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Fear, the mind-killer

We bought bookcases yesterday – an inexpensive one for my husband’s office and an only slightly more expensive one for our dining room. (Finally, after nearly two years in this house, we might actually get the rest of our books shelved… what a concept!)

I was excited about our purchases and eager to take them home and get them set up, but before we could do so I inadvertently placed myself into a distinctly uncomfortable position and was forced to deal with one of my worst fears.

The dreaded claustrophobia.

We have a fairly small car, so transporting large items can sometimes be a challenge. Getting the smaller bookcase to fit into the car was easy, as the box was short enough to stand in the space between the driver’s and back seats. The box for the other shelves, though, was quite long and had to be placed in the trunk with one back seat folded down to accommodate it. The box stuck out just a little bit – probably not even a foot – and my husband was quite happy to secure the trunk lid with bungee cords and be on our way. I, however, always on a quest to be clever and make things fit perfectly, figured out that by moving the front seat forward as far as it would go we could push the box all the way in and be able to close the trunk. I was correct! …and for a moment, I patted myself on the back for my ingenuity.

Then I got into the car, and all bets were off.

I tried. I really tried. But the second my knees touched the glove compartment in the now-cramped passenger seat the panic, almost a tangible thing, started to rise and overwhelm me. In an effort to manage my fear I did a few seconds of calm self-talk and trying-to-be-calm chatter to Peter: “It’s ok. You’re not actually trapped.” “We’ll leave the air on and I can close my eyes.” “Breathe.” “It won’t be too long until we’re home, after all.” “You’re safe. It’s ok. You can do this.” But it was most definitely NOT ok, and I could NOT do it. Before he could put the car in reverse and back out of our parking spot I was opening my door and getting out as fast as I could.

Somewhat embarrassed by my weakness… but not embarrassed enough to attempt another go at my clever plan… I helped Peter move the box back into its original bungee-corded state, adjusted my seat to its usual position, and breathed a sigh of relief.

I’ve written before about my claustrophobia, and my theory on just why I became claustrophobic in the first place. Each time I’m faced with this fear – thankfully, very rarely – I am reminded of just how illogical the feelings are.

Because it doesn’t make any sense. Same vehicle, same people, same conditions – yet that tiny amount of space created or taken away by a simple seat adjustment makes all the difference between a pleasant drive home and the onslaught of irrational waves of panic.

One of my husband’s favourite quotes from one of his favourite books – Dune, by Frank Herbert – is about fear:

I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.

There’s a part of me that wishes I could take that approach with this ridiculous phobia. And I suppose that should the day ever come that I am in need of (shudder) an MRI, I will have to deal with it. (That, or have the doctors knock me out cold for the duration.)

But for the moment, the part of me that screams, “Get out of the car NOW!” is the part that always wins.

Do you have any irrational fears or phobias?
Do you think it’s always worth it to fight the fear?

Laurel Storey, CZT – Certified Zentangle Teacher. Writer, reader, tangler, iPhoneographer, cat herder, learner of French and Italian, crocheter, needle felter, on-and-off politics junkie, 80s music trivia freak, ongoing work in progress.