Week Three (I’m In Italy)
As my family and I have taken a trip to the south of Italy to explore our roots, I have not been able to go into the practice. And while I have shifted my focus to spending time with my family, I am continuing to do my research.
The concept of phobias, or irrational and persistent fears, has been present in human experience since the beginning of recorded history. While it is difficult to identify the first recorded phobia, there are several instances in ancient texts that provide insight into how people experienced fear and anxiety thousands of years ago. One of the earliest recorded instances of a phobia comes from ancient Greece, in the works of the famous philosopher and scientist Aristotle. In his treatise “On the Soul,” Aristotle described a case of a man who was terrified of heights, a fear that we now know as acrophobia. Aristotle observed that this fear was not rational, as the man was perfectly aware that he was in no danger while standing in a high place. Nevertheless, the fear persisted and caused the man great distress. Aristotle’s observations were important in establishing the concept of phobias as distinct from rational fears. He noted that phobias were irrational and caused the sufferer to experience extreme anxiety and avoidance behaviors that interfered with their daily life. This understanding of phobias has persisted to this day and forms the basis for modern treatment approaches, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy. Other ancient cultures also recognized the existence of phobias. Both the ancient Egyptians and the Romans had concepts of irrational fears but the term “phobia” was not used until the late 18th century.