TED Talk: How to beat stage fright


Phobias: A Plague or Mutations of the Basic Instinct?

Phobia is Greek and means to be afraid of something. In the non-Greek world, it is mainly used in psychological terms, signifying severe fear as in: terrified and: neurotic and: in need of professional treatment. Those in the grip of a veritable phobia are panic-stricken and paralyzed when it comes to tackling certain situations. Phobias are relics of our evolutionary past and were quite useful back then. Should a ferocious sabre-toothed tiger – teeth bared – spring up inadvertently from the undergrowth with an intimidating roar, the primitive brain would switch to red-alert and reliably signal to the short-legged homo erectus: RUN as fast as you can! It was a matter of survival, and the same basic instinct takes control over us in perilous situations until this day.

Instead of easing up a couple of hundred thousand years ahead, a meanwhile motley variety of phobias seems to bloom into an ever more colourful, mind-boggling kaleidoscope. It remains to be clarified, if the latest creations can still be justified – or excused? – as being ‘in the genes’.

Fears of fire (Pyrophobia), flying (Aviophobia), heights (Acrophobia), the dark (Achluophobia), of sharks (Galeophobia) or of failure (Atychiphobia) are presumably shared by a majority of humans, even by those equipped with an otherwise relaxed mindframe. Which also accounts for stygiophobic persons, who dread being stir-fried in hell.

Today, people seem to suffer from all kinds of irrational anxieties – too often readily dubbed phobias. Perhaps they are just regular frights thriving in a complicated world hard to cope with?

When Agyrophobia – the fear of crossing the road is coupled with Optophobia – the fear of opening one’s eyes and Chronophobia – the fear of time moving forward, the respective person is in for a lot of trouble at the workplace. Especially, when preceded by Somniphobia – the fear of sleep and Acousticophobia – the fear of sounds (as in alarm clock). Friggatriskaidekaphobia (or Paraskavedekatriaphobia) – the fear of Friday the 13th – seems comparatively harmless and poses a lesser evil due to its rarity. Yet, in 2023 and 2024 there will be two Fridays the 13th each. Ideal dates to take the respective day off and spend it in the security of a padded cell.

Beware of yellow peanut butter!

Those who have to endure these alien phobias are not to be envied and may well be exposed to ridicule: theirs is the fear of vegetables (Lachanophobia) or cheese (Turophobia). Or of the colour yellow (Xanthophobia). Some are even shaken by the fear of peanut butter sticking to the roofs of their mouths (Arachibutyrophobia)!

Our full sympathy, on the other hand, rests with a young group repeatedly certified of suffering from Nomophobia to an alarming extent. The much-discussed generations Y+ Z, we have learned, are prone to this rampant condition: the massive fear of being out of mobile phone contact. A truly dolorous disease.

For those plagued with more phobias than they can rattle off, Pantophobia comes in handy: It describes the fear of everything. Or are they just suffering from Decidophobia – the fear of making decisions?

Stage fright

Stage fright – Glossophobia (fear of speaking in public) – is a common phenomenon. Watch this amusing TED video and learn how to overcome yours.

During the day, Joe Kowan is a graphic designer with a BFA in sculpture and design.

The folk singer-songwriter he turns into at night has been struggling with stage fright from the age of 27, when he started writing songs. Despite his fears, he captivates audiences with his own poignant and comical style of folk and acoustic hip-hop. In this entertaining talk, Joe Kowan shares how he eventually conquered his stage fright.

Copyright header photo: Christina Feyerke