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Dum inter homines sumus, colamus humanitatem [As long as we are among humans, let us be humane. (Seneca)]
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Saturday, October 16, 2004

The unwarranted or irrational fear of the opinions of others.

Although Allodoxaphobia is generally accepted as a medical or psychological condition (not unakin to a psychosis or overruling condition requiring expert attention) it could easily be argued to be a basic function of the human condition.  

If I call the atheist a Theophobe how does he feel?  Does he thank me?  Of course not, he feels perhaps angry at my opinion or maybe he looks down at me for not understanding but most likely he feels defensive.  We feel defensive when we feel the need to defend - it can be seen as a fear reaction.

How do these comments make you feel?

It's be pretty hard to take if that was all said to you in a day.  One or two of the comments might fail to affect you at all, but what if someone important to you started to say them?  Out of this core fear then comes: peer-pressure, fashion, demands, popularity contests and a thousand every-day games of lets pretend that tries to avoid 50% of the possible opinions of others.

At the end of the day words and opinions can not damage or kill you but the experienced rejection, (that failing in the eye's of another brings), can.  It is a form of Social Phobia that causes us to stay home on a "bad hair day" and refuse to be seen at a club without "the right clothes".  At some level we know that clothes are required only to keep us warm and dry but still we still are extremely selective and our criteria are not those of practicality but of the opinions of others.

What else does this lead to?

  • Cainophobia / Cainotophobia, (Fear of newness, novelty), fear of taking risks of doing something different.  Is this not, aguably, part of what binds us as a society together?  This is an opinion, does this opinion frighten you?  If not - good; if "yes" then why?
  • Autodysomophobia, (Fear of one that has a vile odour) perhaps?  The fear that being with an unfashionably scented person may make us guilty by association in the minds of others?
  • Bromidrosiphobia / Bromidrophobia, (Fear of body smells) comes to mind too.
  • Automysophobia, (Fear of being dirty),  Fear that our most fashionable top will be unwashed in time to go to the party?
  • Catagelophobia, (Fear of being ridiculed). Is this not what we fear the most?
  • Cacophobia, (Fear of ugliness).  Beauty, they say, is in the eye of the beholder but is it not true that no one want to be thought of as ugly.
  • Caligynephobia, (Fear of beautiful women).  It has happened to all of us males at some point.  We see the fantastic looking female and we become frightened.  What are we frightened of?  Clearly we are frightened that this lady will think badly of us.  Why is her opinion suddenly important?  It is because we elevate her opinion along with her status as a goddess.  To be blessed by the smile of the goddess is to be popular, liked, successful, god's gift to women; not a failure, manly, liked...
  • Isn't all just Autophobia, (Fear of being alone or of oneself) at the end of the day?

What is at stake is our faith in ourselves.  Our belief in our own abilities, charm and general worthiness as a human often take their cues from others opinions.  We feel reassured when people agree with us or like us.  It is how a person will cope when there is non to agree no-one who's opinions are "nice" that is the mark of potential greatness.  Such a person is free to act according to his own standards to strive for his own goals and to do so with whatever methods seem right to him.  This person - a man in this illustration - this man may become a great pioneer or a sociopathic and criminal menace but he will be a great.

Does that mean , then, that we are tied to mediocrity through enslavement to vague elemental forces of this world?  Controlled by fear and yet calling ourselves free?  Are we dictated to by the mores and wants of those around us?  Acting as a giant herd of sheep with no true purpose or direction?  This is the natural conclusion; the final destination of this way of life.  What other conclusion can we draw?  We could come up with a more comforting ending but who would that help? 

So what now?  Do we accept that this is "the glue that binds" or do we break out of our constraints?  If you re-act to these opinions are you still acting as the sheep or do some opinions set you free?  Is it true that truth sets you free?  If it is and if this is some truth do you have the courage to be free?  After all the sheep in the herd feel safe and are unlikely to be eaten by wolves.  Perhaps it is better to be a slave to the vagueties of life, to take comfort in the safety and live a good if unremarkable life and then die (as we all shall).

Now it is down to you.  I have no answers - just questions.

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