What are you afraid of?

If you haven’t had a chance to visit our summer exhibition Goose Bumps! The Science of Fear (which is not based on the delightfully haunting Goosebumps book series for young readers), what are you waiting for? Where else can you visit a four room challenge course to face your fears in a safe environment?

Even if you’re not that daring, there’s more to explore! Engage with captivating media, lively interactives, and edutaining games to learn about the roots of common fears and explore what  is happening within your brain and body when you are feeling fearful. Then, delve into how to deal with fear and anxiety with a variety of coping mechanisms.

Passing these invaluable strategies on to our beloved younger generations will enable them to process their own emotions and behaviors in a healthy way and help them build confidence and resilience that will last a lifetime.

Whew, that’s a lot to explore!

Common Fears among Turtle Bay Visitors

At the end of the exhibition, we invite our guests to share their own “Greatest Fear”. Then, every week or so, we post those submissions for all to see and ponder. It has arguably been one of our most popular participatory activities!

Here are the top five “Greatest Fears” among our visitors:

1)     Various types of animals

2)     Losing a loved one/being alone

3)     Death

4)     Falling/Heights/Flying

5)     Clowns

So, what kinds of animals are folks afraid of? Most fall under the categories of “large species that could maim and eat us (predators)”, or “creepy crawlies (insects, spiders, etc.)”. A group of scientists in the Czech Republic recently ranked the 25 animals we fear the most, from cats (yep, despite all the warm, fuzzy YouTube memes, some people are afraid of cats) to spiders, and found that spiders and venomous snakes topped the list.

According to the researchers, “while predatory animals evoke fear, they rarely raise our sense of disgust. By contrast, parasites, spiders, and snakes make us fearful and repulsed.” This bears out in our exhibition poll. Within the category of “fear of animals”, 38% responded with spiders. The next highest category was snakes with 16% of the responses. After that, insects and large predators tied with 10% of the submissions. However, despite the fact that your fear of a certain animal is validated, that doesn’t mean you should necessarily kill them. For example, the Northern Pacific Rattlesnake found in our area may seem scary but it is crucial for the well-being of the ecosystem by keeping rodent and other pest populations in check. If possible, just keep your distance.

Does this list of fears surprise you? You may look at this list with confusion and think, “how can anyone be afraid of that?” It might seem odd to you that your friend or family member is fearful of dolls, but your fear of flying might seem silly to someone else. After all, there have been no recorded incidents to date of maiming or murdering by dolls, and your chances of dying in an airplane crash are one in five million. However, even with reassurance and statistics, we still may feel fearful, and that’s probably okay as long as your fear isn’t significantly hampering your ability to function in life. Fear is an important emotion – it keeps us alive – but living in fear is unhealthy.

How to Cope with Fear

The second part of our exit poll gauges whether the exhibition helps people understand their fear. Most have said yes! That’s one sign of a successful exhibition - folks learning something new! But now that you understand your fear, how do you cope with it?

Helping Children Cope (from the exhibition):

  • Don’t belittle children for their fears. Remember that to them, these fears are very real and serious.

  • Do talk to children about their fears. In the case of unreasonable fears, try to help children understand that they really have nothing to fear.

  • Don’t force children to confront their fears before they’re ready.

  • Do encourage kids to face their fears on their own terms, taking incremental steps. With time and exposure, children will often begin to feel less afraid.

  • Don’t cater to fear. Allowing children to completely avoid the things that scare them is likely to maintain or worsen their fears.

  • Do help children prepare for the exposure by talking about what they might expect and positive ways of coping with fear.

  • Don’t overreact to your own fears, if possible. Be aware that children often develop fears by watching their parents’ fearful reactions.

  • Do talk to kids about your own fears if you have developed positive methods for dealing with them.

Learn more about helping children cope with fear and how fears can change over time at our summer exhibition Goose Bumps! The Science of Fear open now through Monday, September 2, 2019.

(For more information on how to help children manage fears, CLICK HERE)