Why Irrational Fears Are Awesome
I have many irrational fears and phobias, some of which are socially crippling. While irrational fear has caused me a good deal of suffering, I can also say that a great deal of my success in life can be attributed to these phobias. To be perfectly honest, I've grown rather fond of several of my phobias - they have helped me succeed, grow, laugh, and be more compassionate toward others.
Though everyone is well aware of the downsides of harboring irrational fears, suffering from odd phobias can have its benefits. I see these benefits in my own life as well of the lives of many friends who are also terrified of odd and perfectly innocuous things.
Here are, as I see it, the five major upsides of having one or more superfluous phobias.
Common Fears Elude You
If your life is ruled (or affected) by odd irrational fears, chances are that many mainstream fears will not be an issue for you. A fear of crossing streets on rainy days, for example, may be so overwhelming that the prospect of walking through a reputably haunted house is by no means daunting.
Before I developed several strange phobias, I used to be terrified of heights, incredibly nervous about public speaking, and extremely self-conscious. Now that my life is somewhat ruled by a lot of oddball fears, I am completely fine with speaking in front of large audiences (I've done so several times without an ounce of nervousness), I love heights (I've been skydiving, I love ropes courses, I adore cliff jumping, etc.), and I am not in the least bit self-conscious.
Am I brave? Not at all! I'm a total coward! But compared to my phobias, public speaking, heights, and others' opinions of me are chump change, and I've been able to use a lack of those common fears to my personal advantage. If you have your own irrational fears, you might find that you are undaunted by common fears as well!
You Can Develop Beneficial Skills
Though fears can lead to your ruin, they may also give you an advantage in life. Consider the common paranoid survivor character that shows up again and again in horror films. Did this character survive because of bravery? No! The character makes it (at least longer than others) because he or she is driven by fear to be extra vigilant and careful.
Let's say you have an irrational fear of germs. While that fear can be a major liability, causing you to pull away from the world, it could also be used as a professional skill. Say, for example, you own a bakery, or work in a lab. Your germ phobia can contribute a level of vigilance surrounding sanitation that can be a great advantage to the bakery or lab in which you work.
An irrational fear may also be a symptom of a particular sensitivity or sharpness you have. In the William Gibson novel Pattern Recognition, the protagonist Cayce Pollard has a phobia of certain brands, however this phobia is more of a symptom of her uncanny ability to spot trends and sniff out brands that work and have a good chance at future success. If you are afraid of something strange, perhaps your fear, too, is a symptom of a hidden talent that you can turn into a professional asset.
You Develop a Unique Persona
If you have a strange fear, you also have what might be classified as a quirky personality trait- or at least something that makes you so unique as a person.
Though we typically like to highlight our strengths as the things that distinguish us from others, our weaknesses do just as much to shape who we are. We might not like to have our fears define us, but while many fears show us in a negative light, some odd phobias stand to make people rather interesting- or maybe even cute, in a sort of quirky, vulnerable way. In the end, your silly fear could be just the thing you stand apart from the crowd!
You Can Get a Good Laugh
Though phobias are a serious business, they can also be pretty hilarious. Some of my favorite humorous books, both autobiographical and fictional, have to do with people having odd phobias of this or that. Like it or not, it is funny when someone fears something for no logical reason!
A lot of people take offense at "making fun" of people who have irrational phobias. I can completely understand that. But I think that everyone with phobias can, and should, be able to laugh at them.
I myself have some REALLY ridiculous phobias- I have had many throughout my life. And many of them have driven me to depression and even intense infirmity. But i can still laugh at them - and in fact, laughing at my phobias is one of the things that allows me to begin to overcome them. After all, if you cannot separate yourself from something that is mentally strangling you, point at it, and make it look ridiculous, that thing is only going to continue to throttle you.
While laughing at your phobias can help you overcome them, seeing the humor in your fears can also help you as a writer. The comedic value of odd phobias makes for EXCELLENT writing material. Who knows? You could write a book about your hilarious fears and make millions from it! Who, then, is going to look down upon you for fearing toilet plungers?
Overcoming Fears Builds Character
If you have an irrational fear, chances are that the benefits it offers (though sometimes lovely) do not outweigh the problems it causes, so you'll eventually need to overcome it.
The good news about overcoming fears is that doing so can be quite the character building experience. In the end, you'll come out stronger, wiser, and also more compassionate, as you will be able to better understand the plight of others suffering from inconvenient phobias.
Being afraid of things is natural - even if some of the things or situations you fear are perfectly innocuous. So don't feel so bad about being afraid - everything has a bright side!
How have YOU benefitted from your fears?
The upsides of irrational phobias I've outlined above are only some of the little-known perks that one could expect from irrational fears.
Do you have an odd phobia that has (in addition to giving you a lot of grief) helped you in any way? Share your story in the comments?