Who’s Afraid of Blood? (Fearless February Day 7)

bloody handHemophobia. Fear of blood.

Hemophobics are easy to spot in grade school: they’re the ones screaming and crying when the nurse comes around.

They simply cannot stand the sight of blood — their own or anyone else’s. Like most phobics, they experience anxiety, dread and panic at the thought of what they fear. Even worse, hemophobics often faint when they’re face to face with that fear, making them vulnerable to injury, mockery, and – here’s that vicious circle again – bleeding.

This is not an effective hemophobia therapy technique.
This is not an effective hemophobia therapy technique.

If you have an uneasy feeling at the sight of blood, no worries. Just stay away from horror movies – your life will probably be better for it.

But if you run away screaming when your little sister steps on a nail, or you sneak out of the hospital upon hearing the words “blood test,” you have a phobia with potentially dangerous consequences. Unless you want to be known as an unreliable wuss all your life, you should get help in facing this fear.

I suspect that hemophobia is a modern mental illness, flourishing in our lives of comfort. Back in great-great-great-great-grandmother’s time, hemophobics wouldn’t last a day. Life is bloody, from birth to death, and you gotta deal with it. Even in our sanitized industrialized society, blood seeps in every now and then. (Every 28 days or so for half of us.) This is a fear worth slaying.

Up close it looks just like candy.
Up close it looks just like candy.

To overcome your fear of blood, once again it’s exposure therapy to the rescue. Begin with photographs: look at them, then touch them (no, you don’t ever have to taste them). Then expose yourself to a drop of your own blood. (Stay away from other people’s blood. It’s germy.) When you’re okay with that, it’s time to book that backlog of blood tests. Go slow, take a deep breath, and remind yourself of all the awesome things blood does for you – like keep you alive. That’s pretty important stuff.

Don't get too fond of blood.
Don’t get too fond of blood.

Don’t take the therapy too far, though. You don’t want to develop a fondness for blood. If you can get to the point of sitting still to donate a pint, you’re a hero compared to most of us. (That’ll take a long time, lots of positive affirmations, and an empathetic nurse.)

28tricks_newIf you’re afraid of blood and not afraid to admit it, leave a comment on this blog during Fearless February and maybe you’ll win a copy of 28 Tricks for a Fearless Grade 6.

(Thanks again to FreeDigitalPhotos.net for the free images: the blood cells are by Victor Habbick, and the bloody hand is by Salvatore Vuono.)

Who’s Afraid of Being Alone (Fearless February Day 6)

I-Dont-want-to-be-aloneAutophobia. AKA Monophobia. The fear of being alone.

Table for one?

Few of us relish the idea of going out to eat alone. You need a book or a tablet to keep you company.

Going to bars alone? Ew. 

Being home alone? Bring it on. Please. I need to be alone to work. I get mean if I don’t get my alone time. You don’t want to see me at the end of the Christmas holidays.

road aloneI like going away alone, too: driving away cranking the tunes, heading off to some adventure, solo. 

But I have a full house to leave and return to. (And I was raised in a full house, the youngest of five.) Alone time  is a treat for me. I’d feel differently if I were always alone. I wouldn’t like that at all. It would be lonely.

(Or not – maybe it would be awesome. I might be like the guy at the end of that Twilight Zone episode who finally had time to read all the books he wanted – only I don’t wear glasses, so my ending would be happier than his. Still, after a month or so, it would start to feel pointless. Humans – you can’t live with them, you can’t live without them.)

man alone If you have a yearning for company and a discomfort at being alone in strange territory, you are a normal human. But if you break into a cold sweat upon saying goodbye, if you follow people from room to room, if you try to be late so that you don’t have to wait one minute on your own, you might have autophobia.

You should know that people who can’t be alone are incredibly annoying. Conquer your phobia for the sake of the loved one whose leg you are clinging to.

