The One Great Phobia

     The Greek word for fear is “phobia.” All human beings have at least one phobia.   Many have more than one, and some people have multiple phobias.  Some of the more common phobias are:  acrophobia (fear of heights), agoraphobia (fear of public places), algophobia (fear of pain), claustrophobia (fear of closed spaces), hemophobia (fear of blood), mysophobia (fear of dirt/germs), pathophobia (fear of disease), and xenophobia (fear of strangers). Panophobia is fear of everything. Some clinicians have postulated that all phobias are just different manifestations of one primary phobia—the mother of all phobias. 

     Irvin D. Yalom, M.D., Professor of Psychiatry Emeritus, at Stanford University, in 2008, wrote a fascinating book, Staring at the Sun:  Overcoming the Terror of Death.  Yalom’s premise is that just as no person can stare at the sun without being physically blinded, no one can “stare” at death without being emotionally blinded. Based on his lifetime work of studying fear of death and helping people deal with their phobias, it appears that there is One Great Phobia—FEAR OF DEATH!

     The fact that Yalom is an atheist does not invalidate his medical research, insights, and expertise. Atheism may be an intellectual issue, but it is often a reaction to and a defense against the god of fear-based religion.

     According to Yalom, “Death anxiety is omnipresent in the unconscious as an intrinsic component of the human condition; the absence of evident death anxiety at a conscious level does not mean that the individual is without death anxiety; death anxiety is easily aroused.”   He explained that for some people, death anxiety is in the background—corralled in the unconscious mind.  “But for other people, the anxiety is louder, unruly, tending to erupt at three in the morning, leaving them gasping at the specter of death.  They are besieged by the thought that they, too, will soon be dead—as will everyone around them…Thoughts of death may seep into and permeate your dreams no matter how hidden from your conscious mind.  Every nightmare is a dream in which death anxiety has escaped its corral and menaces the dreamer” (bold added).

     In other research the ease of arousing death anxiety was demonstrated in a scientific study of two groups of people using the Galvanic Skin Response Test (GSR).  One group reported having no fear of death and never even thought about death while the other group reported having fear of death.  GSR electrodes were attached to each person to measure vital responses.  Without comment, a list of words, normally associated with death, were read to each person.  The result:  those who denied having any fear of death and never even thought about death had a significantly higher level of death anxiety!  Acknowledging and openly dealing with fear of death greatly reduces death anxiety.

     It is of the utmost interest that Yalom stated that death anxiety tends to erupt at three o’clock in the morning.  It may be more than coincidence that Bill Wiese, who in 2006,  wrote the New York Times best-seller book, 23 Minutes in Hell, reported his experience of being in hell occurred from 3:00-3:23 a.m.  Unless Wiese’s reported experience in hell was a complete hoax in order to sell a lot of books and make millions of dollars, the most logical explanation of Wiese’s perceived time in hell is that his death anxiety “escaped its corral” and, combined with his imaginary visual images of literal hell fire, menaced him with a very-real hellish nightmare. 

      Omnipresent death anxiety is immeasurably worsened by morbid fear of God and eternal damnation in literal hell fire.  For a totally loving conception of God and a sane, sensible explanation of hell in the Holy Bible and other Holy Books, read Spiritual Terrorism:  Spiritual Abuse from the Womb to the Tomb. This life-transforming book heals rather than worsens fear of The One Great Phobia!