Thursday, July 30, 2015

We have nothing to fear, but... everything?

We were talking about phobias, the other day, me and not-his-real-name Walter.

The discussion was occasioned by NHRN Walter talking about someone he knew having uncommon fears around the weather. It's always interesting to find out what people may be afraid of, and, let's face it, we can sometimes find someone else's fears silly, though ours are always going to be very, very real.

Look. Even if you don't suffer from popular (?) phobias such as arachnophobia (spiders), ophidiophobia (snakes), acrophobia (heights), or even cynophobia (fear of dogs) or ailurophobia/gatophobia (fear of cats), you can at least understand why they may be something from which one could suffer. But some, like globophobia (fear of balloons), trypophobia (fear of holes) or koumpounophobia (fear of buttons), just leave me shaking my head.

So why am I even bothering with all this blah, blah, blah about phobias anyway. Well, as Walter and I were talking about his acquaintance's weather worries, a column idea oozed its way into my head. I came up with the great notion that … we have names for fears of things we didn't even know it was possible to be afraid, but we didn't have a name for something huge, like the fear of cancer. I was working on a whole column around that idea. I was really rolling... Yeah, brothers and sister, there's labels for fear of zombies, being attacked by and turned into one (kinemortophobia) or fear of belly buttons (omphalophobia). But we have no name for the fear of cancer. My indignation meter was pinned, people.

But, then, I found out what most of you already knew- there is such a phobia. Carcinophobia Yeah. Well, in my defense- if it wasn't for my general, but well-rounded ignorance, I might never be able to write about anything.

As it turns out, carcinophobia is a very real fear, which, can, in fact, lead to agoraphobia where the person refuses to leave home for fear of getting cancer.

Wow. Who knew? I certainly didn't have carcinophobia prior to getting cancer, and I don't have it now. I mean, I just got cancer. I didn't have the chance to be afraid of it.

I do think about “just getting it,” though, when friends get word from their doctors that there's “ a shadow on your x-rays,” or they find a lump they can't really identify. That strikes me as being truly scary. Release the three Ws- waiting, wondering and worrying! Look at all the time you would need to spend talking yourself into knowing there's nothing to worry about, that it's all going to be okay, but...

As you can surely see, the talk of phobias caused me to actually do some research before writing this week. I know you didn't think I knew what koumpounophobia was off the top of my head. But looking up a phobia can't help but lead to looking up a bunch of them. It's like when I was in school and needed to look up a word in the dictionary. It invariably took much longer than it should have because I kept noticing other words, like so much bright and shiny stuff, which distracted me from my original word search. Or in modern terms, it's like going to the Internet and only looking at one site. How is that supposed to happen? Like the proverbial peanuts, or Lay's potato chips, one is only going to lead to another and then another and so on and so on and scooby dooby do. (Editor's note: this would be scooby dooby do as in Sly and the Family Stone's “Everyday People,” rather than in Frank Sinatra's “Strangers in the Night.” Just sayin'.)

Anyway, I got all bogged down in this and, is so often the case, ended up knowing way more than I ever wanted to about phobias. After all, it bothered me a few weeks ago when I was writing a piece that included references to coulrophobia, and that didn't require any research. I just knew what it was. (As I'm sure you'll remember, coulrophobia is the fear of clowns.)

I guess the end result of all this is- if you can be afraid of something, you can be sure there is a “proper” name for it. Yes, I did not, nor do I now, have a fear of cancer. It would not have surprised me, though, if I did, or do, develop trypanophobia (a fear of needles), nosocomephobia (fear of hospitals) or latrophobia (fear of doctors).

I think being afraid of something to the point where it develops into a phobia is a terrible thing. Probably just as well I couldn't find the “proper” name for the fear of having multiple spleens. I'm just going to have to live with it. Oh the horror.

There are a variety of versions of the story that gives this blog its name. The pony is the constant in all of them. A man is on his way to a party when he comes across a young boy shoveling ass over tea kettle at an enormous mountain of manure. The man asks the child if he wouldn't rather go with him to the party than shovel all that poop. The kid says, “No way man. With all that poop... there must be a pony in there somewhere