What is it that YOU fear the most?


We are all afraid of something! It can be the huge, looming protagonist of our nightmares or the tiny, nondescript bug we find crawling up our leg. Fear is powerful. It can motivate us or it can cause us to stagnate and block us from following our dreams. But we can work with our fear and make it our ally.

Artwork by Autumn- Monster

Criminologist Gavin de Becker wrote The Gift of Fear in 1997. Becker wanted us to know that we are all capable of (and responsible for) learning how to protect ourselves from violence. One of those skills is to trust our intuition…go with our guts. We teach our children about the “uh-oh” feeling – an internal cue of “ickiness” that helps the child to recognize when they may not be safe. Parents are encouraged to pay attention when their child reacts fearfully when Uncle Opa comes to visit or when they are left with a new babysitter. We tell them not to comply when asked by a stranger to help them find their puppy, etc. Throughout the book, Gavin de Becker offers sage advice about trusting our intuition and our perceptions of people or events that will likely end in harm or violence, and help to differentiate good from bad, and safe from dangerous. He does so, in part, by reminding us in situations that we have managed well, dreams that have manifested.


“Like every creature, you can know when you are in the presence of danger. You have the gift of a brilliant internal guardian that stands ready to warn you of hazards and guide you through risky situations” (Gavin de Becker, The Gift of Fear, p.6


Gavin de Becker wants us to know that we all have the capability of and responsibility to protect ourselves from violence. One skill that we can develop is trust in our intuition and this can start in infancy.  It is an infant’s “intuition” that allows them to believe Mama will soon be feeding her. If an infant cries out at feeding time, most mother’s respond as quickly as possible. If ‘feeding time’ is delayed or does not come at all, the infant will soon learn that the parent is untrustworthy and may not adequately develop the power of intuition.

Some people define intuition as going with our gut and we often pass this one to our kids. Parents often speak with their child about the ‘uh-oh’ feeling – an internal cue of ‘ickiness’ that can help kids recognize that something in their environment is wrong and that they may not be safe.

 We teach our children about the “uh-oh” feeling – an internal cue of “ickiness”  that helps the child to recognize when they may not be safe. Pay attention when your child reacts fearfully when Uncle Opa comes to visit or when they are left with a new babysitter. We tell our kids not to comply when asked by a stranger to help them find their puppy, etc. We tell them to ‘run away’, tell a trusted adult but not to go anywhere with them. As parents, we often worry that by talking about safety we are frightening our children but it may be saving them from kidnapping attempts, molestation, etc.

Gavin de Becker offers sage advice about trusting our intuition and our perceptions of people or events that will likely end in harm or violence, and help to differentiate good from bad, and safe from dangerous. He does so, in part, by reminding us in situations in our own history that ended well and those that didn’t.

Fear of violence isn’t the only type of fear you might fear. I did a quick survey on Facebook about the kinds of things that we fear the most. To some people, a fear of spiders is benign…a fear that is easily ‘conquerable.’ But the person with a phobia for spiders may not agree. The sighting of a spider may send them into a panic attack. Intense fear or discomfort may consume an individual. They may experience palpitations, a pounding heart, sweating, trembling, a sense of smothering or feeling of choking, abdominal distress, fear of losing control (or “going crazy”) or even fear that they are on the verge of dying. The attack can be so extreme that they have feelings of unreality or being detached from one’s body. (“This is not happening to me.”)

What do you fear the most? 

 A lot may depend on where you live, sleep, work, or even the society or culture to which you belong. A decade or even a generation or two ago, our fears were different than they might be today. Now women who travel sometimes fear that they will be kidnapped or forced into prostitution or sex trafficking? Does this seem unlikely to you? Trafficking women and children for sexual exploitation is the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world. Statistics vary, but I think we can all agree that it is a valid fear…as is rape. And Cancer.

