize this fear into submission. But I also won’t go anywhere near the chimney on the roof either, so who am I to call the kettle black?