Phobophobia: The Fear of Being Afraid

Angie hopped on a plane on Saturday afternoon, bound for Texas and all the fun that her annual visit with her parents entails. I always tease that she’s heading off to summer camp, because just like a summer camp, she almost always returns with some sort of handicraft. One year they made butcher block cutting boards. Another year it was coat racks. And last year, I think they made a table out of pallets. That one did not come back to Tennessee, thank goodness!

This year things could be different though. About a month ago we received one of those calls that no one likes to get. Angie’s mom was being rushed by ambulance to the hospital. At only 22 beats per minute, her heart had practically stopped. I won’t say that Angie’s mom is the pillar of health but there was absolutely no indication until that day that she had a heart problem. In fact, she was outside working when she collapsed. I hate to sound cliché, but it really is the truth – you never know when something will happen that changes everything in your life.

Angie’s mom now has a pacemaker and a cabinet full of medications that she never took before. She’s supposed to watch what she eats and exercise, but much like my own mom, age comes with a certain amount of stubbornness and fear. For as much as they fear dying, the fear of change is sometimes even more dreadful.

Watching our parents age, brings many fears for us as well. The fear of losing them to a debilitating disease. The fear of losing them at all, for that matter. The fear of dealing with crazy family members when we do lose them (we both have siblings that have a coin purse where their heart should be – always waiting on some grand inheritance to fall into it). And about that, there’s the fear of having to deal with the stuff that’s left behind – pets, possessions, and property. It’s enough to make you feel overwhelmed at times.

But I don’t want to be afraid.

And yet there are those times when fear gets to you without you ever having invited it in.

“Aren’t you afraid she won’t come back?” my mom asked me as she told Angie goodbye on Friday night.

For hours after that moment, I kept thinking, why would she ask such a crazy question? Should I be afraid? Is something going to happen? Does she have some sort of sixth sense about these things? Again, it was enough to make me feel like I was going nuts. Later, my mom apologized. She said she didn’t know why she asked that question but thought perhaps she might have been feeling a little afraid herself.

But I don’t want to be afraid.

I was driving home from the airport, looking for a nearby Farmer’s Market, when it suddenly struck me – my whole family is always afraid of something and probably always has been. I just never noticed it that much until I grew up. My sister is afraid of being alone. My niece is afraid of adulthood. My nephew is afraid of speaking in public. My mom is afraid of change. And I am afraid of being afraid.

I don’t usually think of myself as a fearful person. I pick up snakes. I eat out of dumpsters. And even after almost drowning, there’s still no place I’d rather be than in the ocean. But lately other people’s fears seem to be sneaking in on me and I am afraid of turning into one of them.

Fear breeds fear. When you question everything and embrace nothing because it might hurt you, you are not living life as it was intended. And I simply don’t want to be afraid, so here’s what I’m going to do.

I’m going to talk about my fears. Fear likes to lurk in the dark. I will call it out and challenge it in the bright light of day.

I’m going to let go. I can’t control how other people think or act. I am only responsible for me. I will let go of expectations, bad experiences from the past, and unrealistic scenarios that are not likely to occur in the first place.

I’m going to live in the present. This is, after all, the only moment we know for sure that we have. Why waste it on fear?

I’m going to trust myself. I’ve been making decisions for me for longer than anyone else has and even when I’ve made the wrong ones, I still managed to survive. I am going to trust that whatever life brings me, I can handle it.

Take that phobophobia!

What are your greatest fears? How do you handle them?

Cover photo: I wanted to find a picture of the scariest thing I could think of. Sadly, I could not find one of the giant spider above the fridge in our Airbnb in Hawaii so I chose the runner -up. This little gator was a mere 7-feet long and just a few yards from us when we spotted it in the pond of our Florida apartment complex.

2 thoughts on “Phobophobia: The Fear of Being Afraid

  1. I have a fear of dying, although I’ve done a lot of work around facing it, accepting it and letting it go, like the tools you’re giving yourself and that’s made a massive difference. Unfortunately I grew up in house full of worriers like you, and that had a lasting impact on anxiety levels and this year I’ve suffered panic attacks. The tools I’m using to try and deal with them are very similar to what you’re describing so I hope they work for you. It’s a brave person who faces up to their fears and lets them in and in my experience it almost always works and diminishes the fear you have, so good luck!


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Jo! You are absolutely right about the lasting impact of being around worriers. It’s crazy how other people’s fears and worries creep into your own mind. Best of luck to you too. Panic attacks are no joke. I truly hope you are able to work through the anxiety that is causing them.


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