Sunday, 12 February 2012

Fear and Understanding.

Phobia:  An extreme or irrational fear of, or aversion to something.

Last night, there was a programme on the BBC called The Magicians.  During the show, a magician swallowed a maggot and described its journey through his sinuses before making it pop out of his eye, with the camera close up so you see the whole eye plus maggot.

Cool trick aside, I didn't think it at the time.  You see, through the whole thing, I was getting more and more disgusted and agitated.  When the trick came to its final climax, I screamed and ran into the kitchen in tears.  Why the reaction?  Since I was a child, I have been terrified of maggots.  I remember the trigger; I was eating an outdoor meal with my family when a maggot came out of my food and crawled up my arm.  I didn't notice it until I felt it on my skin and when I realised, I freaked.  I didn't know what it was at the time - to my child mind, the only thing I associated with wriggling creatures was snakes (we lived in tropical climes).  When I screamed that there was a tiny snake on my arm, my mother took it upon herself to poke and tickle me, declaring she saw more on my body. 

I haven't been able to stand maggots since.  I had learnt about them not long after, but knowing they ate flesh did nothing for my fear.  Now I was even more convinced I didn't want them near me, despite reassurances that they were harmless and only ate rotting flesh.  That's the funny thing about developing a fear, I suppose.  No matter how much you rationalise it, no matter how much you think it's just a silly fear, when you are facing it, all reason flies out of your head. 

I guess I'm at a bit of an advantage with my fear.  Maggots aren't usually common to see around (here anyway - they were everywhere when I was growing up in Brunei), so sometimes I forget how scared I get around them until I see one.  There are times when I can take it better than others.  I enjoy crime dramas like CSI, so seeing a decaying body with a swarm of the creatures gets my hackles up, but not much more.  The difference with The Magicians I think is the fact it was a live studio audience at the time, combined with the extreme stunt.  But it was a stark reminder of how "not okay" I was with them.

In describing this to one of my best friends, she pointed something out to me with some irony.  I should be more understanding towards her and her phobia of spiders as a result.  It was a slap in the face, I have to admit.  I used to tease her about spiders and often cited my sadness and displeasure at her killing them when they were so easy to catch and release outside.  Using my own fear as her example, I realised how cruel I had been to her in suggesting she catches them and release them, because I wouldn't be able to do that with a maggot. 

It's strange how you get hit with a lesson you didn't realise you needed to learn.  I would still encourage her to face her fear, just as I would hope someone would support me if and when I have to see one again.  But maybe now I'd be a little more aware when I laugh when she screams at the sight of a house spider.  I know I don't appreciate being laughed at for screaming at a maggot.

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