For the past two years at my gym, I have noticed a middle aged man who always wears the same thing: a blue performance shirt and disposable plastic gloves. Of course I assumed that he has some form of germophobia, however, I also thought that the young woman who handed me my key to my locker was also a germphobic because of the white cotton gloves that she always wore. I later found out that she was also a hand model.
It was when I saw the disposable gloves man get into his car, that I knew he had some kind of OCDish behavior. The car was a Volvo and anecdotally all of the Volvo drivers that I know have many compulsive behaviors designed to live in a fearful world. I happen to have a ‘driving on highways phobia’ but I do not drive a Volvo. I was side-swiped by a tractor trailer on a highway when I was pregnant and have never quite recovered. I was diagnosed as having PSTD ( this was 14 years ago). I doubt that a Volvo would make me feel more confident.
I find that what does make me feel empowered is facing the fear head on. I find that some days are better than others. When I started to avoid that little stretch of road that I was able to do the month before, I got someone to come out driving with me. I recently hired a driving instructor to take me on the same stretch ten times. I am very afraid of having my world get narrower and having a type of agoraphobia set in that I find common to so many people that I know who work from home. I even have a close friend in the city who rarely left her “zip code” until she recently married a man from New Jersey.
Avoidant behavior is what makes us keenly feel like failures. Facing fears is what makes us feel strong. By this yard stick, I would say that the disposable glove man may very well be a hero. He gets himself into the gym no matter that it is seething with MRSA and drug resistant staph. I am very sympathetic to avoidant behavior, but many of my most proud accomplishments have been the result of my facing my fears. For instance, I stuttered in fifth grade when I read out loud and I did not get a part in the school play. I ended up being one of the 20 applicants out of 2000 accepted to the High School of Performing Arts. I also have been with the same man for the past 24 years. My father left my mother when I was six and I had many fears of committed relationships to conquer.
It is this fear of intimacy which, although I understand it, I feel the most sympathy for. I have known so many people who are just unable to be close to another person. To me this is the joy of life. But perhaps this all comes down to wiring and why we are unique. The world was a fearful place in the past and death was always around the corner. In many parts of the world it still is. Here in the Western World, however, many of us have unprecedented oppportunities to face many our fears with almost no real physical damage and safety.
I was not able to embed this song but I feel it is inspirational.