When discussing mental health, we often leave out the topic of phobias
We are all familiar with the movies and dramas about characters overcoming their fears and having better lives as a result.
While experiencing such stories, most of us relate more to the character helping the protagonist to overcome her/his fear than the protagonist herself/himself.
But we often forget that life is not like the movies, the lighting is not always that good, the wind does not always hit your hair at the right time, and our actions have real consequences.
There are always chances of these consequences being adverse. But not often do we pay any heed to this reality.
For example, a good friend of mine once surprised me when he was terrified of climbing down the stairs of an under-construction building. He is one of the bravest people I know, but he was trembling out of fear and was barely able to walk. When I asked him what was wrong, he let me know how he once had a traumatizing near-death experience which led him to developing a severe fear of heights, also known as acrophobia.
Now, imagine what would happen if I forced him to “live his life to the fullest” and overcome his phobia by climbing a hill? It’s possible that he might have a heart attack at that prospect.
The reasonable action of a friend, in this case, would not include taking him on a daring adventure, instead it would be to respect his fears and assist him in getting down.
I remember how I once mocked a friend as he was too afraid to go swimming, because of his acute aquaphobia.
His fear made no sense to me back then, but I realized later just how real his fears were after one of my university seniors died of a heart attack while swimming … because he was afraid of the water.
Unfortunately, most people in our society are still rather ignorant when it comes to discussing mental health. Some assume that mental issues can be dealt with using “tough love.”
I am not going to judge anyone’s intentions in that regard, but it is important that we understand the need for empathy when dealing with other people, especially if their mental health is an issue.
There is no one-size-fits-all “cure” to mental health-related issues.
They are unique, just like the person harbouring them. Just because one person overcame their fear by facing it head-on, does not mean it will work for someone else.
We should be more respectful towards other people’s fears and phobias -- as it is not an issue to be taken lightly, and reckless behaviour in trying to cope with phobias can often lead to disasterous results.
It is very unreasonable to assume that you can cure someone’s phobia in an instant. So the wiser course of action would be to show respect to other people’s fears and phobias and to not push them without being aware of the probable.
Our fears and phobias are all part of who we are.
While it would be ideal for all of us to simply overcome our fears with the snap of a finger, that’s not how you deal with them.
Nafiz Ahmed is a freelance contributor.