Paging Dr. Fear Download PDF
If fear really is all in our heads, Joseph LeDoux thinks he can eliminate it. The first step is to block out memories. When I was nine years old, my family moved into a newly constructed home in a pleasant Seattle suburb. Within a few days, I began to notice an unsettling number of spiders creeping along baseboards, dangling in closets, and loitering under furniture. I convinced myself that the assault could only be because our digs had inadvertently razed some kind of spider civilization, and these guys were out for revenge. I remember being unable to sleep, spooked by the sight of an eight-legged nasty clinging to the ceiling, waiting to pounce. I would insist that my father leave the stairwell light on so I could track its every move, certain that under the cover of darkness the little monster would sneak into my bed and burrow into my ear canal, where it would lay its sticky spider eggs and spawn a whole new arachnid dynasty. I stuffed wads of toilet paper into my ears as a first line of defense.
Fast-forward 30 years, and I find my repulsion firmly entrenched, seemingly for good. On a recent business trip, I glimpsed a spider behind the nightstand in my hotel room. I summoned the concierge, who duly chased the evil critter into the hall with a broom. “No problem,” he smirked when I apologized for my wimpiness. “Happens all the time.” Continue reading