Years ago when our boys were small, Larry would equip them with paper bags and send them off on a mission.
“You know Mama does really good things for us all the time, right? Well, let’s do something nice for her today. She loves frogs. Take these bags and go find her as many as you can. Then we’ll surprise her with them.”
Hunting frogs was one of their best talents. They’d come back with their bags bulging and one would be the envoy to bring me to the outside to receive their offerings. Even Larry Ellis was smart enough to know not to bring them into the house. If those frogs had been loosed in my house, I shudder to think what might have happened.
All of them enjoyed my reaction to their offerings. Some running and a lot of screaming always occurred.
“But, Mama,” one child always rationalized, “they’re just frogs; they can’t hurt you.”
Logically, I knew that, but not even a rattlesnake scared me like a frog did. There’s nothing logical about a phobia. I’ve had a long history with this phobia and I should know. I’ve scraped knees and fallen in mud holes attempting to escape some frog or another. Ironically enough, the poor frog probably wanted to escape me just as much as I wanted to escape him. In high school biology class, I even fainted when told to dissect a dead frog. If the idea of a dead frog can do that to me, imagine what a live one might cause me to do.
I’m not sure if there’s a name for this particular phobia, but hundreds of phobias exist, many much stranger than mine—in my opinion, of course. I know a woman who has a fear of being touched. If someone reaches to shake her hand, she backs up and puts her hand behind her back. That presents a real problem for her here in the Bible Belt. Heaven forbid that someone should try to hug her. Some people fear insects of all kinds. Some fear having their pictures made or speaking in public. Ablutophobics fear bathing—thank goodness, I don’t know any of those; cyberphobics fear computers; and disposophobics fear hoarding.
Can you imagine living under the constraints of some of these phobias? Some phobias drive their owners to psychiatrists, where the phobics invariably spend thousands of dollars trying to control their irrational fears. I’m not sure what the agoraphobic does for help because he is too afraid to leave his house to seek help.
For people whose phobias interfere with their lives, there is hypnotherapy, which seems to work well and many therapists use it. As a matter of fact, many experts in the field consider this therapy best for social anxieties, one of which is the fear of conversation. Although hypnotism is still frowned upon in various societies, the experts say that hypnotherapy is perfectly safe. After everything is explained to the patient, the treatment starts by directing his mind in a temporary limbo and then proceeds with the productive steps in the therapy session. Many patients report that just the relaxation caused by the first trance helps. Hypnotherapy is done within the clinical setting and research reports promise success for the world’s most serious phobias.
I’ve never needed medical help with my ranidaphobia. (I never before realized there was an official name for fear of frogs.) On a few occasions I’ve accidentally picked up a frog and felt Emily Dickinson’s “zero at the bone.” But for the most part, I live with my phobia as I’ll bet that most other people do. It doesn’t seriously interfere with my life. I’ve actually progressed over the years. If someone hands me a frog at this stage of my life, I can manage a sickly grin and refrain from flight or fighting. I’ve made tremendous progress. The most serious mistake I’ve made with my phobia is letting other people know about it.