What is it that really scares you? Almost everyone has a phobia of something or other, a fear that may be valid or simply imagined. There is no shame in being afraid of some things. Truth is, many of our fears are aversions to potential dangers that could harm us. Things that frighten us enough to put us in a self-preservation mode are healthy ones; an example of this would be that the fear of getting cancer can stimulate us to get uncomfortable medical check-ups such as mammograms and colonoscopies.

There is something about the darkening days of the fall season in general, and Halloween in particular, that triggers a primeval lust for goofy-scary and true terror-filled experiences. Think of how popular gory horror movies are on television right now. Think of how folks willingly drag their innocent children to “Haunted House” events where everyone leaves needing a change of underwear. Think of how much we spend on costumes and décor. Did you notice how those 20 dollar bags of candy appeared on the store shelves 2 months before fright night? These goodies will of course be consumed and have to be repurchased before the little spooks actually visit. Its called smart 'marketing' I suppose. This reminds me that in our COVID ridden lives today, simply going to Walmart is enough to strike fear and trepidation into the hearts of us all.

THE TOP TEN THINGS PEOPLE FEAR MOST

Every year psychologists compile a Top Ten list of the things that people report being scared of. As a lifelong observer of what makes folks tick, I noted that this list has hardly ever varied. Let's look at the traditional list of major fear inducers:

10 – Storms, thunder, lightning and other extreme weather events. I would label this as a mostly healthy type of fear.

9 – Dogs. I count them as man's best friend in the animal kingdom, but some experiences with vicious canines make this a legitimate fear for many.

8 – Mice and rats. This fright may be ingrained in us hearkening back to the various plagues these vermin have brought upon humanity over the years. But, it does make you wonder why Mickey Mouse has become one of the most popular characters of all time.

7 – Enclosed spaces (claustrophobia). This one is totally foreign to me, but is quite common I have noted among my patients who won't let us shut the exam room door. I personally love being snug as a bug in a rug. This fear is much more common than its opposite... agoraphobia... the fear of wide open spaces.

6 – Spiders and insects. Remember the movie ARACHNOPHOBIA? And just think of all the Hollywood movie monsters that feature giant bug-like and slimy varmints that are trying to devour the hero or heroine. And with mosquito's West Nile Virus, various tick borne scourges such as Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Lyme Disease and Alpha-gal allergies, Brown Recluse spider bites...well, the list is endless... I am tempted to concur that this is yet another potentially healthy fear.

5 – Flying. This ubiquitous fear is very common in first timers, and then there are those who can only do it with heavy prescription or alcoholic sedation. It also incorporates a fear of heights and claustrophobia, which can make flying a triple whammy horror for some.

4 – Snakes. A difficult to overcome terror since the days of the Garden of Eden and that damn devilish serpent who put us all in hot water since the Creation. The vast majority of snakes are totally harmless, but sadly, they almost all get the garden hoe treatment when encountered!

3 – Going to the Dentist. This is another one that is difficult for me to fathom. Most of the time when I leave the dental chair, my orthodontic difficulties are abated. I think if you are afraid of your dentist, you need to find another one pronto. These people are doing God's work!

2 – Heights. People with a clinical case of this are as afraid of climbing a ladder as they are a mountain. This fear really puts a kink in a fellow's potential vacation plans, not to mention employment opportunities.

1 – Public speaking. I'll bet you thought that the fear of death would rank as the number one human fear. Or, did you guess that fear #1 would getting a serious illness such as cancer? Year in and year out, these polls attest to the absolute horror that many of us have for public speaking; it always tops the list of things that petrify us most.

SEVEN OTHER THINGS YOU REALLY NEED TO BE SCARED OF

I really should pause to explain the title of this month's article with reference to the “SIPP.” Our dear friends Barbara and Jim Jeffreys (who have most unfortunately moved from beautiful downtown Ashland to North Carolina to be near their children), recently wrote me that the reason they had not been home to the “Sipp” ( Mississippi) in God knows when was because of their fear of 'CATCHING THE COVID.' There is no shame in Corona virus anxiety – another truly healthy fear.

When I was a child, various family members would titillate us with tales of demonic critters that might just tote us off and eat us. Old Aunt Emma Cagle would make my hair stand on end with front porch tales about Rawhead and Bloody Bones.

In more recent years, Blue Mountain's iconic teller of tall tales, Kevin Hall, would entertain my young boys, Jesse and Jack, with those same handed-down ancient legends.

My Bigmama's go-to haint was simply called the Boogerman. But she also had a penchant for stories handed down to her about a creature she called “the Flappin' Thang,” who would swoop down and steal babies out of pioneer wagons. I've had a few nightmares about that old 'flappin thang' in the past.

Speaking of nightmares, I don't have many, but one that woke me recently was ironically about a trip to the dentist the day before. I went to see my lifelong friend, the incredible Dr. Norris Howell, after one of my pre-molars just fell apart on me while I was enjoying my morning coffee...one of those “Oh, Crap!” moments. Now this tooth was questionable from the get-go, having had fillings on more than one previous occasion. He had shown me a wall of photos of similar misadventures in dental deterioration that apparently invaded my dreams that night. The vision??? Well, in my very frightening dream, Norris told me how my 'gums were totally shot and that I was just before losing all my teeth.' This woke me up with a shudder...too real for my taste. But luckily it was simply nothing more than a dream....gulp. My tooth had been well repaired the day before.

