We all love birds, don't we? Not necessarily. Some people suffer from a morbid fear of birds and it is this phobia, that we would be looking into, in the ensuing write-up.
What are fears but voices airy?
Whispering harm where harm is not.
And deluding the unwary
Till the fatal bolt is shot! ~ William Wordsworth
Indeed, most of us would agree with the great poet with regards to his aforementioned take on fear. However, there are also those of us, who are stringent followers of the idiom, “a burnt child dreads the fire“. It is good to have courage, but sometimes, when fear prevents you from embarking upon the unknown, untrodden path, it might actually be saving your life – not all discoveries are for the better, you see! But then, how would you explain an irrationally morbid fear of birds? Why are certain people extremely afraid of birds – even the small, cute, fuzzy ones like budgies? Let’s make an attempt to find out the workings of a mind, when it suffers from a petrifying fear of birds.
Ornithophobia is the scientific term used to identify the fear of birds, which is a specific phobia. However, there can be many variations of this particular phobia. Some people express a fear of only certain birds. If a person is afraid of not-so-friendly members of the bird kingdom, such as vultures, eagles, and other birds of prey, such a fear can be very well understood. After all, such birds are aggressive and predatory, and many a time we have heard tales of eagles and hawks swooping down from the sky and carrying away young cattle and small animals. Some other birds, such as seagulls and pigeons, may not be inherently aggressive, but may show some aggression when hunting for food.
Say, for instance, as a kid, if you loved feeding pigeons and if a pigeon had attempted to snatch bread crumbs or popcorn from your hand, injuring you with its claws in the process, wouldn’t you be wary of similar birds even as a grown up? It’s just that sometimes, this wariness may assume a greater intensity and gradually turn into a phobia as the years pass.
Another form of ornithophobia may be a fear of birds pooping on you. The feeling in this scenario, is more of disgust rather than fear. Many of us know, or are ourselves, hygiene freaks and when this obsession with hygiene and cleanliness crosses the limits of rationality, it may lead to a phobia of any possibility of coming in contact with dirt and unhygienic conditions.
Other causes of ornithophobia include superstitions and legends. Many cultures narrate myths that involve a crucial role of birds. There are many superstitions surrounding certain birds and a belief in these superstitions may lead to ornithophobia of specific birds.
For instance, black ravens are associated with death and misfortune, and albatrosses are considered unlucky for sailors. Sometimes, when you come to know of something bad that has happened to someone because of so-and-so reason, you subconsciously develop a fear or distaste for that reason or cause.
Similarly, if a person saw or heard of another getting attacked by birds, there is a good chance that such a person may develop a certain degree of fear for birds. For instance, when Alfred Hitchcock’s Birds was released, it caused a section of its audience to fear birds as the image of aggressive and unexplained bird attacks remained permanently etched in their psyche.
How to Deal with Ornithophobia
The first step in coping with this or any phobia is to admit and accept your fears. Next, realize that you are not the only one who suffers from such a phobia. In fact, there are a lot of people who suffer from many weird phobias, way weirder than yours! You may go through a list of all phobias and their meanings if you don’t believe me. Once you acknowledge your fear, try and pinpoint the exact cause that triggered this phobia in the first place. This will help you to decide whether or not your fear is rational.
Talking to someone about your fears and sharing your misgivings will help you emerge from your psychological solitude. Listening to fears experienced by others will also help in building confidence. Finally, face your fear. I know, this is easier said than done, however, if you wish to be freed from your fear, the best way to do so, is to face it.
Go to a zoo with a friend or a family member or go to a park, where there are lots of different birds. You may also begin to feed birds. This familiarity with the object of your fear will gradually eradicate your fear towards it.
Fear of birds is not a common phobia, however, it can have severe impacts upon the sufferer’s daily life. Such a fear may make the individual afraid of stepping out into the open and may prevent the sufferer from enjoying natural surroundings.
Ornithophobia may not be confined to living birds alone – a severe case of ornithophobia may manifest as a morbid fear of even graphic depictions of birds (posters, movies, paintings, photographs, etc.).