View Full Version : Xylophobia, fear of the woods

06-12-2012, 12:34 AM

I have a character in my work in progress who's afraid of the forest (which is quite ironic since she is a tree spirit). She fears it so much that she can't even consider hiding in the woods when it comes to protecting her own child. Do you know people with a xylophobia of that kind of degree? I'm just asking out of curiosity.

06-12-2012, 04:33 AM
I knew a woman who had a phobia against butterflies and moths. It was such a mortal fear she became a shut in because she was terrified she would die if she came into contact with a butterfly or moth.

Interesting woman. Thankfully the right therapist and exposure got her over it, but she didn't go out of her house for seven straight years.

I know it's not the exact phobia you are talking about, but it illustrates how powerful phobias can be.

06-12-2012, 04:50 AM
Not exactly, but I too have known people with other severe outdoorsy phobias. What happened to those I knew was they immediately got crazy panicky when even so much as in the environment where X might get them, even if X was utterly innocuous. (In one case, slugs.) It was as if they lost 50 IQ points and reverted to being five years old, bam. It's a startling thing to see from the outside. And while I generally don't suffer fools easily, in these cases, I could see the fear was so sincere and so overwhelming, I've always dealt very gently with them, even got one woman out for a short walk with me despite her terror, telling her over and over, any time you want to turn around, we will. She needed to feel in control; I could see that. Physically, they are like one big muscle spasm. The voice is high and tight. You can see them battling themselves, and I'm not sure why you can--the tight jaw, maybe, the darting eyes. It's like you can see she's ready to sprint away but forcing herself not to.

Most people react really badly to that freaked/childish/stupid panic, and that's to me one of the most interesting things about the subject. Most people are disgusted, angry, impatient. People who have to live with it get really ticked about the phobia. They force the phobic beyond her comfort zone and try to logic her out of it. That really doesn't help, but the phobic feels at some level she deserves being hated. Now there's awful shame on top of this wave of adrenaline.

One of my phobic friends was afraid of snakes and bought snake skins to try and get her used to at least that much. Your phobic might have bonzai trees or some similar talisman against it. It won't work, but it shows she's trying.

I don't know how old your character's child is, but an older child, even an eight year old, would have to take (and would be used to taking) the parental role, coaxing Mom along until the panic abated.

06-13-2012, 12:46 AM
Thanks for the input! I don't think I know anyone who'd be as afraid of anything as the people in your examples. I only have my mother-in-law who's terrified of being alone for example in the woods or in a huge manor or things like that but since she avoids those kind of situations, I can't really see her "in action"... (Besides, since she's afraid of being alone, I would never be able to see her anyway, duh!) So, I'm glad to see some examples (though I wouldn't want anyone suffering from such strong phobias).

My character's child is just a baby, a few hours old, so she wouldn't be able to do anything. (To give some context, the mother's sister wants to take her and the baby into the forest, because life has become dangerous for their kind. The mother reacts in a childish way, not only because she's afraid of the woods but also because she rejects her sister's lifestyle, and thus sees her child being taken away from her...)

06-13-2012, 03:53 AM
I worked with a woman (fellow teacher) who had a fear of the woods. There were trees at the edge of her backyard (a wooded area between her house and some neighbors) and she told me she couldn't 'look' at those trees. One tree in a grassy lawn, fine. Two trees, okay. Three or more altogether with shade and shadows between, horrifying.

It was the idea of not being able 'to see' what was there, between the trees, in the dark areas. What is there? She needed to know.

She was also afraid of wild animals, specifically small ones. Years ago I brought a turtle in box to school (I am a retired teacher) and was showing it to everyone. (I found it trying to cross a road, so I rescued it.) She put her hands up and said, 'Take it away!' I said, okay you don't have to look and set the box on the floor. (I was in her room for a meeting during planning time.) She said 'I can hear it moving around in the box. Take it away!'

Anything to do with the woods, wildlife - especially small animals - set her off. Otherwise she is an outgoing, extroverted, sports enthusiast who travels wildly and is a great teacher.

But yeah, she had xylophobia. (I didn't know there was a name for this particular fear.)