Phobias and a Journey in and out of Neurotic Anxiety Attacks
By: J. Marlando
My wife loves to fly. She used to be a flight attendant. I went through a period in my life that it seemed every job I took demanded I fly someplace, Las Vegas…Thailand…Australia…I hate to fly! It worries me…ah, okay, I admit it…it scares me! I fear being 3,000 feet in the air, stuck in a tube that two people, I don’t know, are in control of and depending on engines I don’t trust. Sure, I can force myself to fly because of work or because of my wife’s reluctance to drive for more than an hour or so but I am never comfortable until I’m back on the ground and sitting in the airport bar swigging down a “Ah, made-it” drink.
I have a few phobias and probably so do you. A phobia is a neurotic disorder made out of a persistent, unreasonable and exaggerated fear. Doctors, nurses, hospitals and med. clinics give me these symptoms. The truth is, doctors have saved my life more than once but that doesn’t change my phobia…phobias are neurotic remember?
Doctor Stephen Juan tells us that people often confuse fears and phobias, he says, “Basically a fear is reasonable, but a phobia is unreasonable. Let’s explore only a few named phobias that most of us would absolutely name…unreasonable: Crossing streets—Agyiophbia. Dirt—Mysophobia. Feces—Coprophobia. Flowers—Anthophobia. Mirrors—Eisoptrophobia and sexual intercourse—Coitophobia. Nakedness—Gymnophobia and obviously most everyone has a fear of death—Thanatophobia. As for me, I’m exactly like Woody Allen who clearly stated, “I'm not afraid to die. I just don't want to be there when it happens.”
There are lots of phobias we can laugh at…as long as they aren’t ours. Fortunately most people realize their phobia and simply avoid what activates them at least as much as possible. For example, I only fly when I have to or feel obliged to. Well, that’s not altogether true—I have no fear of flying in small planes, it’s the big jets that scare me. When I think about it, what my phobia really is…is being so completely out of control; I call it sittingduckiaphobia.
Anyway, there are over 250 phobias common enough to be given scientific names like the phobic fear of bees Apiphobia—or dolls Pediophobia. But as anxiety filled as all these known phobias are, I can imagine that suffering from an unknown phobia is probably the worst experience because it is generally the cause behind dreaded neurotic anxiety attacks.
Anxiety attacks can be devastating causing “spaghetti” legs, heart palpitations and even a total loss of control over one’s body. I’ll tell you about a person who had these kinds of experiences for three whole years, taking valiums to simply get through the day.
Things were going wonderfully well for this person and he was in absolutely great health. Also, he was about to marry and having a baby was in the works; the future looked extremely bright. Then one day, something weird or strange happened. He was driving along when he felt a crazy-making urge to hide or to run. He felt somewhat paranoiac, afraid…but afraid of what?
He continued home and went to bed early. He determined that whatever was wrong would be gone when he woke up. It didn’t happen that way, however. The feelings of anxiety were worse, he thought he might be having some kind of heart problem but when he went to a doctor, the doctor gave him a tranquillizer of some kind and zap he felt okay for a few hours. But then, as soon as the pill wore off the terrible anxiety took over again. There were times he thought he had “lost it” altogether like when traffic lights presented some uncanny danger and became threatening like some mythological monster.
His relationship began to fail or at least fill with problems. Well, what young woman wants to get tangled up with a guy who has those kinds of problems?
Like everyone I suppose he tried to trace his anxiety to some past incident. He had seen a psychologist who simply told him he would probably have the attacks…for the rest of his life; to accept that and learn to cope.
He finally found a capable psychiatrist who was shocked to hear what the psychologist had said. He called him and told him how inadequate his conclusion was, how terrible and destructive it was to tell a patient that he would never get well. And so, he started seeing this doctor weekly but to no real prevail.
He also kept thinking back to his childhood wondering what terror or horror story that he had pushed into the deepest chasms of his mind—there had to be something! Well, his childhood had its unhappy times but there was also his grandmother who was the joy of his life. If there had been some terrible things in the child’s life, the grandmother had more than compensated for them and he had loved her more than anything else in the world.
His grandmother loved him too. Indeed she would call him “the apple of her eye” and tell him that all she wanted was to live to see him grow up, have a wife and family of his own and be happy. So grandson and grandmother were deeply attached and there was nothing to drag up from the deep chasms of his psyche to justify his anxiety attacks.
A year went by and finally the doctor decided to try hypnosis. This continued for a number of sessions without anything very positive resulting. Then, at last the romance broke up; the young woman left, she wanted nothing more to do with the situation. Then, not long thereafter the young man had a dream. This is a studied detail of that dream:
He was driving his car with the young lady next to him with a lovely baby in her arms—his baby.
He stops the car and they all get out. Suddenly he looks up to the third story of an old, brick building and sees his grandmother balancing on the edge. She is weaving back and forth almost falling.
He turns toward the young woman who accidently drops the baby and the baby runs toward a cliff and that ends the dream.
The young man awoke the next morning and the anxiety was all gone, he consciously felt back to normal. This lasted and he told the doctor about his dream and what seemed to be a miraculous healing. The doctor wanted to keep the hypnosis sessions going in an attempt to find out what the key to the healing was all about.
Under one session the young man regressed back to his childhood and to one of the times that his grandmother was telling him how much she loved him. And she said what she had said many times before; she only wanted to live until he grew up, married, had children of his own and was happy.
When that particular session was over both psychiatrist and patient understood exactly what had caused the anxiety attacks: Somewhere in the unconscious of the young man, he had twisted the message of his grandmother and believed that if he ever married, had children and was happy, he would cause her death. Recall that his healing began when the young woman walked out on him. Indeed, with her out of his life, the reason for the anxiety was gone.
As bizarre as all this may sound, I can tell you this is an absolutely true story as I was that young man. I was thirty-one years old then and I had always run away from serious relationships; they had scared me and so whenever a girl or young lady got serious, I withdrew immediately. I had always thought that I responded that way because I was “cool” and wanted lots of relationships and all of that. I never dreamed there was a deeply rooted reason why I ran away from every woman who wanted more than a causal relationship with me—who wanted marriage, children and that kind of happiness.
Once I understood all that and realized the false belief I had harbored for…well, since early childhood, I married and have been living happily with the same woman for well over thirty years. I managed to leave the old fear by the wayside but I was forty years old before I could really do that and be totally free from the fear of being responsible for my grandmother’s death.
I am sharing this to tell you what is behind most neurosis, anxiety attacks. I can say in nearly all instances the sufferer believes on one level of consciousness or another some FALSE truth. In regard to this, it is interesting to me that we are told that, “it is the truth that sets us free.” Nothing could be truer when it comes to phobias. The name for the fear of marriage is Gamophobia and I certainly had that as a symptom of the deeper fear of harming the very person that I loved absolutely, my grandmother.
If you are enduring neurotic anxiety attacks, the first thing to do is seek out a qualified psychiatrist or psychologist. Get references! That piece of paper on the wall does not guarantee your doctor is anything but a text-book-technician in the guise of being a doctor. I saw two or three real nut cases before I found a truly talented doctor…and one that actually served to cure the problem as opposed to only dissolve the symptoms with pills or misinformation.
Even though your phobia is based on a false truth of some kind doesn’t mean that it isn’t real or you’re just imagining your symptoms—serious anxiety can be a horrifying experience. Although I have not had an attack for over half of a century, I still remember the terror and pain of it all. That is why I dared tell you my story and am here to tell you that you can triumph over your anxiety attacks and/or your deepest phobias with the help of a truly good therapist and seeking the truth. When it comes down to phobias it is the truth that will set you free.