A couple months ago, I bought a book for my six year old son called Phobiapedia. The book teaches and illustrates the various phobias humans struggle with like arachnophobia (fear of spiders) and acrophobia (fear of heights). My son and I were both fascinated as we read together about koniophobia (fear of dust) and xanthopobia (the fear of the color yellow). We then had a discussion about our own fears. Kameron fears sleeping alone…I don’t really think so, I think this is his way of trying to con me into staying longer after story time. I shared with him my fear of bees after having attacked by a swarm of yellow jackets when I was about nine years old.
Our short study on fears caused me to think more broadly about how fear affects our society. Many, many people are trapped in lives of fear. We demonstrate our fear of terrorists by refusing to use the airlines or if we do fly, we are subjected to the humility of going through airport security where fear of terrorism has driven TSA officials to insanity. They don’t look for people, they look for things. They search us for tooth picks and aerosol cans. They their fearful irrationality by frisking 90 year old women and strip searching 9 year old children.
We are fearful of the criminal element in our society. Some live behind doors that have five or six dead locks installed in them. Gun sales are skyrocketing because people are feeling insecure. Fear is driving us to arm ourselves.
We have become obsessed with our health or our lack thereof. Millions are preoccupied by one diet after another and millions more spend most of their non-working hours in gymnasiums trying to defy the aging process and delay that which is certain for all, death. I’m sure you know a few hypochondriacs in your circle. Many are disillusioned by their fear of disease. They seek treatment for a disease when they actually suffer from an anxiety disorder. More than 50% of Americans are taking a drug to treat some chronic condition. (Medco Health Solutions) Fear can cause us to become dysfunctional or non-functional.
In a recent decade (1994-2005) the U.S. population increased 9% while the number of medical prescriptions increased 71%. At a time when American scientists and physicians are making tremendous advances in medical knowledge and technology, in a time when we are learning the latest treatments that have made us to be some of the healthiest people in history, in an age when we are being educated about what is harmful and unhealthy, ironically, we are addicted to prescription drugs. What part is fear playing in all of this?
Let us be reminded that all fear is not bad. I want to feel fear when I am walking on the peak of the roof or when I come face to face with a rattle snake. Fear is a protective mechanism that may very well save our lives many times over.
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