The most liberating acronym I’ve come across is the one that defines fear as:

F = false
E = evidence
A = appearing
R = real

Since I came across this acronym more than 15 years ago, I have learnt to face my fears and reduce them to mere figments of my imagination. The moment I sense the slightest hint of fear, I analyze its source and deal with it immediately. Consequently, there is very little that I’m afraid of. In fact, I would love to say that I am not afraid of anything, but that would be a big fat lie as there is just one thing that I have not yet learnt to dismiss with this acronym.
Snakes!

I am terrified of snakes. From the most innocuous to the very poisonous – as far as I am concerned, a snake is a snake. In my world, there is nothing like a harmless snake. As long as the creature slithers, it is harmful, poisonous and evil.

I am not ashamed to say I have ophidiophobia or ophiophobia.
Stories about this fear from childhood to the present abound. As a child right through to adolescence, my young brother’s rubber snake frightened me. Even if it was thrown at me 10 times and I knew it was made of rubber, it would still trigger a reaction. My mother had to make a specific rule that banned my siblings from involving me in any game to do with the rubber snake.

When I turned 10, my mother bought me a children’s encyclopedia for my birthday. I went through it with much zeal and enjoyed the learning experience until I got to the pages with snakes. Those pages gave me shivers and nightmares for weeks. They are the only part of the entire encyclopedia that went unread. I actually glued the pages together so I would never have to see the slithering creatures again.

Fast forward to adulthood and that fear has still not gone away.

Some years ago, we had a media training workshop at a lodge of the outskirts of Mutare in Zimbabwe. It was such a pleasant environment to be in and one of activities on offer was a nature walk. As my friend and I read through the information package in the room to find out more about what we were likely to see during the nature walk, we can across the dreaded word: “snakes!”

Apparently, we were likely to stumble upon pythons and some other rare snakes during the walk. Of course that was the end of our plan to take the nature walk. In fact, we were so miserable for the rest of our stay that we needed each other’s company to move around the premises. The thought of encountering slithering reptiles was enough to keep us indoors. Thankfully, it was cold and we spent most of our time by the fireplace, but fear was more compelling than warmth in keeping us indoors.

A few years ago, I met a really cute guy and it was not very long before we went on our first date. Unfortunately, as we drove home after that first date, a snake slithered across the road. It was a harmless snake probably seeking shelter from the rain, but for some strange reason, I figured it was a bad omen and that was the end of the potential relationship with the cute tall guy who all my friends were swooning over.

Looking back all these experiences seem so irrational, but then again, so is fear. There is absolutely no reason to be afraid of snakes, but I am. I don’t quite know what drives the fear. It could be a combination of the knowledge that they are poisonous and the cultural association of snakes with evil. Whatever the case is, I don’t know. What I know for sure is that I can rationalize my way out of every other fear, except that of snakes.

The topic for today in the 30 day #BloggingChallenge is “what are you afraid of,” so there you have it in one word. Snakes!

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