So what are some other things that should give us a fright these days? In no particular order let's name a few.

1 – A consultation with Dr. Google: Many patients I see have looked up all their symptoms on line before they come in to the clinic. Many folks are getting all their health information here and far worse, on the dreaded Facebook pages which practically guarantee they have received a dose of hyperbole and misinformation. If you get a consultation with Dr. Google, you will probably soon feel death's cold breath on your fevered brow. Beware! Turn it off if you want the truth!

2 – Fear the 'Walking Dead'... no, not the zombies on the telly...the real local zombies who reside all around us...drug addicts and meth-heads who walk amongst us every day and who will steal anything not nailed down to sell for feeding the habit which will ultimately kill them. Like those creatures on TV, the law can't seem to stop them, there are simply too many of them for the legal system to deal with.

3 – Watching the nightly news, particularly just before bedtime: Shootings, lootings, and mass murder in our back door...tornadoes, hurricanes, volcanic eruptions, drought on the west coast, floods on the east coast, fire threatening the national parks and millions of other acres, COVID death stats, science deniers, hoards of anti-vaxxers, stock market volatility, hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants at our borders (exactly how did all these people get from Haiti to Del Rio, Texas anyway?), hunger and disease in third world countries, daily federal government shutdown threats, national debt so high that my brain can't even process the figures, terrorist attacks and 'Afghanidamstan' updates ad infinitum, etc, etc, etc. These are a few of my not favorite things to think about at 10:00 pm. Beware! Turn it off if you want to sleep.

4 – Fear for the physical and mental health of our children: To get a young adult's take on the subject I asked my school teacher daughter-in-law Kimmie Williams about her thoughts on this subject... “Every day that I go to the classroom and send my own kids to school, I have fear of school shootings. They have us drill on preparedness for such events, but they seem to make us all even more nervous. Now I am afraid that I am messing up my children because of my own anxiety and insecurities.”

Wow...all this worry and dealing with the recent uptick in COVID in children is enough to send a thinking teacher to the loony bin. When I was in grade school, we had fire-drills, tornado drills, and later on during the Cold War era and the Cuban Missile Crisis we were given training in what to do to prepare for an atomic bomb blast from the Russians! Fear and trembling are not unique to modern times.

5 – And it is pretty scary to think of how many folks only get their daily news from fear-mongering social media posts and that excuse for a news channel, the FOX network. Conversely, there are other news stations that spin current events in a completely different direction. Who knows where the truth actually resides?...perhaps somewhere in between. And so we ask ourselves the question... “What is TRUTH?”

6 – Fear anti-maskers, the masses of the militant unvaccinated, and the COVID deniers like the very plague which they have helped to further perpetuate this summer! I just don't understand these people. And I absolutely can't fathom the healthcare workers who continue to refuse to get the vaccine. Within many hospitals and medical facilities now, the standard is quickly becoming “get the jab, or lose the job.”

Many of these same folks who flatly refuse the COVID vaccine (using the wrong-headed excuse that there has not been enough research done on it) of course have gotten sick with the virus. When that happens, well, John Brown, they may go to the county Co-Op and buy themselves some cattle wormer (Ivermectin is potentially toxic to humans) or they are the first in line begging for the far less studied Monoclonal Antibody Infusion (MAB). Go figure.

And you can't argue with these people because they got their dis-information from either Dr. Google, Fox news, or some knuckle-headed Facebook posting psychopath. Their Family Physician's recommendation means nothing to them...we are chopped liver compared to their phony medical sources.

Let's just study the stats for the state of Mississippi. Because we are at the bottom of the list on most everything, we are not surprisingly the least COVID vaccinated state.

Nationwide, one out of 500 people who get COVID die from it. In our state, one out of 327 COVID cases prove fatal...the country's highest death rate.

As I write today, the figure for 'known' Mississippi COVID cases is 489,000. This represents one Mississippian in four. The number of Mississippians whose death was attributed to the virus is 9646. Let that sink in...this is a figure more than if the entire population of Benton County (pop. 8271) had been erased in the past year and a half.

GUESS WHAT....ABSOLUTELY NO ONE IN THE MAGNOLIA STATE HAS DIED FROM GETTING THE VACCINE! (Do the math.)

7 – Fear for our nation's future: Back in the late 1700s President Thomas Jefferson lamented, “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just.”

Over two centuries later, Jefferson would be more than shocked to learn how far America has departed from its 'one nation, under God' origins. The Lord indeed is just, but thankfully He is also merciful.

In what is likely his most famous work, the song “Because He Lives,” Christian composer Bill Gaither captures the take-home message for this month's essay. There is one brightly shining promise that can remove our anxieties about our hopes for a better future. This song inspiration came to him in the late 1960s, another unsettling time of violent social unrest in America and during the awful war in Vietnam. His wife Gloria was expecting a child, and they both worried that it was a terrible time to bring a baby into the world. But when their son was born, Bill's thoughts were of the living Savior. He wrote:

“Because He lives, I can face tomorrow...

Because He lives, all FEAR is gone.

Because I know He holds the future,

And life is worth the living just because He lives.”

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