Each and every one of us is afraid of something. Some fears are rational, some are irrational. Some have substance, some are outright silly. Fear is subjective. It's all in the eye, or rather, the mind of the beholder.

The mental health profession, lovely labellers that they are, came up with 'phobia' as a suffix to tag on to peoples' fears. It serves a three-fold purpose: Simple classifications, a Greek etymological origin giving it that "smart" sound and, of course, economy of language. After all, 'phobophobia' sums things up much more quickly than saying 'a fear of having a phobia'.

However I'll try to refrain from using the suffix. For one thing, I think it's silly. Also, having just discovered as I write this, that I have phobophobia, it may take some time to come to terms with the revelation and I don't need the constant reminder.

FDR once told us that we have nothing to fear except fear itself. A lovely sentiment that, addressing faith and

the human spirit. It's also a poetic piece of wartime propaganda that doesn't stand up under scrutiny.

The simple fact is there's a hell of a lot to be afraid of in life.

I have a fear of flying. But then so do a lot of people. Considering that what goes up must come down, and sometimes it comes down hard, it's not exactly irrational or unfounded. I faced that fear a few years ago when I went to Budapest. I sat in a state of white-knuckled stoicism on the flight over. Coming back the key was red wine and the redheaded stewardess.

Though I can't say I conquered that fear I did find a simple solution. Avoidance. It's perfect. It doesn't require expensive prescriptions or sessions on the couch and I save a fortune on airfare. And I don't think you can ever really conquer aviophobia anyhow. It's serious stuff. It has at least three other names (aerophobia, aviatophobia and pteromechanophobia) and can consist of up to ten other distinct phobias.

And I know I said I wouldn't use the suffix 'phobia' but in further writing this it occurred to me that I could have 'phobophobophobia' (something I just discovered which I shall call the fear of having a fear of having a phobia) and that I should just face it head-on. They say one way of dealing with your fears is to talk about them. So...

I have 'sharkaphobia' (what I call the fear of being eaten by a shark). It's not exactly rational. I live in Southwestern Ontario. There are no sharks swimming around in our rivers, streams or lakes. But that doesn't stop me from being afraid. So I use my patented Avery's Avoidance Technique. I simply avoid places like California and Australia.

While it means I will never personally test the myth of the Coriolis effect by visiting the Land Down Under, drinking a keg of Foster's and observing the ensuing stream in the urinal, it's a sacrifice I'm prepared to make to avoid becoming a shark's snack.

I also suffer from what I call

'allicrocophobia' (the fear of being eaten by an alligator or crocodile). Again, it's not rational considering where I live but my technique is the perfect coping mechanism. Since I'm already avoiding Australia, now I just refrain from fishing in the Amazon, doing my laundry in the Nile and pissing off the Cuban Mafia in Florida.

As you can see, my technique is simple, cost-effective and pretty much foolproof. But there are some fears we're powerless against, which can be resolved only through time or external circumstances. Fortunately one such fear of mine was recently laid to rest.

When it took almost two months for Michael Jackson to be buried, I developed a case of what I call 'crystalcasketcorpseophobia': the very real, highly plausible fear that his family had commissioned the construction of a gold and glass coffin and was trying to work out the logistics of a world-wide farewell tour.

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