It is not only dealing with humans, but my fears extend to dealing with animals, too. Now, most people are afraid of some type of animal, whether you’re Batman and afraid of bats or someone who’s afraid of snakes, crocodiles, spiders, scorpions, sharks, octopuses, jellyfish, etc. In those instances, it’s usually being anywhere in proximity to the thing that causes the fear and anxiety. I’m the same way. But, there can be other causes for the fear. For instance, most people love dogs. That’s why so many of us have them as pets. We do not fear them unless they become aggressive toward us. Some people love most dogs, but are afraid of certain breeds. The pit bull is the most common breed people fear. The fear of certain animals is usually the result of either preconceived notions or a traumatic experience involving that type of animal.
I developed more caution around dogs after experiencing the latter. One time while volunteering at a local dog shelter, I was attacked by a large dog. My memory is a little shaky about the exact breed, but it was part Mastiff. I had been taking the dog for a walk when he noticed one of the shelter workers drive past us. He was apparently very attached to this worker and immediately tried to catch up to the car and greet her. He did not like it when I held onto the leash instead of just letting him go. He turned and attacked, biting me and tearing clothing. I let go and he ran back toward the shelter. Most of my fear was from the attack, but some of it was that I let go of the leash and allowed a dog to run loose. It was greatly conflicting to decide whether to catch the dog or to stay and just calm down. I ended up jogging at a light pace after the dog. Upon arrival I picked up the leash just to bring him inside, when he turned and attacked me again. A shelter volunteer saw what was happening and rushed out to help separate the dog from me.
Afterward, I was shaken up beyond belief; trembling, hyperventilating, and sweating. After getting my wounds bandaged up, I stayed at the shelter a little longer to calm down and spend time with a reliably friendly dog. Another volunteer sat in a play area with me and a dog to help me feel safer. The dog did nothing aggressive, but when he wanted to come up and sniff me I became afraid. I was afraid of physically interacting with any dog at that point.
Fortunately the feeling did not last beyond that day. But, I never quite got one hundred percent of my former confidence back. I continued to work with dogs, but was a little more fearful about correcting them. After studying more about dog behavior, I found a new way to interact with dogs that used more positive methods to change unwanted behavior. But, after an episode of deep depression and anxiety hit, I was afraid to make dogs do almost anything they didn’t want to do. Taking a dog for a walk, they basically had free reign. They could walk way ahead, behind, or in front of me, even if it meant me nearly tripping occasionally. They could stop and sniff something every ten feet if they wanted. I tried coaxing them along only using words, but would rarely use the leash to pull them in any direction, except to avoid imminent danger. Since that time, I have recovered a more proactive, parental approach to my interactions with dogs I’m given charge of. I continued to learn more about dog behavior, what works and what doesn’t work. I’m much less afraid today because I have a better understanding how to enforce necessary rules for a dog’s behavior without instigating an aggressive response.
The anticipatory fear of potential pain kept me from doing my best during the baseball days of my youth. Over the years, the pitchers threw faster and the batters hit harder. To me, all that meant was that I’d have less time to react and would feel more pain when hit by the ball. I became afraid to face pitchers who were exceptionally fast, standing in the very back of the batter’s box. Getting hit by a pitch usually stings for a few moments, but is far from being unbearable. Despite that, I still had a great fear of it happening, which made me sometimes step away from the pitch while swinging the bat, making it almost impossible to hit it.
I also became afraid to play the shortstop position, because that was the position that fielded the most hits. When a ground ball was hit to me, I would try to get in front of it to make the play. But, if the ball took a weird hop and I misjudged it, the ball could hit me in the face. Most errors I made were due to this fear causing me to avoid committing my whole body to stopping the ball from getting by. I didn’t give up baseball because of the fear of getting hit. But, when I eventually ceased playing the game, it was a pleasant perk to not have that worry anymore.