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  • Laura

Fear & Phobias

Updated: Oct 6, 2023

I have written about feeling overwhelmed, but a whole upper echelon of fear exists in a different stratosphere: phobias. I can’t overemphasize how important it is to cultivate hope in the midst of the emotional chaos that defines phobias. One thing to keep in mind with phobias is the toll they take on you – It is more than merely emotional – they also take hold of you physically and intellectually.

Many people have phobias and try to keep them a secret. (Spoiler alert: doing so only makes them exponentially worse). Some of us have phobias we can live with (i.e., they do not disrupt daily life – e.g., a phobia of snakes when you live somewhere where snakes are very rare). Phobias can, however, rule your life if you’re not careful.

I’ve been feeling overwhelmed lately – I’m battling a new type of chaos, one that is nearly all related to anxiety. The new kind of chaos I’m waging war on is the phobia I have developed around riding my horse. My trainer – an incredible matchmaker – found her for me, and this horse hasn’t put a foot wrong since I purchased her in February. Yet my anxiety is through the roof.

Even if my assistant trainer tells me to breathe, I feel like I will start hyperventilating or stop breathing altogether. I am routinely terrified that this ride will leave me horribly hurt or, worse yet, permanently injured or dead. My phobia about riding is not one I have kept quiet; instead, I have voiced my fears to my trainers, who have – much to their credit – not played into those fears but instead have given me a place to feel those fears and – hopefully – to stop believing them.

So, I’ve revealed one of my two phobias – riding my horse; my other true love is writing – specifically my manuscript and my blog (both of which can feel like pipe dreams in the light of my phobia). This, in turn, leads me to self-recrimination and self-flagellation for not having finished my manuscript, not to mention not getting this post done even remotely on time.

I fear that I will never find a publisher for my manuscript. Admittedly, this is a fear of any writer who desires to publish, so it’s not an uncommon fear – I, however, have moved well beyond fear and into phobia. I’m going through an anxiety/phobia workbook and almost skipped the chapter on phobias. My therapist and I agreed to go through the book chapter by chapter, so I committed to read them all. I thought, going in, that reading about phobias was a waste of time.

In an effort to boost my confidence, my assistant trainer has gone back to the absolute basics. Lots of walk and trot, less cantering and trotting, not cantering, over poles (not even jumps). I was terrified of trotting poles a few months ago; now I am doing them just fine – same idea with cantering the poles and eventually working my way up to small jumps (which is all I aspire to do at this point in my life). You wouldn’t think that someone who has jumped four feet would be terrified of cantering a pole on the ground, but there you have it: I am that person.

I have started showing again, and because it has been more than three years since my last competition (WELL over three years ago), I am eligible to start over at the beginning. So, while it might seem silly that I am showing in the ground pole division, I am getting a kick out of showing – something I haven’t felt about competing in a long time, so that’s been fun. I’m hoping to move onward and upward, not just in the level of competition but in terms of conquering my horse-related phobia as well.

Phobias HATE your commitment to achieve, regardless of how big that achievement is. My progress at home and at the horse shows is killing my phobia. Is it gone? No, but it’s headed in the right direction (sorry, phobia).

So, beat back the Beast – look your phobia(s) in the face, and do what I admit is very difficult for me: challenge your phobia(s). Bring it out of the shadows and challenge) your distorted view (brought to you courtesy of the Beast that loves for you to be uncertain, and with uncertainty can come suicidality. Believe me, little brings on suicidality quicker than feeling like a failure for not addressing your phobia(s). Phobias are hard enough – don’t let them rule you, and don’t let them steal your joy. The quickest way to get out from under the crushing weight of a phobia is to look it in the face and cut it down to size. Phobias thrive on secrecy; in order to get out from under the weight of your phobia(s), expose them for what they are: frauds.

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Oct 13, 2023

I never thought the bone crushing anxiety of basic living skills of keeping bills, banking-and paperwork in order as a phobia but when you used it to describe anxiety of what I presume is a basic skill for you, that’s exactly what came to my mind. Phobia that builds up so everything gets paid right before it’s too late. I’ve never been late on a bill and maintain high credit but at what cost? Ha!


Liz O'Brien
Liz O'Brien
Oct 06, 2023

Hi Laura, thank you so much for sharing! This is so interesting, as always. I think we all have our phobias, even if they are secret. Thank you to you, I am always inspired to work towards being a better person, you’re the best! Liz

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