Tomorrow my sister visits the psychologist. Her ailment, if you choose to call it that, is quite simple: too much fear.
My sister is afraid of tornados. Where we live there are no tornados but this means nothing to her. When winds pick up as they do this time of year she goes into the basement to watch The Weather Channel, eagerly expecting some sort of wind warning that would justify her fear. The report is always the same: winds at 30km/h gusting to 60.
"It's much faster than that! It's more like 110," she exclaims. She is an expert at wind velocities. Often, I sit with her on the couch. She lies under a pink comforter with her head propped up on blue cushions. I sit on the other end of the couch, with her feet in my lap. I hold her feet in my hands.
"Look," I tell her, "there won't be a tornado. I met a girl who lived through many tornados and she says the surest way to know it's a tornado is if the clouds are green. I just looked outside and the clouds are only greyish-white. There won't be a tornado."
"There could be," she says, "you don't know."
She's seen all the TLC specials on tornados. I beg her not to watch them, but she always does. I ridicule the television, saying "a tornado took my trailer" in a southern accent. I note all the facts: "Look, they said you need winds around 140km/h constant to have a tornado! It's never been that strong here!" She doesn't respond, or she tells me to shut up. I ask her what she's afraid of, what she sees. Does the house blow down? Does someone get sucked up into the vortex? What is it, then? She says she doesn't know.
With her feet in my hands she's telling me she wants to go upstairs to get some food but she can't because of the wind. She wishes she could go outside and play with her friends but she can't because of the wind and I don't know what to do except wish that I could help her.
I maintain that all fear is irrational. All fear is a sickness of the mind. When danger is present we do not fear - we do what is necessary to escape it. Fear comes when there is nothing we can do. The proper response is to accept the situation and deal with it when it is time to act, otherwise to do nothing at all. Sit, wait, meditate. But I am a hypocrite. I have my own irrational fears.
Do you want to know my irrational fear? You'll laugh at me.
Aliens. The grey ones with the big black eyes and bony three-fingered hands. The ones that come at night and take you away to their ship to do experiments upon you. Aliens. Completely irrational. I have never seen an alien except on TLC. If an alien did want to abduct me there's not much I could do about it. There are no preventative measures. Until such time I should sit, wait, meditate, but I can't. When I was maybe thirteen I would go to the library and get all the books on aliens that I could find. Weird volumes of pseudo-science crap and unreliable first-hand accounts. I would read about the abductions, the visions, the bizarre experiments done under paralysis and I would be terrified but unable to stop reading. I learned nothing - there was no pattern of attack, no signs of warning, nothing to do. Some nights I would hide under my comforter with it up over my head. I would be sweating and uncomfortable, but too afraid to stick my head out and breathe the cool air of my room. I wouldn't open my eyes for fear of what I'd see. I wouldn't fall asleep for hours. Sometimes I had bad dreams about aliens.
I did get over this. At some point I realized that if I didn't want to see aliens in my dreams I could simply not think about them - just avoid them in my dream journeys. I avoided them in real life - stopped reading the books, stopped watching the TV specials. I began to think, "hey, I wouldn't mind meeting an alien, so long it was daytime." I had a dream that I did meet some aliens and had to help them find fuel for their spaceship. Their spaceship ran on organic matter - specifically dog poop and I found it very funny to be out with a bunch of humanoid aliens hunting the streets for dog poop, telling jokes to them and laughing.
At least I almost got over it. Last week there was a lame TLC show about the "Top 10 Mysteries of the World" or somesuch tripe, and number 7 was aliens. The grey ones with the bony hands. That night I couldn't sleep. I sweated under the comforter unable to quiet my mind. I'm twenty years old, I said to myself, what is this shit? Twenty years old. Completely irrational.
Indeed. My sister is about the same age as I was, and sometimes I think I understand why she watches those TLC tornado shows. For the same reason that I read those books about aliens. You just can't turn away. The difference was that my fear did not impact me in any way beyond sleepless nights in that there were no ways to prevent alien abduction. There are, seemingly anyway, ways to avoid being hurt by tornados and it's when my sister does these things - hides in the basement out of fear - that my parents take note and call in the psychologist.
I believe that there is some weird Freudian thing going on - that these irrational fears that we all have are a front for some deeper human emotions that everybody feels. There are so many phobias and I bet everybody has one. It's all in the way we deal with it, the way we swallow it up that keeps us sane.
I just hope this psychologist is a damn good one who knows what she's doing and can really help my sister because I feel there's nothing I can do... and that scares me even more than the aliens.