This is actually a multiplicity of phobias:


  • Fear of being alone in a house – or even just alone in a room. Most of us outgrow this common childhood fear by suffering through it and pretending we’re fine. But you can beat this fear at any age, with the help of a friend. Start with  your friend hanging out in the next room, then on another floor, then out in the garden, then down the street, then just on the phone. See how well you’re doing? (NB, this therapy is not recommended for those with stalkers.)
  • Fear of being alone in public. You know you have this phobia if you have two tickets to Cirque du Soleil and your friend cancels at the last minute, and you just stay home. OMG, you have to cure yourself of this! (Or just give your tickets to me.) Work with a friend in a restaurant. Have them leave you alone at the table for a bit, eventually working up to you arriving ten minutes early and enjoying a glass of wine all on your own. (That’ll take a while.)

Possible exposure therapy roadblock: If you’re autophobic, you might not have a friend to do these therapies with, since you probably drove all your friends away with your insatiable clinginess. But they might come back to help you face your fear. Worth asking, anyway.

  • doormatFear of being alone forever. This is actually a somewhat rational fear for people who are always alone, because people who spend too much time alone get weird (and not in a good way), which increases your chances of being alone forever. It’s another vicious circle. If you have this fear, you should rush out right now and join a club or make a friend or visit your ailing aunt. Attend to someone else’s needs for a bit and you’ll either (a) avoid the fate of being alone forever or (b) embrace it. Either way, the fear is gone.

28 Tricks cover-2We are alone, each of us muddling through our tiny lives, hurtling through a vast and indifferent universe, knowing it will all end in death, and that is terrifying. It helps to have a hand to hold onto. But let go every once in a while or it’ll get way too sweaty.

No one is ever alone in 28 Tricks for a Fearless Grade 6, because hanging out alone is not comedy gold. Leave a comment on this blog during Fearless February and you could win a copy and spend some time alone reading it. 

(The woman on the road photo is by nuttakit and the man alone is by Vlado, both from FreeDigitalPhotos.net; the not-welcome mat is from canadamats.ca. Thanks.)


Who’s Afraid of Vomiting? (Fearless February Day 5)

vomitingEmetophobia. Fear of Vomit.

I’ll spare you the photos and make it brief.

There are some people so afraid of vomit that they won’t eat out in case of food poisoning. If there’s a flu going round, these folks are calling in sick. Some emetophobics can’t even be around children (or bush parties). No school janitor jobs for these fraidycats. No burping the baby. And no watching The Exorcist – devil shmevil, it’s the projectile vomiting that’s really scary.

Even just the idea of vomit makes emetophobics… well, vomit — thus creating a vicious (and viscous) circle of panic and terror, with a wicked bad smell.

Personally, I’d rather live with this phobia than go through exposure therapy. Bad luck, emetophobics. (Or not – it’s the emetophiliacs who have the real problem).

28 tricks coverIn 28 Tricks for Surviving Grade 6, no one admits to an obsessive fear of vomiting. (Andrew is afraid he might vomit during the public speaking competition, but that’s a whole different thing.) And that’s for the best. I prefer my comedy nausea-free.

Enough said about today’s fear. Everyone go wash your hands now.

(“No Vomiting” sign thanks to David Castil Dominici from FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)

And if you have emetophobia, leave a comment and maybe you will win a book.

Who’s Afraid of the Dark? (Fearless February Day 4)

Everyone's a little afraid of the dark, because that's where the monsters are.
Everyone’s a little afraid of the dark, because that’s where the monsters are.

Scotophobia. Fear of the dark.

Raised in the age of the electric bulb, we modern folk have little inkling of just how scary the darkness is. Scotophobics know. When night falls, anything could be there — ANYTHING — just inches away from your face, savouring the moment before it gets you.

Most people are uneasy in the darkness, and I figure that’s because all the early humans who were totally relaxed in darkness walked off a cliff one night. Or maybe they stepped into a viper’s den or ran into an enemy’s camp or charged into trees at full speed, or some other idiotic thing you’re likely to do when you can’t see where you’re going. One way or another, the darkness picked them off one by one, and all the fearless genes vanished from the pool, leaving Homo sapiens fraidycattus to huddle around fires whispering, “What was that? Did you hear that? I’m sure I heard something.”

