There’s something I have never shared before and it may surprise people who have known me online for some time.
Regularly, I share photos of birds. I feed some of the tamer wild birds by hand when they visit my garden. I worry if I don’t see my regulars for a while, and gush over them when they return.
For many years, however, I had a phobia of birds.
I don’t know to this day why they frightened me so much, they just did.
It wasn’t a phobia I could easily hide either. Every time a bird came near me, I panicked. I rarely shrieked – I’m not that vocal a person – but I would break out in a sweat and have to remove myself from the situation, wherever it was. It could be a friends home, a park, the beach, even in my own back yard. If a bird came near me, the sweats and shudders began.
Many well meaning people attempted to psychoanalyse me. I must have had a bad experience with a bird, or birds, as a child, I was told. Most ornithophobics can pinpoint their phobia to an incident. I couldn’t think of any traumatic incidences I had had as a child, so I asked my parents if they knew of anything. No, they said. They were as baffled as me.
Had I watched the Alfred Hitchcock movie The Birds, I was asked. He’ll no! was my reply. I would like to get rid of my phobia, not exacerbate it.
Face your fears, I was advised. Have you tried hypnotherapy, I was asked. No – and no – I replied.
Eventually, I concluded that I would simply avoid places where there were likely to be birds. That seemed simple enough. I was determined not to pass my phobia onto my children, so tried to hide my fear of birds from them. I needn’t have bothered. Children can be surprisingly understanding, I discovered. The day we were picnicing in a National Park and I turned around to find a bush turkey standing right next to me, I jumped up on the picnic table to get away from it. My children chased it away, then they laughed and told me how silly I was to be afraid of birds.
The years passed by and I coped just fine with my phobia. It didn’t hinder my life too much, and I kept myself to myself while I was gardening. No birds came anywhere near me, until one day, a magpie dared to come within a couple of metres of where I was digging a garden bed.
I shrieked, the bird flapped and moved away from me, whilst eyeing me suspiciously. Didn’t that silly bird know who it was dealing with, I thought?
What’s up with her? the magpie’s expression seemed to suggest.
That was enough for me. I retreated indoors. My safe garden haven was no longer safe.
Something about that bird’s reaction stayed with me though. I realised a few things – firstly, the bird had not been afraid of me. Secondly, I had been more afraid of the bird. Most perplexing of all, the bird didn’t fly away when I reacted badly.
Finally, I concluded that the magpie had not meant to cause me any grief. It was as stunned by my reaction to it, as I had been in unexpectedly seeing a bird so close to me in the garden.
The magpie did not want to harm me! How amazing is that? That was my conclusion back then, and I was absolutely astounded by the realisation.
The next day I went out to the garden again. While digging and weeding, I kept a lookout for the magpie, and sure enough, it returned. The bird went about its business while I went about mine. When the magpie was ready to fly away, off it went. The magpie actually seemed to enjoy my company!
The next time I went into the garden, I took some food with me. When the magpie arrived, I threw a few scraps to it, and the bird seemed pleased with my meagre offerings.
Many generations of magpies have visited my garden since then, and over time I have discovered that birds have more to fear from people than we have from them.
The result of me beating my phobia of birds is well documented here on my blog. I never sought professional help to overcome my phobia, I simply learned to trust nature. I also learned to trust my own instincts, and my instincts nowadays always tell me that birds can be trusted. To clarify that point, if you treat birds well, they can be trusted. They react the same as most animals.
I still haven’t watched The Birds, and I never will. I haven’t had any nightmares about birds in several years either, so I do not intend tempting fate by putting myself in any position that will create doubt in my mind. I have many feathered friends now, and will do absolutely nothing that may compromise my freedom to love and enjoy them.
Clearly, this years baby magpie doesn’t know I’m a recovered ornithophobic, as that sweet little bird often tries to land on me! I must admit to some anxiety when he comes too close to my head, flapping his feathers, but I cope.
The photos in today’s post were taken about two weeks ago. It had been raining, and between showers I went outside to take a few photos. Baby magpie saw me, so followed me as I walked around the garden. When I stopped to take photos, he perched nearby and waited. When I moved on, he followed me. Like all the other generations of magpies before him, baby magpie enjoys my company. And I enjoy his company. It’s as simple as that.
I hope by telling my story, it might help someone who has a fear or even an unexplained phobia. I can’t offer any magical cure, all I can advise is to find another point of view to consider the problem from. Stay rational and calm, think the situation through with a clear mind, and go with the flow. Try not to fight your fear. It was when I decided to relax that I grew to love birds.
It’s difficult to describe the difference between a fear and a phobia, but there definitely is a difference. While both can be controlled by mind-power if we so choose, from my experience, fears can be faced and overcome. From my own experience, fear is more a state of mind where we imagine something is going to be worse than it actually is. Phobias are debilitating, and in my case, unexplainable.
I will be interested to hear your thoughts on the extent to which you believe a person can control a phobia through mind-power, or by using rationalisation. Do you believe it is possible, even easy, to overcome a life-long phobia, as I seem to have done? To this day, I cannot explain why my phobia of birds is gone!