By LEON YOUNGBLOOD
“Recreational fear” is marketed year-round, and I can only define the term with examples: Do you like scary movies? Horror, thrillers, suspense movies and the like are intended to give you a good but safe scare, and are good examples of recreational fear. If you’ve ever plummeted from great heights on certain carnival rides and screamed along with fellow riders, you were experiencing recreational fear. If you take a midnight walk because it’s scary in the Ouachita wilderness, the sensation created may be recreational fear, but it can instantly become non-recreational if you suddenly hear something bigger than you are growling. Recreational fear is merely supposed to give you a good fright, but without damaging or lasting effects.
Halloween is coming up, and is a big event for indulging in recreational fear. Some of this fear is weak, to say the least—little children dressed up as witches or spooks are funny and cute, and I imagine are an embarrassment to evil creatures that lurk in spiritual realms; but when adults wear these disguises—well, just go to any one of the “haunted” houses open to the public this time of year. There’s a great “fear-factor” difference.
Halloween aside, humans fear lots of things, the most common being the fear of public speaking. Then there is the fear of heights (I suffer from that one), then the fear of going to the dentist, and the fear of snakes—take your pick. It’s fair to have a fear of anything you want, but if your fear is intense enough to cause panic and hysteria, then it qualifies as a phobia.
Now in all fairness, it’s perfectly all right to panic or be hysterical in some situations, but you do not want to make a career out of it. For example, if the cat brings in a garter snake and drops it on your lap, it’s all right to be a little upset about it, and to jump up screaming while reprimanding the cat. Express yourself for a few minutes, then get over it! However, if you’re unable to get over it, and are convinced snakes are hiding everywhere, doing things you would not approve of, you probably have ophidiophobia, an irrational fear of snakes.
“Irrational” is the key word, here. If you’re scared to death of germs, dirt and other filthy things (remember Felix Unger in The Odd Couple?), you’re mysophobic. If you have an intense fear of syringes and shots, you have trypanophobia. If long words make you crazy, you have hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia. You can even have a phobia to phobias—phobophobia. Anything is fair game to have a phobia about. The bad news is, persons afflicted with phobias cannot help it. Let us not judge these too harshly, if we haven’t walked a mile in their shoes. And if you have papoutsiphobia, you won’t be able to do this.
Who doesn’t have certain fears in these unsettled times? I do not lose sleep over it, but I would not be surprised if the Hamas terrorists start WW III. I am concerned about the decline of America, the flood of illegal immigrants, the loss of privacy and personal freedoms, and all the other things old people tend to fearfully worry about. However, I have a certain confidence, too, a variety Mark Twain was described as, “The happy confidence of a Christian with four aces.”
But maybe we’ll talk about that next week.
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