Touch Not The Cat

Are you scared of cats? A surprising number of people are.

When my brother was a child he was scratched badly by a cat after he pulled its tail. You might think it served him right, and maybe it did. He didn’t suffer any lasting harm and grew up to be quite happy around cats, but my mother was very wary of them for a long time afterwards.

But some people are terrified of cats for no apparent reason.  Deep down they know that cute little ball of fluff rubbing itself against their is legs is harmless.  But it might as well be a hungry tiger – it has the same effect on them.

Fear of cats is known as ailurophobia and it can be very inconvenient.  After all, cats are pretty common.  Maybe you have friends who own them, or a child who longs for a cute kitten as a pet.  However hard you try to avoid them you’re almost certain to come across a cat fairly frequently.  And cats themselves seem to be strangely fascinated by people who are scared of them.

The good news is that – of course – fear of cats can be overcome.

Beat your fear of cats

There are various approaches to this.

Desensitisation involves gradual exposure to the thing that scares you.  So if you have a really severe phobia of cats you might start by looking at pictures.  You would then move on through holding the pictures, watching videos, being at the opposite end of a room from a cat to eventually being able to have one in your lap.  You’d go through this process very slowly, and learn breathing exercises to help control your anxiety.

Restructuring your thoughts involves changing the way you think about cats.  If you make a list of all the negative thoughts you have about cats, you can start to challenge them.  So if your automatic thought is that a cat will scratch you, reminding yourself that millions of people have cats without ever getting scratched can be helpful.  If you keep doing this you will eventually change the way you think and feel about cats.

You can read more about desensitisation and restructuring your thoughts here.   You can try these approaches yourself if your fear of cats is relatively mild, but if you have a full-blown phobia I advise you to get professional help.

Hypnotherapy can be used on its own or combined with the other two methods I’ve described to help you overcome your fear.  The therapist will guide you into a relaxed hypnotic state before gently helping you change the way you feel about cats.  The exact way they do that will vary depending both on you and the way the therapist works.

So if you’re scared of cats – or anything else – there’s help for you out there.  All you have to do is ask for it.

Unusual Fears

 

Do you think your fear is weird?  Are you worried that I might not take you seriously because the thing you’re scared of is just too strange?

Don’t be.  People really can be scared of anything.  I’m scared of peas!  Watch this video to hear me talk about it.  And there’s a whole world of unusual fears out there.  These are a few of my favourites.

  1. Lutraphobia – fear of otters.  How can something as cute as an otter scare anyone?  There are spiders and snakes out there!  But this is a genuine fear, although it doesn’t tend to come out of the blue.  Most lutraphobics have been attacked or bitten by an otter, or seen it happen to someone else.  Not so cute and cuddly after all!
  2. Chirophobia – fear of hands.  Yes, it really does happen.  And somewhat inconveniently, some people have a fear of their own hands.  This is usually brought on by some kind of trauma, like a hand injury.
  3. Globophobia – fear of balloons.  This fear can obviously make birthday parties a bit difficult.  Some people are afraid of the balloons themselves, others of the balloons being popped.  Apparently, Oprah Winfrey suffers from this fear.
  4. Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia – fear of long words.  Well it just had to be, didn’t it?  This is often the result of being laughed at for struggling with long words, usually in childhood.
  5. Turaphobia – fear of cheese.  This doesn’t only affect people who remember Martine McCutcheon dying under a huge wheel of cheddar in “Midsommer Murders”.  Some people genuinely get clammy and have panic attacks just walking past the supermarket cheese counter.
  6. Alektorophobia – fear of chickens.  This may stem from a traumatic experience or from a bad dream.  Sufferers imagine chickens attacking them with their talons and beaks.  They may even picture their eyes being clawed out of their sockets.
  7. Linonophobia – fear of string.  Most of us think of string as pretty harmless, even useful.  But to a small number of people it can be terrifying.  As with most fears, this usually results from a bad experience in the past.  Sufferers may have been tied up as a childhood punishment, or seen something similar in a TV show.
  8. Decidophobia – fear of making decisions.  People with decidophobia find it almost impossible to decide on anything.  What to eat, where to work, whether or not to get married – you name it.  Fairly obviously, the real fear here is of making the wrong decision.
  9. Omphalophobia – fear of belly buttons.  People with this fear can’t bear to see or touch belly buttons, even their own.  Some sufferers even think their insides could spill out of their belly buttons.  Which is a pretty scary thought!
  10. Pupaphobia – fear of puppets.  Most children love a good puppet show but some find them seriously distressing.  This can continue into adulthood.  Glove puppets, marionettes, ventriloquist’s dummies – all of these can induce terror in pupaphobia sufferers.

So there you are – ten unusual fears, plus one of my own.  All of them might seem ridiculous to an observer, but to the sufferer they are very real. They can be mildly inconvenient, like mine, or completely incapacitating.  But they all deserve to be taken seriously.