Should you name your phobia?
A common theme I keep seeing is people describing their fear and wanting to know the name for it, but is there any real benefit in putting a name to your phobia?
The 3 main reasons I hear are:
- It helps me know I’m not alone
- It makes it easier to describe to people
- If I know the name of the disease then I can find the cure
That last one is useful! The first two are just coping, maybe even harmful.
You Are Alone…
Knowing you’re not alone, that other people are also scared of shower heads or books or whatever your phobia is, certainly can help in the short term, but all it’s really doing is normalizing it. Some people have brown eyes, some people have blue eyes and some people have bibliophobia, right?
Actually there is an exception – autophobia is the fear of being alone so it would help for that – but generally finding other people with the same issue is a quick-fix dopamine hit that will make you feel better for now, but could even make things worse in the long term. I believe there is a lot of truth in the expression that you become like the average of the people you hang around with, so normalizing your fear is not going to help, is it?
The other (very important, keep reading) point is that you and your phobia are actually unique.
Two different people with bibliophobia (fear of books) are actually two different people with two different phobias.
Could Naming Your Phobia Make it Worse?
Could it make things worse? Yes, because by normalizing it and hanging with the other cool kids with the same issue means you’ll identify with them, and they’ll identify with you, but what does that really mean, long-term? It means you are identifying as someone who suffers that fear, literally making it part of your identity…
Guess what your subconscious will fight like heck to protect and preserve?
Yep, your sense of identity; your sense of self-preservation works just as hard to protect your identity as your physical safety! to your subconscious mind it’s the same thing.
Easier to Describe?
So let’s look at the 2nd ‘reason’, the idea that it makes it easier to describe…
No, no it doesn’t.
Phobias are named with lower-case Greek (phobia just means fear of in Greek), but this is often mixed with Latin.
So you just have ‘name of the thing in Greek’ followed by ‘phobia’, or ‘name of the thing in Latin’, followed by ‘phobia’.
How the heck does that help? Do you or your friends really speak Greek? How many speak Latin? There is literally an old British expression “It’s all Greek to me”, meaning “I have no idea what this means”!
Of course you could say I’m guilty of floccinaucinihilipilification but the very fact you don’t know what floccinaucinihilipilification actually means is exactly my point! And no, I don’t have Ellinikáphobia (fear of the Greek language), I’m just saying that describing your fear in Greek is not an improvement in communication; it’s simply labeling.
More to the point, it’s jargon, and jargon is used by other professionals such as the legal profession, but as a lawyer might say, cui bono? That’s just Latin for ‘who benefits’? They do, because they get to sound smart, educated and professional, by deliberately using words you don’t understand but other lawyers or doctors do.
It’s a deliberate barrier to communication, not an aid.
For example you can tell a medical doctor you have sore tonsils, and they will “diagnose” you with “tonsillitis” but that’s the same, just putting “itis” on the end, like “phobia” on the end. It just means your tonsils are sore or inflamed. It doesn’t say if it is caused by a viral infection, a bacterial infection, because you ate something sharp or because your flame-swallowing act went horribly wrong – it just means inflammation.
Putting a jargon label on your phobia just means putting a label on you.
It’s very likely that a single session with me will make your irrational fear go away anyway, so why define yourself by a fear you used to have in the past?