Almost everyone I talk to about phobias has one - an irrational fear, sometimes described as a morbid fear, that affects the way they live their lives, often on a daily basis.
It's the kind of fear that makes people cover up mirrors, sleep with the light on, or use synthetic pillows.
I know phobia.
For years, the first thing I did when entering a room was to perform a spider check. It was mostly unconscious. If I was first to enter a room, I would turn on the light, glance at the light switch area, then take a quick look at corners and walls.
When you have a phobia, you develop a sixth sense for it. If there was a spider in a room, I'd find it. It was like a really crappy superpower that led to momentary paralysis.
Upon seeing a spider, I would feel a familiar stab of terror. Everything would stop. I considered, spiders so alien that their presence on the planet a cosmic mistake. The idea that there was such a thing as a 'house spider' seemed abominable. There were two words that didn't belong next to each other.
The Joy of Fear
I forced myself to get over my fear of spiders, but I still find phobias, their origins, and their causes, very interesting. Is it wrong to have favourite fears? As a dark fiction writer interested in the point where reality meets delusion or imagination, I think browsing fears is a bit like an artist admiring brushes.
I'm intrigued by the fear of birds (ornithopobia). No bird feeders, no trees, no outside.
Or fear of feathers, specifically being tickled by them (pteronophobia). No feather pillows. No quills. And definitely no dusting.
Fear of water (hydrophobia or rabies) is another one. It's how far these fears are from seeming scary - from my point of view - that makes them fascinating to me.
My ultimate favorite, however, is still the fear of chairs. When I first heard about it, my first thought was: "But they're everywhere. Everywhere!" If you're going to have a fear that severely limits your ability to function on a daily basis, a fear of chairs seems like a good one.
I've not been able to find a specific phobia for chairs indexed online. There is, however, furniturephobia, which looks like I made it up, but I assure you I did not. Kathisophobia or thaasophobia is the fear of sitting, but that isn't quite it either. The word I'm looking for needs to cover a fear of the chair or seat itself, as an object.
Chairophobia or klismosophobia (these, I just made up), might do, but the guy who introduced me to the fear of chairs said that he couldn't find the name for it either. And he didn't know anyone else who suffered.
He'd had years to consider his dread of being touched by chairs, which I could relate to with my (mostly past) fear spiders. Unlike my phobia, however, his came with conditions.
1. The chairs were not a threat if they were secured to the ground. Seats on a bus and rows of seats in a cinema, for example, are all fine.
2. Chairs behaved themselves in public. No chair would ever move in public.
Otherwise, chairs were sentient and they meant harm to anyone who knew their secret.
Now Read The Chair
My mind returned over and over to this guy and his fear of chairs. Fortunately, he recovered from the phobia, as did I. He took part in what might be described as family therapy. I had to face my phobia or risk my kids developing the same fear.
As for the protagonist of The Chair ... well, we all have our own path towards freedom.
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