Everyone has something they’re scared of. I don’t mean the sort of things that we all fear deep down - failure, death, loss, or humiliation. I’m talking about those fears that one person can have which someone else can find as easy as breathing. Those subjective fears that make us all ultimately unique.
I, like most people, have loads of personal fears. My biggest is probably my phobia of dogs.
Man’s best friend
When most people say they have a phobia of something, they mean they are really scared of it. For people that have phobias, it goes a lot further than that. You basically lose your shit in public a lot when you really don’t want to. Phobias feel completely out of your control.
I often think about the likelihood of a dog killing me in a present situation, even when it looks harmless and loving. I’ll think about how to be as far away from a dog without causing offense to the owner, or sometimes not caring because I need to get away. I’ve crossed roads, burst out crying, started shaking or moved tables, I even learnt to pretend that I’m not petrified. Name it, I’ve done it.
My rational self knows they mean me no harm, but it’s like trying to convince a chicken once they find themselves in the abattoir, that the butchers is just going to use the knife to give it a haircut.
So many people also don’t really understand phobias, and say well-meaning things like -
“But they mean no harm!”
“He’s lovely he wouldn’t do anything.”
“Dogs are so loyal and caring.”
I actually know this when dogs aren’t around me. I understand why people love dogs and why they are great pets and companions. I have a rational mind, it just gets taken over by irrational, panicked thoughts now and again, like a warped survival instinct.
On the road
I’ve learnt the hard way that the only way to face my own fears and to stop my heart from skipping a beat is to keep on bumping into and living next to those fears. Giving myself sustained exposure to it.
This year, I took a trip to Thailand. I stayed there for 6 weeks and did the 20s backpacker thing. I trekked in jungles, swam along islands, stood on top of waterfalls, strolled through temples and ate my way through the country's street food markets.
Before I took my flight, my brother jokingly warned me about all the stray dogs in Thailand. But I thought he was exaggerating, or maybe I wanted to go so badly that I didn’t really want to deal with what I knew was true.
My brother was right, stray dogs where all over the streets, especially on the islands. They were territorial, followed you around and were my worst nightmare brought to life.
The only thing that helped me keep any sort of control in public was that they were constantly calm. It was that calmness that helped me walk next to them for 6 weeks, until I almost didn’t fear them anymore.
It was also the determination to enjoy my trip despite a phobia, that determination to beat something scary in that instant, instead of ruining long-term ambitions and goals. I was forced to be next to my fear and in turn managed to quieten it.
Another fear I have is speaking in public, or maybe I just really really hate it. This might surprise some people. I can seem quite confident in certain situations, but I am an extroverted introvert. If I have to stand up and speak about anything in front of more than 5 people, it can soon lead to me falling apart.
But there’s something I want to do that’s making me want to free myself from that fear, or at least challenge it. I love writing poetry, and have often scribbled down my inner thoughts, which now lie dormant in forgotten notebooks and sit static in laptop folders.
I recently read one of them out loud and realised it sounded better spoken. The rhythm of speech brought more clarity, impact and life to the words. I also follow spoken word artists and love hearing them scream poetically at me about their lives.
So I’ve decided that I want to try spoken word, despite my fear. I want to be part of a movement that shouts passionately into a microphone about the way I see the world, declaring ideas of truth, bravery and wisdom in a modern and daring way.
But I can’t pretend that I don’t still dread the stage.
I read somewhere that you can become good at anything if you practice enough, and that’s what I am going to do, or at least try to do. I am going to sit side by side with my fear until I’m ready to expose it and speak into a dark lit room full of strangers.
And even if I stumble across a word, hear my own voice shake, or forget a line, I’ll be where I never thought I could ever be. Which is already half the battle.
Article Written by: Sara Benaissa