Tag Archives: fear of cats

How Your Brain Works

Frankly, I don’t know how your brain works, nor do you.  I don’t know how my brain works either (assuming it does).  And the bad news–or the good news, depending on how you look at it–is that no one else does either.  Bad news if you’re trying to find a cure for Alzheimer’s; good news if you get a little queasy about telepathy and “mind-control” stuff.  Not that mind-c0ntrol (behavioral conditioning) can’t be accomplished without actually knowing how it works inside the brain. 

I think a little mystery is a good thing. While there is a certain loneliness inherent in the human condition, expressed in the simple saying, “You can never really know another person”, if you could, would you?  I personally am not ready to be Borg…but I digress.

Today we will discuss two important concepts relative to brain function:  phobias, and chocolate cake. 

First let us define phobia:  it’s something YOU are scared of.  If I’m scared of something, it’s an endearing quirk.  If you’re scared of something, you’re irrational.  Let’s take two examples. 

First ailurophobia, or fear of cats.  Fakename has never understood this, but she has a theory as to why it might develop.  Cats apparently don’t have the facial muscles to be particularly expressive.  They can move their ears, and open and close their mouths (very useful for eating), and they can twitch their noses, but the eyes are the problem.  They don’t blink often, and so appear to be staring, which we humans interpret as aggression.  Not to mention all the times they’ve sucked the breath out of our sleeping babies. 

Second, gephyrophobia, fear of bridges.  This is not as uncommon as you might think.  Let’s pause for a moment to say that an anxiety doesn’t reach the level of phobia unless it affects your behavior.  Such as–I will never again travel from Tallahassee to Jacksonville without going however many miles out of the way I have to go to reach it from the south.  Never again will I do that I-10, I-95 Junction thing with the elevated roadways.  But mostly, it’s bridges over water that are scary. 

This is a relatively new development for me, because I have driven over some monster bridges.  The Lake Ponchartrain Causeway.  Not to mention the Huey P. Long bridge.  The Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel.  The Confederation Bridge between New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island in Canada–actually, I was a passenger for that one, but still.  However, nothing compares bridge-wise to the Sunshine Skyway Bridge over Tampa Bay.  I date my personal bridge phobia to having to cross it.  I had never experienced anything like it. 

It’s described as “one of the world’s longest bridges with a cable-stayed main span”.   The cables are painted yellow, and here’s the deal:  when you hit the section of road where the cables are, it sets up a sort of optical illusion which is disorienting.  Behold: 

Curiously, Fakesister shares this fear of bridges.  Last year she took a trip to northern California and we had some discussion about how and if she would make it over the Golden Gate.  Somewhere out there is a scientist who would like to study us. 

Finally, some scientists did an experiment that went like this:  A group of people were asked to memorize either two-digit numbers or seven-digit numbers, then all they had to do was walk down the hall, go into another room, and repeat the numbers.  But they were interrupted by being asked to choose a snack:  a refreshing bowl of healthy fruit, or chocolate cake.  It turns out that the people who had to remember seven digits were twice as likely to choose the chocolate cake.  This proves, or suggests…something or the other.  There was no word on whether either group remembered their numbers.  You can see the story, which aired on NPR,  here.

Here There Be…Cats

Back when the earth used to be flat, you were advised not to sail past a certain point lest you fall off, but fortunately before you got there you would reach the point on the map which said, “Here There Be Dragons”.  I think most people turned back before they ever got to the dragons.  I certainly would have. 

Unfortunately, cats are not nearly as avoidable.  I don’t do a whole lot of hating (although Sarah Palin is a severe test for me), but I verge on hating people who hate cats.  If you’re a cat hater, you need to have a really good excuse, and it can’t be mythological.  Even my sister, who is wildly allergic to them, doesn’t hate cats.  She also is not fond of their chipmunk-killing tendencies, but she still doesn’t hate them.  She admires them a bit, I think, from afar. 

I have serious issues with people who say that cats aren’t smart, or trainable, or affectionate.  Like I said, mythology not allowed. 

The people who really amaze me are those who are scared of cats.  I have an employee who has to go once a month to her landlord to pay the rent (my guess is:  in cash.  Let’s not tell the IRS.)  The landlord has a cat, which my employee swears “jumped out” at her once.  Must be a watchcat.  Now when she pays the rent, she stands on the street and calls the landlord on her cell phone to say, come get the money.  This is a woman who has a pit bull for a pet.  Go figure.   

Which brings me to horses.  Where there be horses in barns, there be barn cats.  And why, I’d like to know, is that?  I can’t claim to know much about horses.  I can’t even name the parts of a horse.  Wait…hoof.  Isn’t that a horse part?  Fakesister is the horse expert in this family (and knows enough for several other families as well) and she says you have to understand horses in the context of their history as prey animals.  The slightest twig on the ground may create panic.  You know–Here There Be Boa Constrictors. 

So horses, barn cats.  Prey, predator.  Why does that work? Maybe you think cats are attracted to the relative warmth of a structure like a barn.  Here’s my theory.  While we may not be capable of communicating with either horses or cats, I think they understand each other well.  The horses say, look, I’ll put up with your barbarian habits as long as you protect me from…oh EEK!  There’s a mouse!