Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Blog challenge Day 26 – Your fears

In CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), the first thing you have to do is make a list of your fears. CBT implies, as follows from the name, that you understand your behaviour and therefore can cope with it. In this case, understand why you are scared of certain things. It doesn't necessarily mean that you stop being scared, but you feel better about being scared.

I used to be scared of calling up people on the phone because I was scared I wouldn't hear what they said and respond inadequately. This has had quite a significant impact on my professional life. People who don't suffer from phobias will never understand. You are not lazy, you are not showing off, you are not in a bad mood – you simply cannot do it, although sometimes you have to, and then it costs you more energy than anyone can imagine. If you do suffer from a phobia, any phobia, you will understand other people whatever their special phobia might be: lifts, planes, heights, caves, snakes, birds, cats, crowded places, talking in public. You recognise a soulmate.

I am scared of snakes, but I am ok with spiders. I am scared of driving to unfamiliar places because I am scared that I won't find a parking space and be late. I am scared of using ticket machines or self-checkouts, because I am scared of making a mistake. I am scared of talking to people who speak a broad dialect because I can misunderstand what they say, and it's embarrassing. In terms of understanding behaviour, making a fool of myself must be my biggest problem. I won't go deep into my childhood to investigate it.

But these are small, everyday fears that you either learn to cope with or you don't, and then they will spoil your life. When I was young I was scared of dying. All people are scared of dying, but some people think about it all the time and suffer from it. I was scared to go to sleep because I was scared of not waking up. I wanted someone by my side when I went to sleep. Recently, perhaps five-six years ago, I realised that going to sleep and never waking up is the best way to die. You won't even notice. This is very logical from the CBT point of view, but it won't work if you are young.

What I am really scared of is one of those states when you are paralysed and cannot communicate, or you are losing your memory and sometimes understand what's going on but cannot do anything. Anton, who puts titles on my film-renting list, has made me watch The Butterfly and the Diving Bell and The Notebook. I am glad I have seen them, but they haunt me. McEwan's Amsterdam haunts me too. Many years ago I saw my great-aunt going senile, and it was scary. Sometimes she was clear in her mind, just to wander away five minutes later. She could also get aggressive. I am scared of becoming like that. I am scared of not being able to talk. They say that people sometimes forget their mothertongue, but not other languages, or forget one at a time. I am scared of being enclosed in myself. Scared of being in a diving bell. Nowadays, when I go to sleep I think that I would certainly like to wake up next morning, but if I don't it's not that bad.

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