Our fragile lives flicker in a vast darkness.
Our fragile lives flicker in a vast darkness.

I kind of like the dark. I have lain in dark fields on August nights and watched the Perseids. I have walked my dog on the beach at night, staring out on black water. And, less poetically, I wear an eye-mask to sleep when my husband’s up reading. 

But I don’t like it that dark. Dim is nice. Pitch black is unnerving. In a cave without a flashlight, I’m on the verge of panic in two minutes – and that was true even before I saw

Bad bad bad things live in the dark.
Bad bad bad things live in the dark.

The Descent (which you should not watch the Netflix version of because they wrecked the ending, and which you shouldn’t watch at all if you’re a kid because it’ll scare you for life.)

At my cabin, which is off the grid and an hour and a half from the city, on a moonless night it is pitch black once you’re a few steps from the cabin door. Can’t see your hand in front of your face black. There’s no way I’ll walk to the outhouse by myself in that darkness, not even with a flashlight. No way. Uh uh.

The Prince of Darkness aint around in daylight.

Bad things hide in the dark. Just waiting with baited breath.

There’s a natural “creeped out in the pitch black” feeling, like I have. And then there’s Scotophobia (also called Nyctophobia, Achluophobia, and Lygophobia) which is more of a panic attack.

Bad things hide in dark water, too. The ocean wouldn't be scary if you could see through it.
The ocean wouldn’t be so scary if it was well lit.

If you have an obsessive fear of darkness, you can’t sleep without a nightlight. If your grandmother comes to visit at 10:00 p.m. and she needs help with her bags, you’ll peer into the twenty feet of darkness between the porch and the driveway and you’ll say, “Sorry Grandma, come back tomorrow.” If someone turns out the lights, you don’t just fret a little; you scream and cry and wet your pants.

You should really do something about that.

In times past, darkness was hard to avoid come sundown, and Scotophobics had many a sweaty sleepless night. These days, nightlights and flashlights help sufferers stay sane. And Scotophobia can be cured with gentle desensitization therapy.

Don't wait until dark. Start facing your fears right now.
Don’t wait until dark. Start facing your fears right now.

Get a dimmer switch and turn it down a little more each night until you’re able to bear the blackness for a few seconds, then increase the time you keep it dark. Think positive thoughts and have a soothing friend with you (yes, that’s still your friend’s hand you’re holding; she hasn’t transformed into a demon). Eventually you will be able to handle the darkness.

And that’s a good thing, because you need to keep your wits about you when the lights go out, or you’ll be the first to go when whatever’s hiding in the darkness comes a’hunting. (Just kidding. Sort of. You really don’t know what’s out there.)

28 tricks coverI’m pretty sure all the kids in 28 Tricks for a Fearless Grade 6 sleep with a nightlight on.

Drop a comment about your fears and maybe you’ll win a copy.

Who’s Afraid of Cats? (Fearless February Day 3)

cat teethAilurophobia. The fear of cats.

Far less common than the fear of dogs, and far more difficult to comprehend. Because, seriously, most cats sleep all day and run away when you come near them. Plus they’re only a foot high. How scary is that?

cat posterScary Cat Fact #1: Cat scratch fever isn’t just a bad song. It’s a disease transmitted by cat spit to almost 25,000 people a year in the US and Canada, typically via a cat bite or scratch. It is not usually serious (unless it spreads to the brain or bones or eyes, in which case it’s really serious.) 

Where there's a witch, there's a cat.
Where there’s a witch, there’s a cat.

Cats chill the blood of a few phobics. Phobias are irrational fears, remember. And Ailurophobia is especially irrational, running deeper than most animal fears. Ailurophics are not afraid of having their ankles scratched. They’re afraid of something a little more supernatural.

