I find myself in a room. There is complete darkness around me with a faint light seeping in from…probably a hole in the wall. The 4 walls of the room though distant from me seem to close in on me; ready to swallow me up anytime now. I decide to run for my life and I already find myself running. This room seems to be never-ending; for I keep on running but there is no door visible. I look back to see that the 4 walls are chasing me…coming closer…and closer…and closer…I come back to reality only to find myself in a vast field surrounded by co-players and the audience cheering loudly in the background; their presence engulfing yet calming my nerves for the big day today…
Claustrophobia is the fear of closed spaces. This can be anything from material presence such as a room, a house, lift, etc to even a person, an object, etc. What becomes interesting yet quite frightening for some is the fact that claustrophobia can also be experienced about a past traumatic experience, relationships, etc. This when not processed through timely intervention can really break any individual mentally and physically and force him/her into severe psychopathology.
A sense of feeling trapped in somewhere, a strong sense of breathlessness, feeling blank, tightening around the chest, nausea, restlessness, fear of losing control, etc; one can say that the person is feeling claustrophobic. The person can get visibly affected, feel sick and if it is not seriously attended to, the person is also likely to experience panic attacks; thus worsening the situation. For instance, how most of us must have felt during the lockdown period. The picture of claustrophobia is similar to that of a panic attack but they are not the same. The idea of feeling trapped, be it in a literal material space or otherwise, might seem strange for many or even for the person who is experiencing it, but it is important to realize that such experiences are more often than not linked to certain circumstances in life which were upsetting to the individual. These experiences because of their upsetting quality are kept aware of the individual’s awareness, repressed in the unconscious which protects the individual through using certain defense mechanisms. But when these mechanisms fail to work, it is most likely that the individual from time to time experiences such instances of dread which seem to be revealing yet not revealing to the individual of its traumatic nature. It is important to understand that such circumstances are also reminders for the individual that it is time to fully process the realities of the past to build a healthier version of our future realities.
There are times when certain life instances leave a numbing effect on us. These instances having borne unpredictably might leave us in a combination of confused and shocked states and due to repeated interactions with those instances with no space to process the same; one might start developing an unusual fear, uneasy anxiety with symbols associated with the instances. One cannot place a what, why tag to it but all they know is that what they are experiencing right now is a reality. There might be many who feel ‘claustrophobic’ with relation to the experience of being part of certain relations. When a person is not allowed the basic expression of one’s thoughts, feelings, emotions, and the like, it is likely that the person, in the long run, might develop an experience of feeling trapped, of losing control of the sudden circumstances which is being encountered by them in that relationship.
Feeling trapped vis-a-vis an experience is not the same as being fixated by it. Fixation which is a famous Freudian phrase can happen either consciously or more often unconsciously. But claustrophobia is a more abstract experience wherein the reason for the anxiety is not easily accessible. Avoidance is not a solution for resolving the condition of claustrophobia. Rather by repeatedly encountering the experience can make way for opportunities at the processing of the intense feelings and at a reparation too. For instance, a fear of lifts when encountered can help in giving some clarity on the nature of the fear; when processed properly with the help of a professional and comfortable space can allow opportunities to processing of past difficult experiences. To give words to those experiences and allowing one to be at peace with it and also attempt at a reparation can actually help in relieving oneself of claustrophobia.