Fear. Fear is our greatest motivator, we do a lot of things because of fear. And everyone’s a little different in the fear department: what is no big deal for me, can be utterly terrifying to someone else. I’m not interested in having a spider for a pet, but I can’t say I fear them. Yet a friend of mine totally despises spiders and calls for her husband (aka “Arachnid Man” da-da-da-dum!) any time one of them dare take up residence in her home. There are some big fears, too, ones that are pretty common to all of us. In fact, the insurance industry counts on it. Fear of death or dying, fear of being unable to support our families, fear of illness. In fact, all our fears really boil down to one thing: loss. Fear of losing something, whatever that something might be.

But, I digress. I’m here today to tell you about a fear that I have that is, so far, totally irrational. What I mean is: I have no idea why I have this fear, it stops me from doing things I want to do, I can’t seem to overcome it, people don’t understand it, and it embarrasses me. My fear is the fear of being lost.

Of course, my fear of being lost directly ties to loss of security, which is a fear many people have. But my fear presents itself in a way that I can’t seem to tie back to a root cause. Let’s start with this: I like to travel. I despise traveling alone – by car, train, bus, plane, it doesn’t matter although the fear grows in proportion to my giving up control, and distance from home. Getting lost in a strange city after a flight is much more terrifying than driving in my home state. But this rears up even when I’m walking with a friend in their neighborhood… OMG, what if this person should need medical attention! I don’t even know where I am! Crazy, right?

The only cause I’ve been able to tie this fear to is the fact that when I was about 6 or 7, I was on a trip with my summer camp to a mall (to see a movie). I remember getting distracted by a display, looking up and not seeing any other campers in matching blue t-shirts. But that’s the end of the memory… I have no idea how they found me/I found them, or how long I was lost. My mom has no recollection of this event, so it must not have been very earth-shattering to the adults around me. Or perhaps this time at the mall is totally in my mind, imagined. Using the theory of reincarnation, in one of my past lives I might have gotten tragically lost and the energy is so strong, it followed me into this birth. I just don’t know.

Guided by one of my favorite quotes (“Knowledge is the antidote to fear.” ~Emerson), I’ve come up with a few coping mechanisms:

  • Paying attention while others are in control of the navigation (but I find this difficult, as I tend to relax when I’m with someone else)
  • Taking the route in advance (this usually only works with driving)
  • GPS (sometimes this makes things worse)
  • Mapquest, Yahoo Maps, directions from humans (often all three)
  • Playing stupid and asking someone else to let me follow them or, (feeling like a dog) if they’d drive/come with me.

My famously lousy sense of direction doesn’t help. I have been known to have perfectly good directions, driving along in minimal traffic on a highway with clear, legible signage, and I still get on the Northbound side when I know darn well I need the Southbound lanes.

While I sometimes wuss out, I’ve tried to conquer this fear. I’ve driven all over the state, and occasionally into adjoining states. When I lived in Philadelphia I used the mass transit system. I’ve also flown by myself twice even though both times I had friends meet me at my destination airport, as the thought of renting a car in a strange city makes my knees weak. In fact, this fear presents itself with a wide array of symptoms and not always in direct proportion to the scariness of the situation. It can range from mild concern, through butterflies in my tummy and cold sweats, all the way to full-blown nausea. I’ve mostly avoided it, but I know this fear has the potential to hold me back at work, and it affects my social life too. And, for me, it just seems so dumb! I mean, what is the worst that can happen? (Ok, that is a rhetorical question, no comments on that please!)

Do you have any irrational fears? Something that seems to be unique to you, or perhaps to your situation (like a fear of the ocean when you’ve always lived in the middle of New Mexico).  What have you tried, if anything, to overcome it? Leave a comment.