Most people afraid of cats believe that cats are evil. Not “dangerous.” Evil. Witches and demons and ghosts kind of evil. It’s not the body that’s at risk around felines; it’s the soul.

Scary Cat Fact #2: “All cats are demons,” according to 16th century demonologist Nicholas Remy. So there you have it.

cat evil posterI’m guessing cats got their bad rep because they run around at night making terrifying noises and appearing to shoot lasers out of their eyes.

They move so silently, like smoke, disappearing in a flash, and they stay so still that you don’t see them sitting there staring at you until you almost trip over them. It feels like they appear out of nowhere. Add to that the way they look at you like they couldn’t care less if you lived or died (because they couldn’t care less) plus their sharp little fangs and creepy hisses, and the way they torture mice for twenty minutes before they kill them, and sheesh, cats really do seem evil.

Scary Cat Fact #3: Cats like to kill. They like it a lot. Cats kill billions of songbirds a year in the US alone (that’s billions, not just millions).

Cats want only world domination.
Cats want only world domination.

But cats are just critters. They’re not evil. They’re mostly adorable (if you’re not a songbird or mouse or rabbit or chipmunk or squirrel or fish…..) Except there’s the odd cat that rubs up against your leg asking for a pet and then when you bend down to pet it, it bites your hand. God, I hate those cats.

I knew a cat like that when I was a kid, and it was the only cat I knew. (It roamed the neighbourhood rubbing into legs and I’d be fooled every time. “Maybe it wants to be friends,” I’d think. Hiss. Scratch. Nope.) My mother hated cats, and in between her lesson of “all cats are demons” and that one nasty cat, I grew up ailurophobic. But then I saw a sad little kitten in a pet shop window when I was 15, and I embraced exposure therapy.

cat2Scary Cat Fact #4: If you and your cat were abandoned in an isolated forest and had to survive all on your own, your cat would outlast you. (And when you died, it would probably eat you.)

If your hair stands on end when you see a cat, if you won’t visit your friend’s house since she got a cat, if you plan your trip around the mall so as to avoid passing the pet shop, then you’re ailurophobic, and you need to conquer this phobia.

Fear of cats never held back this dude.
Fear of cats never held back this dude.

Or not. Maybe you can live with it just fine. Napoleon Bonaparte was afraid of cats, and it never stopped him from going out conquering.

But if you want to embrace cats – and they are supercute and cuddly and purring is such a happy sound – then get to it. Slowly.

First, look at pictures of cute little kittens. They don’t want to steal your soul, do they? Next work up to adult cats. (But skip sphinxes or you’ll be two steps forward, three steps back because those things are freaky.) Find a friend with a gentle loving cat to sit in a room with. Once you’re feeling okay with that, sit closer and closer to the cat until you can pet it without freaking out. It won’t turn into a witch, you’ll see.

cat on journalEventually, one day when you’re hanging out at your cat-friend’s place, you’ll open a book and the cat will walk over and lay on it, right at the spot where you were reading. So you’ll get up to make a cup of tea and the cat will race in front of your feet, right in the spot where you’re walking. Then you’ll pour milk in your tea and the cat will stick its face right in your cup. And you’ll come to see that cats are not evil, just annoying. And that’s progress.

Scary Cat Fact #5:

Please don't hurt me.
Please don’t hurt me.

Over 60,000 shelter cats are put to sleep each year in Canada. In the US, the number is in the millions: a cat or dog is put to sleep every 11 seconds in the US alone. That’s a lot creepier than 16th century notions of witches and demons. 

There’s no character afraid of cats in 28 Tricks for a Fearless Grade 6. But if you’re afraid of cats, or anything else, leave a comment on this blog during Fearless February, and maybe you’ll win a copy of my newest book.

These are not my pets. (My cats and dog love each other.) I found this one online and would credit the photographer if I could find out her name.
These are not my pets. (My cats and dog love each other.) I found this one online and would credit the photographer if I could find out her name.
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