When we’re young we all have things that we’re terrified of: clowns, creepy crawlies, that old lady with the evil eye. But as we grow up, we begin to understand that these fears are irrational; the clowns become more annoying than scary, the creepy crawlies get squished underfoot, and we discover that the old lady just has a case of “bitchy resting face.” But are we capable of conquering our fears as we grow up, or do they just evolve into more complex conditions?
When I was young I had a terrible fear of the darkness. I slept with a nightlight for a really long time, and even when I gave up the nightlight I preferred not to sleep in pitch darkness. My rational mind knew that there wasn’t anything lurking in darkened corner, but I guess reading too many scary stories gave me an over-active imagination. As an adult, a dark room doesn’t bother me, but I often identify this fear of the dark as being a precursor to the more adult condition of a fear of the unknown. The future can’t be predicted, so every grown-up has to face up to their fear of not knowing where their life, careers, or relationships will take them.
I also had some pretty major fears of abandonment as a child, all due to the one time that my mother accidentally left me by the bacon in the Overwaitea (the precursor to Save On Foods). No seriously, she did. Not on purpose, of course, but I still remember the fear of being lost and not knowing where my person had gone. Most children get scared when they get separated from their pack (it’s an tribal instinct), but when the same pattern is repeated by untrustworthy friends, lovers, and authority figures an adult develops a sense of mistrust in their social surroundings. Whether we cling to our groups of friends (guilty) or push people away (even more guilty) we are playing up to the same fears of abandonment that we felt as a child.
Ironically, I was never scared of bugs when I was a kid. I would play with ants, collect pill bugs, and be fascinated by wayward spiders. Of course, most of these were harmless bugs (bar the 2 breeds of poisonous spiders found in Kamloops) – and my youthful mind had no idea that not all bugs were fine and dandy. And then I started watching House. I was drawn in by the sarcastic lead doctor (who doesn’t love a cynical lead character), but my love affair with the show ended abruptly during the episode where a woman got worms in her brain from eating bad pork. Yeah, that’s a deal breaker for me. Maybe it’s just a healthy dose of paranoia that stems from a survival instinct, but there are too many freak stories of parasites for me to ever be friends with most bugs again.
So now that I’ve shared some of my childhood trauma, it’s your turn. Do you see any connections between your childhood fears and your grown-up anxieties? Or are we all still scared of snakes? Actually, I’ll give you that one… Snakes are scary!