Zoom Meeting Sermon October 30 2022


Topic: Irrational Fears and Phobias

Many of us are afflicted with irrational fears or phobias. The things we are afraid of, and the way we react when exposed to those things, vary wildly from person to person. Today we’re going to talk about some common fears, and I will be sharing my own list of phobias and my rational-but-irrational justification for them. You will all be invited to share your own list of phobias, and we can all talk about where these fears come from and how we deal with them.

One of the most common and well-known phobias is arachnophobia, the fear of spiders. It makes sense from an evolutionary perspective, as our ancestors did not have the medical technology to deal with a spider bite, making a fear of spiders rational. While the vast majority of spider species are harmless to humans, and we know what the dangerous ones look like and where they live, a lot of people are still terrified of spiders. Some people are able to overcome this fear by educating themselves about the benevolent nature of most spider species, but most people with arachnophobia just make a habit of killing any spider they see.

Another common phobia is glossophobia, or the fear of public speaking. I am lucky enough not to suffer from this particular condition, but it is estimated that up to seventy-five percent of the population does. Fear of public speaking is actually more common than thanatophobia, the fear of death, meaning that speaking in front of a crowd terrifies more people than the idea of dying does. I think it’s because nobody wants to make an idiot of themselves in front of a large group of people and get socially ostracized and kicked out of their tribe, truly a fate worse than death.

I personally am afflicted with coulrophobia, the fear of clowns, and galeophobia, the fear of sharks.  Although the severity of these two afflictions differs, my method of dealing with them is the same: I live my life in such a way as to minimize all potential encounters with either of these things. I don’t watch movies with sharks or clowns in them, and I don’t visit aquariums or circuses. When confronted with a shark or a clown, I generally close my eyes and wait for it to go away. If it’s coming toward me, I’ll try to escape. I will only resort to violence if cornered.

Now, intellectually, I know that I am safe from both sharks and clowns. One is actually probably harmless, and the other is easily avoided. Knowing this does not prevent the physiological and psychological reaction to the object of a phobia, because there’s also a rational element. Fear of sharks makes sense on a basic survival level because have you seen sharks? They’re terrifying; they are basically swimming hunger pockets with infinite teeth at one end. Imagine one of those getting ahold of your leg while out surfing or something. Fear of clowns also makes sense; no matter how benevolent, clowns are just creepy. You cannot see their real face or their true expression. They just have this Leering Death Mask of Frivolity thing going on, with that big, painted-on grin like they tried to put on lipstick during an earthquake. Creepy. So the phobia usually wins.

An interesting consequence of the pandemic and associated lockdown is that now more people are suffering from agoraphobia, the fear of open spaces. We have been staying home, living and working in the same confined space for so long that being out in the open feels overwhelming. More people are doing most of their shopping online, and taking advantage of the multitude of delivery options now available. You hardly ever have to leave your house these days, and a lot of people are finding it outright frightening to do so.

Do you suffer from any irrational fears? If so, how do you cope with your fear?



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