Snakes. Why did it have to be snakes?
There I was, blithely reading my morning paper when I saw it. It made my heart skip a beat and almost made me instinctively toss the newspaper.
It was this picture (which I won't upload until this post is completely done because it gives me the heebie-jeebies still):
It's a phobia that I can't help. The fight or flight part of my brain says "run away, run away, run away!" Even though I know it's completely irrational, I'm somewhat OK with that. I don't really need to be friends with snakes. In fact, I think it's best not to. People who keep them as pets confound me. Do they not know those are SNAKES?
I've got snake avoidance stories galore. One time, I was with the Babes in Florida and a guy walked in with what looked like a big stuffed albino (like the picture) around his shoulders and I thought it was a stuffed animal like the big prizes you win at a carnival. Until it moved. Then, I was out of my chair in a millisecond, putting our table between me and the snake. Even though it was probably 30 feet away from me. Being the true friend that I am, Blondie wanted her picture taken with it and I actually managed to snap the camera even though I was fighting every urge to run from the room.
Another time, we were having a meal at our CEO's house and he decided to show everyone the snake he'd found on the road and brought home for his kids. (Who does that?!?!?) He walked into the room with the snake in his hands and I tried to subtly position myself at the furthest spot from him. He asked me, with great puzzlement, what I thought the snake would do to me. Frankly, I didn't care to find out.
Phobias are a useful product of evolution. Our ancestors did well fleeing from snakes and other critters that can do us harm. Frankly, who has time to determine if a snake is poisonous or not when you stumble upon one? It's best to get the hell out of there.
So, I feel no compulsion to get over my snake phobia (nor my horse one but that's another story). But, I did have one phobia that I consciously decided to overcome.
They used to freak me out by their very existence. I dated a guy in college whose roommate had a gun in their house and I was never comfortable there. It probably didn't help that the dude kept it under his pillow (or mattress, that detail is murky after all these years) and I thought he was kind of a nut job who could mistake me for a burglar and wouldn't hesitate pulling the trigger.
However, I decided an inanimate object that couldn't harm me without the assistance of a sentient being was not worthy of freaking out. So, one of my girlfriend's Dad was the manager of a gun shop and he took us in for a lesson and shooting time. She was no stranger to guns so it was mostly a lesson to me.
The first thing they taught me was to never, ever, ever point a gun at someone unless you mean to use it. It doesn't matter if you just checked it for bullets. Always assume it's loaded and don't point. (A lesson on of our state politicians didn't learn but that's another story, too.)
We ended up shooting several different guns and I felt much less anxious after that. While I'm still not a fan, I no longer freak out. Well, unless someone happened to point one at me. Then, I would freak out but that would be justifiable.
It's hard to admit your phobias. It can make you seem crazy or weak. But, sometimes there's no fighting your instincts despite the irrationality.
Exposing your fears can also bring about mockery or teasing. Pity my poor friend, Thom, who admitted to being terrified of clowns. What happened to him? Well, someone started sending him clowns through the mail. He has no idea who it is and they're getting sent from all over the Valley. He has his suspects but I don't think he'll ever find out who it is. He keeps them in his garage because he just can't bring himself to bring them into his house.
I don't blame him. If someone started sending me snakes, I would hunt them down and make them sorry I got over my gun phobia. And, I mean that.