If you watch the news today, you may wonder how people who live in the  Midwest are surviving the fires that are ravaging their land and homes. The undocumented fear deportation (or separation from their loved ones), we all fear terrorism even though sources tell us that fear will bring our nation harm. Black transgendered women (in particular) fear beatings and death, as do many in the LGBTQ community. People fear the disabling or even fatal viruses spreading my ticks and mosquitoes. Some people avoid going outside at all. Sadly, immigrant women fear to report incidents of domestic violence as it can result in deportation of either spouse.

Parents suffer from fears involving themselves and their families.  Many fear that they will predecease their child, that they will be forced with their family into poverty and homelessness. They are afraid their children will go hungry. Even home invasions.

Children fear the ‘monster under the bed”, getting lost, a parent(s) dying (which they also consider an ‘impossibility’), parental divorce, being kidnapped or abused, fire. But they also share many of the fears of grown-ups.  Some scientists believe that the concerns of the adults present in our children’s lives can be genetically passed on.

I have an acquaintance who does not want to be touched by another human being. Ever. He stiffens at the chance of a handshake or hug, whether it is that of a stranger, close friends, or even a romantic partner.   A little research brought me to a little-known phobia called haphephobia. Touch is unbearable. A similar phobia called mysophobia involves a person obsessed with protecting their personal space. Phobias can arise spontaneously or in response to touch that was harmful (abuse/battering), burglary, and even seemingly benign experiences.

Here is a quick look at some other unusual fears and phobias- some you may have heard of and others so rare that even a diligent search may not identify them:

  • For those of you who are werewolves (as well as, ordinary people) there is a fear of the moon. It is referred to as Sellenophobia.

Coulrophobia is a more generalized fear of individuals wearing makeup, wigs (often orange or red) and big red noses. CLOWNS. Author Stephen Kind propagated this fear in his novel, IT.  This evil clown pitch was a recent media hoax of killer clowns supposedly hiding in our forests and the edges of parking lots. Sightings have been reported in both the United States and the United Kingdom. This is often not an actual phobia and can be easily avoidable by staying away from circuses and other clownish events. Some individual did die as a result of the chaos the hoax caused. Coulrophobia does not typically interfere with our daily functioning as the fear of rain might.

Trypophobia is relatively rare and is a term coined on the internet in the mid- 2000’s. It is a fear of clusters of holes. I will write a bit more on trypanophobia in my forthcoming article about how fear affects our brains. I believe that I suffer from this visual myself as this image sends shivers up my spine. Seriously!!! So what is it about such images. Popular Science offers a “test” to see if the reader might have trypophobia. You can take it yourself to see if this might be something that can impact your daily functioning. Interesting stuff!

So  perhaps you are contemplating marriage or cohabitation, and you are trying to  get to know your partner. You know that she leaves her socks all over the floor and that he needs a lot of “space,” perhaps even a man cave on the premises. You ask all of the right questions in a most endearing manner. The topic comes up about whose responsibility it is to cook dinner in the evening as you both work 9 am-5pm at equally stressful workplaces.  Your partner has Mageirocophobia. Are you compatible? Are you destined to take-out meals every night? Mageirocophobia is the fear of cooking. Salads are still good, you consider, as you sign on the dotted line of your new “lease for two” and hope for the best.

But what about the fear of red lights? If you live in America, red lights help to control traffic, indicate that you should pull your car over because something is malfunctioning, and red identifies when you should or should not enter a room. Tapping a red button might mean that you hope to annihilate tens of thousands of people. Starting a nuclear war???? (This has been rumored, but I cannot state that it is true.) A fear of red lights is called Ereuthophobia. At least now you understand why the woman behind you is beeping her horn.

Why would someone be fearful of bald people? If you search google images, you could find hundreds of photos of Gene Simmons when he performed with the 80’s band, Kiss. I can understand the first image of Gene Simmons “in the day.” being terrifying to some. Search a little harder, and perhaps you will find a photo of Simmons now bald.  Fear of bald people is referred to as Peladophobia. Babies are bald. So is Gene Simmons.


