|Gayle Loewen captured this at last summer's International Fireworks Competition.|
With Canada Day around the corner, I did a little digging into an interesting phobia shared by a surprising number of people. It’s called Pyrotechnophobia, the fear of fireworks. Related fears go by other names: Misophonia, Phonophobia, Ligyrophobia. All are varying types of irrational fear of sounds or loud noises.
Reading some of the testimonies of the sufferers, I was astonished by the degree to which these fears can debilitate people. It robs them, not only of enjoying an annual fireworks display, but in some cases of daily peace. Sufferers dodge social events because balloons may be present. The mere sound of a balloon being inflated can trigger a panic attack resulting in vomiting or an inability to breathe. They might avoid stage plays in case of gunshot sound effects. Noisy equipment can make the workplace terrifying.
One American woman said, “Every Independence Day for the past decade, I've escaped the holiday by checking into a secluded hotel beyond the suburban booms of the night.” So powerful was her fear, she rarely left her dorm room her first year of college—even with her industrial strength noise-blocking earmuffs, the kind used by construction crews with jackhammers. ["It Happened to Me"]
Talk about a paralyzing fear! And judging by the comments left on her online article, she clearly isn’t alone. In some cases, people can trace their fear to an early-childhood incident. For others, the cause is nebulous at best and for others, a complete mystery. For a few, it came on suddenly after a lifetime of no such fear. Yet as desperate as these folks feel to shed the phobia, many resist treatment. Fear holds such a grip on them, it’s become part of who they are. They don’t want to lose a part of themselves, even if it’s a part they loathe. It’s called Eleutherophobia, the fear of freedom.
Can you relate to any of this? Maybe fireworks or loud noises are not your fear. Maybe it’s elevators or public speaking or dogs. Beards. Pregnancy. Mirrors. Bananas. (I’m not making this up!) Even the “fear of fear” has a name: Phobophobia (of course!) Some of these can sound ridiculous if they’re not your issue. But when you’re inflicted, it doesn’t feel irrational at all—even when your brain tells you it is.
Anxiety disorders abound, with various forms of treatment available and varying results. They can’t necessarily be divided into emotional, spiritual, and physical because we are whole, complex beings and all these elements work together. Dr. Rob Reimer, author of the book Soul Care, comes at it from a spiritual framework. Our fears, he says, are one of seven fundamentals that keep us from soul health—principles Jesus taught. The suitcase of our soul often contains so much anger, bitterness, fear, and deception that no room remains for the good stuff.
I’m no expert, but I do know this. Jesus paid a mighty high price for our freedom. Sure seems a shame not to live in it, doesn’t it? If you suffer from irrational, debilitating fears, I truly hope you will seek help. You don’t have to live that way. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7)
Freedom can be found, and freedom is one of the things we celebrate this Canada Day. May you thoroughly enjoy the holiday, this great country, and the beautiful fireworks this July first—free from all fear!
“If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36)