BTR Talks Greatest Fears

ADDITIONAL CONTRIBUTORS Tanya Silverman Liz Francis Jared Ettinger

There are as many fears as there are people in the world–in fact, it may be fair to say there are even more fears than individuals since each person can be afraid of more than one thing. Many phobias have been named, even those you wouldn’t first think could possibly exist, like pogonophobia, the fear of beards, or philophobia, the fear of being or falling in love.

However, whether or not a specific fear has a lengthy or difficult-to-pronounce name, it feels real to those who experience it. In honor of discussing our fears, some BTR staff members have faced their phobias to explain where they come from or why they feel such fright.

Molly’s Fear: Tunnels

I’m afraid of a lot of things, and my fear of tunnels is borne of a mixture of many other phobias. I hate enclosed spaces, I don’t like being underground, I’m not overly fond of the dark. So all of those dislikes wrapped up have created an intense fear of tunnels–which is a difficult fear to have while living in New York City considering how much of my day is spent in tunnels underneath the ground.

When I first started commuting into NYC from New Jersey, I would be so overcome with anxiety that I came very close to having a panic attack every single morning and evening of my workweek. I dealt with this by counting, silly as it may sound, and I knew exactly how long it took from the time the train entered the tunnel to when we arrived at Penn Station (roughly four minutes).

When I moved to Long Island, the tunnel time grew longer (six minutes), but having to face my fear for so long every day (five days a week) helped me to feel calmer during my commute. I still don’t enjoy being in tunnels–my anxiety skyrockets if I’m underground longer than I prepared to be–but the experience is not nearly as panic-inducing as it used to be.

Still, I’d much prefer to change my mode of commuting to completely avoid tunnels.

Photo by Tanya Silverman.

Tanya’s Fear: Oceans

It’s big, it’s blue, it’s salty, and goddamn, it’s so scary! As a mere mortal human, the idea of a massive body of water that’s filled with billions of bloodthirsty, sharp-toothed marine species is incredibly terrifying. The risks of rip tides, undercurrents, and other sorts of uncontrollable forces are just as intimidating to my meek terrestrial self.

This isn’t to say I won’t ever enter the ocean. I do so in small increments, some of which have caused me to start shrieking at the ambush of little waves–which was an entertaining scene once for a fellow swimmer in Far Rockaway, NY, who kept chuckling at my silly-seeming bouts of panic. Recently, when I was in Ft Lauderdale, FL, I waded ankle-deep into the warm ocean water, but the sight of several jellyfish made me shout and sprint back onto the safe sand.

I’ve traveled to beautiful beaches in places like the Philippines, Malaysia, and Thailand, where I found myself arguing with scuba divers about how I’d never try their cherished underwater activity.

Lakes and pools never cause me to cower, I suppose because they seem smaller and more controlled; planes and heights don’t bother me either, probably because they’re aerial and terrestrial. The world’s greatest bodies of water, though, never fail to frighten me.

Jared’s Fear: Bees

My biggest physical fear is kind of typical: I’m terrified of bees. I can handle spiders. I’m not even that frightened by mosquitoes. I think praying mantises are pretty cool. But bees? Oh, boy.

To be fair to the fuzzy little honeybees, it’s not them I’m afraid of (though Jerry Seinfeld’s character in Bee Movie still gives me nightmares). To be more specific, I get really scared of hornets, wasps, and yellow jackets. All of their buzzing noises sound so malicious, like they’re out to get you specifically. They’re incredibly persistent and fast, and unless you happen to be near a body of water, escaping them is impossible without drawing their attention.

What makes bees worse is the way they always interrupt you when you’re in the middle of something. Having a picnic? We’re here, bro. Taking a nice walk through the woods? Oh, good to see you dude. Concentrating on a lesson in class? Don’t mind me, I’ll just be crawling around the window aimlessly. Whenever a bee gets close to me, I flinch involuntarily. It’s pretty embarrassing when I’m around other people.

Like most fears, there’s a scientific name for being afraid of bees: melissophobia. Do you identify as a melissophobe? I’d love to hear your coping measures, since nothing I’ve found has worked yet.

Photo courtesy of Joi Ito.

Liz’s Fear: Jewelry

Fear is a funny thing, and my fear is even funnier. Ever since I can remember, I’ve had a strange phobia about jewelry.

Apparently it’s called “kosmemophobia” and although it’s not medically recognized, it has a medical name. Things that gross me out: necklace chains, toe rings, diamonds (I’ll be an easy spouse), anything delicate, especially if it’s gold. A week ago a friend leaned over to hug me, and although I didn’t feel the sensation, I knew her lengthy delicate-chained diamond necklace managed to touch my hair. I had to fight the urge to wash my hair, to clean myself. I felt dirty. I am feeling disgust and fear right now, just writing this.

My fear of jewelry is strange, especially when I count my total piercings: 11 in all. But I have rules. I don’t wear chains, only industrial silver and metal. Only studs, with the exception of my tragus and nose. I like pearls and turquoise, plain silver, and nothing else. I had one ring I could wear, until it was stolen from my house a few weeks ago, so now I’m basically down to nothing. As far as necklaces go, I can handle rope-cord or hemp, but if given a gold chain, I gag.

So, if you hang out with me and wear a lot of gold chains, dangly earrings, or elaborate body jewelry, don’t be offended if I shy away from a hug or physical contact–it’s not you, it’s me.

Featured photo courtesy of Metropolitan Transportation Authority of the State of New York.