STOP FREAK­ING OUT OVER IT!

This one is ded­i­cated to all those with a pho­bia — whatever it might be. I, too, have one. Here’s what might come in handy

Hindustan Times (Patna) - Live - - Time Out - SONAL KALRA

Avery cute girl from the very cute city of In­dore wrote-in to me. Not tak­ing her name here as I don’t have her per­mis­sion to do so. Her stress touched a raw nerve some­where. She’s scared of rid­ing a bike. Ter­ri­fied, ac­tu­ally. “Ev­ery­one in my class drives a Scooty to tu­itions, to the mar­ket, to friends’ homes. I, too, have one, but I freeze ev­ery time I switch on the ig­ni­tion. My fa­ther has been very sup­port­ive and tried hard to teach me to ride. I even took pro­fes­sional lessons. But each time I try to do it, my heart beat goes up, my hands start to trem­ble and I go numb. I hate the fact that I can’t do some­thing that ev­ery­one else my age finds so sim­ple,” she writes.

What I want to tell you, young lady, is that I also feel ex­actly the same numb­ness, when it comes to swim­ming. For years and years while grow­ing up, I tried to over­come this fear of go­ing in­side wa­ter, es­pe­cially when friends could eas­ily learn the skill and bragged non-stop about the good time they had at pool par­ties and va­ca­tions. At some point, af­ter feel­ing mis­er­able for years that I just couldn’t, I ac­cepted the pho­bia and stopped killing my­self over it.

Oye, hang on! Does it look like I’m telling you that ac­cep­tance of the fear means giv­ing up try­ing to over­come it? Be­cause ex­actly the op­po­site should hap­pen.

The day you ac­cept a pho­bia and stop tor­ment­ing your­self about it is pre­cisely the day when the heal­ing and re­cov­ery process ac­tu­ally be­gins. Be­cause uss se pehle toh we are just too busy com­par­ing our­selves with those who feel no fear and in giv­ing our­selves hell over it. Vaise maine na pho­bias mein PhD kar li hai shayad… there was a time when I would loosely use this term for ev­ery scare I faced. I used to claim that I have a pho­bia of heights, pho­bia of lizards, pho­bia of public­s­peak­ing, pho­bia of crowds, pho­bia of mother-in-law and so on. Okay fine, I made up the last one. But ba­si­cally it be­came an easy es­cape route for some­thing I didn’t want to do, some­times out of sheer lazi­ness. Also, it was fun to show off since each one of these pho­bias has a fancy, un­pro­nounce­able name.

But one day, I went to an an­niver­sary party and met a four-year-old child who had a pho­bia of — hold your breath — flow­ers. It’s called An­tho­pho­bia. The party had guests com­ing in one af­ter the other, hold­ing bou­quets of flow­ers, and the poor child was in a state of mis­ery, shriek­ing and trem­bling ev­ery time one of those came close to him. The other kids who couldn’t un­der­stand what was go­ing on were, un­in­ten­tion­ally of course, mak­ing it worse by coax­ing him to touch the flow­ers or smell them as they just couldn’t get the fact that beau­ti­ful flow­ers can scare any­one. That evening stayed on in my head and one thing I stopped do­ing af­ter that was to make light of some­one’s fear, or loosely ad­dress ev­ery aver­sion of mine as a pho­bia.

Any­way, com­ing back to the point, the girl from In­dore has a valid, and very stress­ful con­cern when it comes to some­thing as ba­sic as rid­ing bikes, be­cause it tends to limit a lot of her in­de­pen­dence and move­ment in life. I spoke to a cou­ple of psy­chol­o­gists to get a grip on what one can do in the face of an in­tense fear of a seem­ingly easy ac­tiv­ity, and here are my five tips. Dis­claimer: Fear of not be­ing able to make any­thing but id­i­otic re­marks all through your life doesn’t have a name. It is a rare dis­or­der only lim­ited to Chad­dhaji.

Tip 1 — Un­der­stand your fear: Zyada Google mat karna, nahi toh it seems like we have symp­toms of ev­ery dis­ease ever di­ag­nosed by mankind. But just try to un­der­stand what ex­actly is your fear all about, and also the ex­tent of it. As I said, not ev­ery fear is a pho­bia. Some­times it’s an ex­ag­ger­ated sense of a nat­u­ral hes­i­ta­tion one feels in try­ing out some­thing new. Once you un­der­stand the dif­fer­ence, you’d be on the right track to over­com­ing it.

Tip 2 — Ac­cept your fear: It’s okay to be scared of cer­tain things in life. Re­ally, it is. You’ve got to first make peace with your own re­ac­tion and stop blam­ing your­self about feel­ing fear­ful. Agar kisi aur ko darr nahi lagta toh it’s their trait. It doesn’t be­lit­tle you in any way. We’re all dif­fer­ent be­ings. Your fear of lizards could be his fear of go­ing to pee in a dark toi­let. In­saan alag, darr alag.

Tip 3 — Don’t al­low any­one’s mock­ery to dis­turb you: I could have said don’t al­low any­one to mock you for your fear, but that’s not what I’m say­ing. Be­cause you can’t al­ways con­trol how peo­ple be­have. What you can con­trol is how you re­act to their be­hav­ior. Many a times, even fam­ily or friends would make fun of your fear. I re­mem­ber be­ing dragged into wa­ter by the best of my friends, who just wouldn’t un­der­stand why I was so fear­ful. Don’t get per­turbed and don’t doubt their in­ten­tion. Find po­lite, yet firm ways to tell them why you wouldn’t want to do some­thing that they feel is fun, let’s say, go­ing on a roller coaster ride. You don’t have to ex­plain too much. Just firmly say­ing ‘I’m un­com­fort­able’ and leav­ing it at that mostly does it.

Tip 4 — Don’t let just about ev­ery­one dis­sect your fear: You are not a case study. And not ev­ery­one around you is a re­search sci­en­tist. Don’t get into long wind­ing dis­cus­sions with peo­ple who’ll tell you it is kid­dish, stupid or cow­ardly to be scared of go­ing on an es­ca­la­tor. It’s all of these, how­ever, to not let peo­ple be. Don’t say it to them, though. Just smile and say, ‘It’s okay with you to some­times be like a kid’.

Tip 5 — The most crit­i­cal one: At your own pace, and grad­u­ally so, try to take small steps in over­com­ing your pho­bia. A small step at a time is what works. To the girl in In­dore — start just with sit­ting on your bike and switch­ing on the ig­ni­tion. Fol­low it up af­ter a few days with go­ing just a few me­ters ahead. No one’s watch­ing you, no one’s judg­ing you. You’re do­ing it for your­self, not for any­one else. The small steps will one day take you there. They al­ways do.

Sonal Kalra tried swim­ming in the bath­tub. There was no fear. All the wa­ter came out once she went in. Mail her at sonal.kalra@hin­dus­tan­times.com, facebook.com/son­al­kalraof­fi­cial. Fol­low on Twit­ter @son­al­kalra

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