Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Remember Whensday: Fears and Phobias


Going through my father's slides, I came across images of events which are forever seared in my mind, memories which became the origin of phobias I have struggled to overcome. From the pictures you can see that we generally went barefoot at home. We played outdoors here daily and I had my first little vegetable garden at this house. I remember only two poisonous snake encounters at home, the first being a black mamba that slithered between my mother's feet when she was raking the grass and the other being this puff adder which was found at the side of the house. From the look on my face it is obvious that I am not impressed with this snake.


Sandland brother did not seemed inclined to touch the puff adder but when we returned to Canada, he was a great collector of garter snakes and would bring them home from the ravine near our house. My snake phobia continued to grow to the point where I could not even look at or touch a picture of a snake. Seeing the smallest, most harmless snake would make my knees go weak.

I clearly remember my father pretending to charm the dead puff adder. The neighbour attached a string to the snake's mouth and moved it in a puppet like manner. Snakes have their place in the ecosystem, but deadly snakes in urban neighbourhoods were sure to be killed or removed to the snake park. My parents called the snake park to remove the mamba from the hedge beside the house.


The snake park was a place of horror in my mind yet we would go there on the weekend sometimes and view the pit where a writhing mass of serpents were thrown together. The facility had a very practical purpose too. Venom was milked from the snake's fangs in order to make anti-venom serum. I remember the snake kit we had at home in case we were accidentally bitten. The snake handlers would come out and put on a bit of a show for tourists.


I did not want to pass my irrational fear of snakes onto our daughters and made myself watch television documentaries about them, hiding my distaste for the subject. The Becka had a plastic snake which I loathed, but she was allowed to keep it. I have come across harmless snakes frequently on trails and my heart still pounds when I see one. But the panic I once felt has lessened and while I don't expect I would be able to touch a snake, I have desensitized my fear to some degree.

My other childhood phobia was waterfalls and again I would feel sick if I saw even a picture of one. Dad had his home movies put on DVD and there is a picture of me as a toddler wearing a harness, standing at the unprotected edge of Victoria Falls. Perhaps the seed of fear was planted then and with other experiences it grew much bigger. I don't care for heights, which I think is likely normal, but I can now stand at the brink of Niagara Falls beside the protective fence without feeling like I am going over.

Fear is a protective instinct. Phobias are irrational. Looking and these pictures and remembering helps me understand them.

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14 comments:

  1. I can't say that I blame you much for a fear or phobia of snakes. You have lead one of the most interesting lives of anyone I know for sure! Kudos to you for choosing to try to overcome it...I don't know if I would be that brave!

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  2. Phobias may be irrational, yet they are real and sometimes we can challenge ourselves past them.
    As a kid living next to a swamp, a dead garden snake could stop me in my tracks screaming until someone, Dad, rescued me.
    With my own kids I remember petting a snake at the zoo. Then later as an animal keeper I learned to handle docile and harmless snakes.
    It's hard to imagine intentionally handling deadly snakes.
    Good for you to work so hard to get past your phobias.

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  3. I still do not like snakes. I know some of them are good for controlling the rodent population but just keep them away from me.

    Thanks for sharing in the RW meme this week.

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  4. Ugh. As a fellow MK, I completely understand your dislike of snakes. Me too. I don't think there was a nonpoisonous snake on either of the islands we lived on--Phuket and Penang. Our encounters were with cobras and vipers and water snakes, and there were also snake farms in Thailand for milking venom and entertaining tourists.

    I have never met any compelling reason to force me to get over my dislike of the animals. My husband likes snakes, and had a "sweet-tempered" rubber boa for several years during our marriage. I made him keep it in his principal's office at school. ;)

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  5. You for got my red bellies, grass snakes, black rat, and corn snake.
    Tried for a rattler but could never find one.

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  6. I am not afraid of snakes, but guess hwta my phobia is? That tiny tiny that goes squeak squeak squeak.

    You want to swap?

    My husband thinks I am irrational, but I have a reason to be afraid, it stemed from an in copmplete history of the London plague, and when I was young, my town was flooded every year. The mice and rats would come out of their holes and up on my mums raised veg beds, they line themselves all round the rectangular veg bed, Yukkk!!! Sorry.

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  7. I don't have any real phobias per se, but a fear of dangerous things is not necessarily a bad thing. :c) Glad they've lessened some over the years.

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  8. My 13 year niece had written a saying on FB last week that fits this too a tee. People are not of afraid of heights, just afraid of falling, people are not afraid of water, just afraid of drowning, etc. I think you could add snakes to this, people are afraid of snakes just afraid of been biten.

    None the less, I'm with you I don't like snakes either. I get freaked out just looking at these pictures. You have spoken of your fear on snakes before so I congratulate you for having the courage to post them.

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  9. This was so interesting.It Brought to mind some of my childhood experiences,which are to long to talk about here.Fear can have a paralyzing effect alright.
    Blessings,Ruth

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  10. Great story telling. I never liked snakes either and I'm afraid my face would have reflected that too. I think we always tend to fear things we don't have much experience with. If we were raised handling snakes like we do cats and dogs, we would wonder what all the fuss was about.

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  11. I don't much like snakes or many heights either. I remember Cuppa going to the edge of the Grand Canyon and giving me conniptions.

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  12. Great post about you snake and waterfall phobias! I am glad that your fear has subsided somewhat and that you were brave enough to watch documentaries about snakes with your kids. My only phobia, and it is totally irrational, is public speaking. When I had to give an oral report as a kid, my voice would be hoarse and trembly, my hands would shake and be clammy and my heart would pound. Now only my heart pounds. I pray a lot, do visualization and relaxation techniques and then I can make it through w/o people knowing my heart is pounding.

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  13. Interesting that you can see the source of your phobias through family photos.
    When you've seen a black mamba in your garden as a child, maybe your fear isn't really irrational!
    My only phobia is for roaches. I know they're harmless, but I don't think I could force myself to touch one, no matter what.

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  14. Oh I totally agree with you about snakes. My brothers would threaten to put them in my bed! They were harmless garter snakes, but still....

    Waterfalls fascinate me. I don't know why. I just love them.

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