Monday, July 24, 2006

The More You Know

I'm acrophobic — which is to say, I suffer from an irrational fear of heights.

"Phobia" is a concept that's often misused or misunderstood. The key word is "irrational." I don't like glass elevators or standing near ledges — in fact, it bothers me when other people lean over ledges. But that fear doesn't make me acrophobic because it's not irrational: People fall, and falls can kill. And I couldn't ever work washing windows on a skyscraper — but again, that's not an irrational fear, it's just an acute aversion to that particular danger.

I'm acrophobic because, if I watch a movie where a character hangs from a rooftop, my palms sweat. And I'm not talking about watching an IMAX film in an immersion theater: I'm saying that if I sit in my living room with my 19-inch television and I watch a movie where someone scales a cliff, I experience a physical reaction. I'm in absolutely no danger whatsoever and yet my palms will sweat, because it's an involuntary and completely irrational physical reaction. That's phobia.


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