Of Fears and Phobias
It is commonly acknowledged that one way of treating phobias is to actively engage with the object of fear. Of course, this is nearly impossible, one will say of the mere thought of facing their fear.
What a joy it was for me to bump into the spotting image of someone, who has been reason and cause for a lot of upset and ultimately fear for the past few years.
The word “phobia” derives from Greek and literally means “fear or morbid fear”. It is an anxiety disorder that displays a strong, at times irrational fear of something with little or no actual danger resulting in the avoidance of and interference with usual activities while expressing signs of distress. Actually, up to a few days ago, I didn’t even compare this particular fear of mine to a phobia.
In contrast to “common phobias” of spiders, snakes, confined spaces, to mention but a few, I saw my issue as a simple result of engaging with the wrong person leading to threats and controlling behaviour which ultimately ended with a massive drama of further threats and the believe that one day I might find myself attacked and would possibly die as a consequence. Now that I understand that the words “phobia” and “fear” are actually the same, I can say that my behavioural reaction to this morbid fear is in fact what would be classed as a phobia.
As much as my fear was based on real threats, just as much was there no evidence for further danger. The rest of my fear played itself out in my own head. I feared facing this person and would also avoid any places where the likelihood of such event was heightened. This was difficult, because one of the proposed threats had been that I would be “hunted down at all my places of work and interest”, so basically, wherever I went, I would feel an immense sense of dread. I would get a sensation of shock when I spotted someone in the crowd showing vague similarities and generally fleet from one corner to the other, taking a hide whenever I could. The two occasions I actually really spotted the dreaded face on the streets were followed by an immediate panic attack but fortunately nothing else.
A few years and many counselling, psychotherapy, acupuncture and EFT sessions plus a lot of personal reflections later I thought I was nearly there. I was lucky enough to find a new partner that seems to really understand my worries and fears and appears to have a bottomless jar of patience whenever I would delve into yet another episode of panic.
But when the dreaded face suddenly appeared in an adjoining department at my place of work, I threw a right panic. Now the threat of hunting me down had happened in the most unlikely circumstances, and no matter how unlikely this situation was, there was just no other explanation for it. The world that I had just build up again so full of hope began to crumble again around me and it needed more EFT sessions and further meetings with a psychologist to make sense of my reactions and arising feelings. On top of that came three more such encounters near where I lived which all didn’t make any sense! Why now? Why now that I had just come to terms with it and had finally begun to move on?
Looking at it from a spiritual point of view, I think it was just time to deal with the last niggling fear that was left. And in order to deal with it, it had to be brought up to the surface so it could be cleared away. And yes, to be honest, there were still a few little avoidance techniques on auto pilot, running quietly in the background. For example, I had been avoiding any photographic evidence and had not been mentioning any names. Seriously, I believed that something bad would happen would I say the name out loud. Instead I would use the term “evil ex”, which to be fair, as a good friend pointed out, meant that I made it even worse by emphasising the bad experience I had. Of course I wouldn’t be able to make peace with the past if I kept calling it “evil”.
Instead, it would be much better to make peace with it and choose a more positive term. Just how to think about it positively??
Basically, you simply just let go of all grudges. You accept the situation for what it was, learn from it and move on. Suddenly I was actually able to see the funny side of it. Regardless of how dreadful it had been at the moment, suddenly I could laugh out loud at some memories, which was very healing. I did a lot of cathartic writing too, just like this blog, which helped immensely to understand my feelings and bring clarity into my thought processes.
Still I wasn’t sure what to do in the event of actually standing face to face. But I managed to set up a step-by-step plan during one of my sessions with the psychologist which further supported my sense of security. And then, a few weeks ago, the face appeared on my department at work. Not next door, no, right in our staff room.
But, hang on…what? This isn’t who I think it is – but it looks just like it…can’t be.
Yes, my fear had materialised out of thin air right in front of me. But compared to my past memories, this version looked much more kempt, sane, in good health and was kind, caring and very well articulated. Yet, it was the perfect lookalike. It took me a few hours to convince myself that this really was someone else, not the actual person my fear was based on just looking a bit more healthily. And honestly, this encounter with the lookalike of my biggest fear helped to shift absolutely everything that was left in fear, worry and uncertainty. I could make actual peace with something that I never thought I would be able to. I desensitized without fear. I would even say I made friends with this situation. Not to mention that this person had factually been the same I saw before on the adjoining department. The first sight of him brought the fear up, the second took it right away. Incredible how it goes sometimes!
I feel soo relieved, so happy, so much more uplifted. I even look forward to seeing the face, and I have been seeing it a lot at work recently. Embarrassingly, I find myself staring at it, still thinking whether they cold possibly be related. This is the perfect sample of good and bad, love and hate, trust and disbelieve.
Whatever your phobia, even if you didn’t knew it was one, work on it! There is a lot of help out there, find whichever way suits you best. There might be more than one. There really is nothing wrong with therapy and seeking professional help! You can only benefit. It’s so worth it!