The Sum Of All Irrational Fears

April 20, 2017

Did you see that story about the shark in the swimming pool in Bondi? A whaler was washed into the pool and was there for a couple of hours before it was liberated and returned to the ocean. People had no idea and kept swimming in the pool with it, trapped in there. I read that and thought “Faaaaaarrrrrr Out”. I feel that justifies everyone’s irrational fear of a shark popping up in their swimming pool. As does the truly ridiculous movie ‘Shark Pool’.

My Frusband is always having a crack at me about my irrational fear of green frogs. I am absolutely terrified of them thanks to a HFI* (Horrific Frog Incident) when I was young. I won’t go into the gory details – but it was really gory – and involved me hurriedly putting on my knee length riding boots (I was competing at the time) and jumping a clear round with what I thought was a sweaty sock in the toe of one of my boots. It wasn’t. Now, I’m not completely insane Dear Reader, I realised a green frog cannot actually harm me. But isn’t that the point of the irrational fear?

My Bestie Agatha has a theory my fear of frogs is tied into a possible fear of commitment and like the Brothers Grimm tale of the Frog Prince, I should kiss the next green frog that hops on to my veranda just to see what happens. It’s called exposure therapy. I can tell you exactly what would happen – I would scream my head off, scaring the frog which would probably then leap on to me, clinging on with its bobbley, creepy fingers, like the classic sci-fi movie’s face-gripping alien. Eeeeewwwwwww.

Academy Award Winning actor Billy Bob Thornton is scared of antique furniture. The likelihood of a French Louis XV style vintage floral Bergere arm chair attacking him on set is limited at best, but does that mean he isn’t frightened of them? No.

There could be far worse irrational fears – turophobia (fear of cheese) or hylophobia (fear of trees).You know what doesn’t help? Scientists and their fancy-schmancy “research” trying to get to the bottom of these matters. In what comes as absolutely no surprise whatsoever, the majority of genuine arachnophobes (fear of spiders) are women, up to 90 per cent. University of NSW researchers are investigating whether women are more likely to develop a fear of spiders and less likely to respond to treatment for their anxiety at certain times in their menstrual cycle.

I’d just like to stop the researcher’s right there because the answers are yes and yes. Study complete. Well not quite yet, but what they’re doing is taking a bunch of women who are terrified of spiders, and doing exposure therapy. The first part involves the patient talking about their problems with spiders BUT they are NOT allowed call the spider disgusting. Sounds like couples counselling to me. Think about it – SHE is repulsed by HIM, can’t stand to touch HIM and be touched by HIM and HE is largely clueless just going about HIS normal life, crawling about the place.

Interestingly 40 per cent of people experience no reduction in anxiety after exposure therapy. I’d like to point out that if the women in this study are anything like me during that time of the month then I pity those spiders, as they could be in grave danger and being called disgusting would be the least of their problems. They’d be lucky if I didn’t eat them! Seriously I get so ravenous I will eat anything – in massive quantities. And I’m not always a barrel of laughs to be around.

It reminds of that hilarious movie Mystery Men when William H Macy and co. are trying to recruit another superhero during interviews in his backyard. A woman in a cape rocks up and says “Hi, I’m the PMS Avenger, but I only work one week a month.” Amen to that Sister! Back to arachnophobes, FYI the University of NSW researchers are running a workshop on May 13 at the Australian Museum, should you want to find out more.

If you can’t make it, then I suggest you watch Mutant Giant Spider Dog – it’s hysterical.

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Alexandria Bernard
With a successful 20+ year career in media and communications, Alex’s media portfolio includes contracts as a radio and television presenter (612 ABC, 4BC, Channel 9 and Network Ten) and as a feature writer for bmag and Brisbane Times.

Alex's voice and face may be familiar to you from her voiceover and television commercial work. She has been featured in national radio and TV advertising campaigns, corporate videos and has been a regular MC for major events.