Some would say Simmons looks much less frightening with no hair. But not the folks who suffer from Now, he looks far less frightening. But I think is female companion may have a phobia against bright lights. In one small research project it was determined that people with an aversion to ‘bright lights’ suffer more panic attacks that others with this disorder.






Failure can be paralyzing. It can keep us from moving forward, of achieving our goals. Sometimes people with atychiphobia unknowingly sabotage their own efforts because they worry that they will not succeed.

Although I will address ‘triggers’ in my next article, some of those who develop this phobia grew up with overly critical caregivers and carry that negativity into their adult life.

The fear of failure can catapult itself into mental disorders. Some of these disorders include generalized anxiety disorder, depression, social phobias, depressions and OCD.

Cracks in the sidewalk? Fear or phobia? Always consider the following when attempting to determine whether fear or set of behaviors has developed into one of the true phobias or a mental disorder (inclusion in the DSM-5):

  • Is the fear or associated behaviors outside the norm?
  • Does the fear cause distress in your life?
  • Does it impact how you function on all or most days?

The list of fears and phobias is extensive, perhaps, unending. If it exists, someone probably fears it. Fears sometimes develop around Halloween. The paranormal world provides us with ghosts, ghouls, poltergeists, shapeshifters, skin-crawlers, and other non-worldly entities. It is a holiday that can be a lot of fun or a holiday that is terrorizing for some.

     I mentioned briefly that fear can be our “friend,” especially in situations involving the potential for violence- emotional, physical, psychic, etc. Can you think of a time when you felt threatened even before you were approached by a potential perpetrator? I get frightened if I have to use an ATM at night or when the ATM is accessible to anyone. If there is someone else present, I am likely to withdraw less money figuring if I get “robbed” (which feels ‘imminent’ to me) they won’t get much money. My imagination is stirred up, and I begin to consider what I would do if someone insisted that I empty my bank accounts and give them the money. Or even more hideous…if they threatened or assaulted me.

So what good is having this gut feeling of fear? How does it keep me safe? Fear is a teacher. It has taught me to only use an ATM during the day in a busy area where a robbery is unlikely. So, as Gavin de Becker says, “Fear is a Gift.” I learned ‘avoidance’ of a particular set of circumstances.

Survivors of domestic violence often express that they knew intuitively when they may receive a beating.  Take, for example, a wife returning home after a stressful day at work. She is tired and grouchy. Her partner had not started preparing dinner but was bathing the children. She slams her briefcase onto the kitchen table and yells at her partner to come get their dinner in the oven. Her partner promises he will after finishing bath time. The wife goes into an immediate rant of how hard she works and that since her partner gets home an hour earlier than she, dinner should be on the table. When her partner refuses to continue arguing and keeps shampooing their child’s hair, she comes into the bathroom and begins to beat her partner with an antique hair brush. The child screams and scrambles to get out of the tub. Her partner is left with extensive bruising and a deflated ego as her response was to protect the child and bear the brunt of the assault.

What do you suppose would have happened if her partner acknowledged the instincts that provided the knowledge she needed to avoid an assault? She must have known that her partner was already in a bad mood that would likely worsen when she did not respond immediately to her demands, dry off the child and get dinner in the oven. But perhaps, in this case, all of the ‘gut feelings’ may not have allowed her to circumvent the assault.  Perhaps her instincts told her to remain with the child and not join in the aggressive rant. Perhaps she knew that unless she ‘fought back,’ injury would occur. Where can we find the gift in these circumstances? Perhaps it is a gift of a future without violence. Maybe she would leave.

               So I’ll wrap this up with the promise of FEAR TWO…a discussion about how our brains are impacted by the high emotion of fear. We will examine how victims of stalking may react when they are first convinced that they are being stalked and more about how your survival signals can protect you from violence. No matter where you live, how much money you do or do not have, whether you tend to be quiet and live a predominantly isolating life or you are a “social butterfly”…no one is exempt from the possibility of victimization. You probably have already been a victim/survivor.



I look forward to hearing from you.

Betsy of Betsy’s Beaten Path.