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!
11 thoughts on “Developing relationships – overcoming phobias.”
I am so happy that you were able to overcome your phobia of birds, Joanne. It seems I remember you sharing this story before, but had forgotten it. Not sure about your question about being able to control a phobia through mind-power, but you have me thinking about my own technique of trying not to turn away from negativity or darkness (which could be a phobia or compulsion or negative thought). It’s like we can try to turn away from our fear of birds by avoiding birds, but what’s locked down in the darkness is the fact that our psychic exiles are really often kind beings (like that magpie). The inner beings don’t really want to harm us. They just want love. The kind of love like you gave your magpie.
OK have tried to describe this 73 different ways in 73 days but you have just provided an awesome example! Thank you for sharing this today. ❤ (It may not be want you were attempting to say, but it's a perfect illustration for me from a different perspective.)
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I have read most of your 73 examples, Kathy, (and will catch up on those I’ve missed when your 75 days end) and everything you have said will resonate with someone. Several have for me. That’s why we need to read the same message, worded in multpile different ways, until we finally “get” the message. It’s like the way I knew, deep down, that I really shouldn’t fear birds, but nothing anyone ever said to try and convince me they were harmless, sunk in. It was an actual bird, a wordless creature, who finally got the message through to me. That’s where the power of the mind comes into play. When I consider the communicating power of birds and animals, who lack any means of worded communication, I understand that the power goes far beyond any words that any person can say.
Facing negative feelings might work sometimes, but have you considered that perhaps there are times we need to let go of the negative thought, by releasing it from our mind, in order to resolve the problem? I didn’t dwell on my phobia, I allowed time, and the right method, to fall into my life at just the right time to overcome my phobia, and it did. Haha … laughing at myself now … such wisdom I possess now with the benefit of hindsight! I didn’t actually realise that my phobia would go, my main point here is that I didn’t dwell on getting rid of the phobia. The Universe took care of it for me. 🙂
I want to say again what a wonderful teaching lesson this magpie taught you. What a story–I hope to remember this. It’s so funny, I have a friend from California who says exactly the same as you have expressed here, and we’ve been going round-and-round with this conversation for the past 20 years! I have obsessed on negativity before and, you are right, it didn’t work. This new “technique” of gently but lovingly turning toward every moment that arises (when possible) and not dwelling on or turning away has been a savior for me. I used to think about the problem and try to solve it mentally and that didn’t work either. It was a gentle non-obsessive way of acknowledging and noticing and exploring that made all the difference. But I totally agree with you about how it’s ultimately the Universe or Holy that will take care of it in the long-term. It’s all on divine timing. The reason I want to teach this approach is that it’s helped me and I have watched people suffer endlessly and die without issues being resolved. To me it’s the paradox of both surrendering to divine will/timing and moving into fear with gentle curiosity and love. Also some folks might be called to one end of the spectrum than others. Spirit might be advising one person to fully trust and surrender into divine timing. For another person it may be a journey of exploration, insight and discovering. Ultimately it’s both, I suspect.
I love the baby magpie photos! That’s wonderful that you found a way to overcome your bird phobia. I’ve often wondered why some animals trigger fears in some of us, but not other animals. For me, it’s spiders, dogs and horses. And there were incidents with spiders and dogs. When I was a small child I was bitten by both.
I remember the spider bite vividly. I was sitting on the front porch without a shirt on and a spider came down from the gutter on a thread and landed on my back and bit me. I couldn’t reach it to knock it off and started running around the yard screaming while my parents told me to stop running so they could help me. And there is something about my body chemistry that attracts them so they come out of nowhere to bite me. All of my life. My son-in-law wouldn’t believe it until the first time he witnessed it happen when I visited them.
The dog bite I don’t remember but my parents told me about it. They tried to encourage me not to show fear around a dog but acknowledged that the dog can tell if you’re afraid. As I grew up I found I lost my fear of little dogs but the large ones still make me nervous. It’s funny, I once had a friend with a large dog who couldn’t understand why I was afraid of her dog and I couldn’t understand why she was terrified of my cat! We had to visit each other in restaurants and parks. Fears can be very strange things…
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Oh dear, that must have been a huge problem with your friend not liking your cat and you not liking her dog! It’s great that you were able to work out a compromise. Your parents were right about dogs, they can sense when someone is afraid of them. Dogs are extremely loyal, so it helps to remember that if you don’t know a dog, ask the owner if you can pat the dog before approaching it. They may see you as a threat to their owner otherwise. Your experience with the spider sounds awful! Is that a “thing” – spiders being attracted to something about a person? My daughters both always seem to “find” spiders, whereas I hardly see them at all. If I walk into a web, I simply collect the web in my hand, put it on the nearest tree – or whatever I have disturbed the web from – and keep on going. Do you know why you are afraid of horses?
This is a wonderful true story, Joanne, and a great accomplishment. I had no idea that you were a recovered ornithophobic! A testament to the power of mind control and intelligence of magpies. They recognized you as a friend and trusted you with their babies. That is a great privilege. ❤
While reading this, I thought it would be a great piece to submit to a nature or bird journal, or maybe even what I think of as a 'Sunday paper' feature. It would have wide interest, I think.
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That’s exactly how I feel now, Eliza, priviledged that birds trust me and know they are safe when they visit my garden. I had never considered approaching anyone to share my story with (other than here on my blog!) I’m sure there are plenty of people who have feared birds and overcome their fears somehow, but there would also be many people who might benefit from hearing stories like mine. I will have to look into that. Thank you! 🙂
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Wonderful post Joanne and so good to see that you love birds and are no longer afraid of them! xx
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Thank you Nicki. 🙂
It just goes to show that anything is possible. 🙂
It was an interesting read Joanne, and I am glad you have overcome your fear. I think some fears can be overcome, but it is those in the subconscious that maybe can’t. I am a bit claustrophobic and also suffer from vertigo… both these things have arisen as I have grown older and crept up on me without me realising! I do try and overcome those fears, but when my legs go wobbly and my breath gets short I think it best to come down from the ladder or hang on to the guide rope on the mountain path!
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Oh no, you developed a fear of heights as you got older? Me too! I don’t consider that to be a phobia though, my practical side tells me that falling from a great height can hurt! I completely understand the wobbly legs and the shortness of breath too. When it comes to doing jobs like cleaning the ceiling fans, I tell my husband that’s his job! It’s funny though, I watch birds fly and think that it must be the most liberating feeling in the world to have the freedom to soar through the air as they do. So long as I don’t imagine the heights birds reach, I’m quite happy with my dream of flying like a bird. 😉
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