Monday, March 05, 2007

phobiatic problematic

Composer, Allen Shaw, was interviewd this morning on NPR's Morning Edition. He was there talking about his new book: "Wish I Could be There: Notes From a Phobic Life." Composer Allen Shawn lives a phobic life. He doesn't like heights, bridges, tunnels, subways, elevators, open spaces or closed spaces. Hence the title of his book. It begins with how his fears make a short drive through the woods a daunting journey.
Listening to him made me link my phobias and experiences with his. Granted, I don't think mine are as extreme as his, but they are similar. What I find daunting, is that they seem to get worse over time. So, maybe when I am his age, my fear will become dibilitating. This freaks me the "f" out. I am constatnly trying to "face my fears." However, each face off finds my fears the undefeated winner. I don't need someone to hold my hand on planes, but I do have to monitor my breathing while in the air. I either breathe too fast or not at all. I get dizzy when high up, I have crippling performance anxiety. The only thing I've overcome is my shyness. It was stifling as a child. If I didn't know you, I would not get out from underneath my mom's skirt.

Shaw states in the book: "The degree of my self-preoccupation is appalling."

"Fear makes you focus very, very vigilantly on something," he says. Just as someone who has a gun pointed at him focuses solely on that gun and how to avoid getting shot, Shawn says, a person who's afraid of sitting in the middle of a theater will think of nothing else but: "How can I get out of here? Why is that person next to me so big? Where was that exit?"

"That kind of self-preoccupation is really silly, but it's what happens to the phobic," he says.

During the course of the Shaw interview, Renee Montagne asked if writing about his fears made them any less intense. He said analyzing the things that make him cease to tick, leads him to think of them as personality quirks. However, this does not serve to make them any less severe in their affects. What makes him feel ok is thinking of the great geniouses that could not live outside of their constructed worlds--Emily Dickinson and others.
This makes me think the one day, I too can be ok with my phobias. Or at least come to terms with the fact that I may never change them.