It stinks! The fear of passing on the fear - Mind The Baby

It stinks! A fear of passing on the fear

I have one or two little niggly phobias. Okay, really, if I’m honest, I might have three or four. They’re nothing serious or debilitating, and in fact a couple of them are downright embarrassing, but they’re with me nonetheless, hanging around in the background, like a bad smell (we’ll get to that part in a minute).

I’m not great with the auld spiders now I have to say. I read this article on I Fucking Love Science a while back and I nodded along with the description of arachnophobes’ discomfort with:

the seemingly erratic movements of spiders, and their “legginess””.


My biggest one would be my very childish phobia of needles which mortifies me regularly in front of medical professionals when I have to get blood tests. If you’ve ever wondered if it’s possible to be both puce with embarrassment and carry on like an irrational toddler at the same time, I can assure you I have mastered the art. I am quite proud to say though, in the last couple of years I have done a lot of work on addressing this particular fear and I’ve really come on in leaps and bounds. So in one sense, it reassures me that if I want to I’m more than capable of overcoming any fears if I set my mind to it. It’s deciding that I dont want to be afraid any more that’s the big leap.

I’m not really sure where any of them came from. I don’t remember a time where I didn’t have them, but we know that we aren’t born with fears so they must come from somewhere! I’ve always been very conscious of controlling my fears in front of the little man because of course, I would have a fear of passing on the fear 🙂

And I’d hate that – to be responsible for conditioning a fear in a small child that is unnecessary and unfair. So I wasn’t really thrilled to read this article today about how a new study has found that baby rats can literally smell fear off their mothers. The research found that even when a mother rat experienced a trauma before her babies were born, they learned to fear the same thing, purely by inhaling the scent their mother gave out when she was exposed to that fear again.

Taking a massive unscientific leap from there, there is a possibility the research may go some way towards explaining why we fear some things and have no idea why. As the article says, we already know that the opposite is true, that a mother’s smell is proven to have a calming effect on babies. I’m just a bit ticked off that all my efforts to embrace the monumental, hairy, bug-eyed spider and its “legginess” running all around the bath, with cheering and clapping might be a complete waste of time. Because I’m standing there oozing the terrible stink of fear all over my child, who’s completely confused by the mismatch of hysterically smiling mammy and the awful whiff in the room.

Perhaps it’s brand new motivation for me to cop on and find ways to get over myself. Although I’ll never stand on a glass floor teetering hundreds of feet in the air. Never.

photo credit: PKMousie via photopin cc

13 thoughts on “It stinks! A fear of passing on the fear”

  1. I didn’t have a fear of mice but I think I do now – the image at the top won’t leave my head!
    I read the same article yesterday and started trying to think of all the things I’m afraid of and the fear that I am inadvertently passing on to my kids – poor kids….

  2. I totally get what you mean by “legginess”Bloody spiders have too many legs!!!I also hate albino mice and I’m not too keen on albino people either-although I’m trying to change that cos that’s not cool.Its the red eyes though ….shudder.

  3. I d the same thing and it’s actually kind of working with spiders. I’m not AS petrified of them as I was since having kids…. as long as they don’t run towards me…

    They seem cool enough with them so far but I reckon not liking them is actually pretty rational. I’m betting it’s an evolutionary thing to make you not go near things that could potentially bite and poison you to death. (Yes I am aware I live in Ireland and the chances of that are slim to nil…. but still)

    1. I think you’re on to something there Sadhbh. The truly smart people would have a healthy fear of something that might kill them 😉

      I’m reasonably okay with the spiders if they’re below hip level. But if they’re higher than that, they have the position on advantage…

  4. Due to unpopular demand, I’ve ditched the picture of the scary lab mice with the red eyes and gone for this new one instead. Turns out I’m not scared of insane-looking mice and loads of people are 😉

  5. I’m with you on the spider front! Although my three year old loves watching them and playing with them, so perhaps he’s caught the scent and is happy to torment me with their presence 🙂

  6. I’m trying not to pass on my fear of heights. This is going to take a lot of doing, since I get nervous four steps up a ladder. But its not something I want E to grow up with – his daddy is into climbing, and climbing walls make me dizzy just looking at them with fear, which isn’t healthy at all.
    Between that and mice, I definitely have some work to do.

  7. I’ve the needle one, a dentist one and a dog one. The dog one I got from my Dad I’m sure, that and I was scratched when I was 2.5. The dentist I’ve really worked on, and the needles too. My Dad is terrified of heights, and while I’ve a bit of a fear it’s nothing like his. Also, 2 of my siblings are arachnophobic and neither of my parents are, so it’s not just us parents are to blame.:)

What do you think?