Imagine Alice So Small She Can Fall Down These Holes

The other day I was out by my pool (yes, it’s Arizona and we have a pool). My pool is small, but it has an attached jacuzzi and a little fountain. I glanced down at the fountain. It was shut off, so I mainly saw the empty fountain pool. When I noticed the side of this empty pool, my stomach lurched. [Pause to go look it up: an abrupt, uncontrolled movement–yes, definitely, it lurched]. ICK. Those little dots completely creeped me out. If you click on this photo, you’ll see what I mean. I’m sorry if it bothers you, too. Truly, I am. But I feel a need to share!

I began to think that maybe I am getting that phobia that my daughter has. It’s called Trypophobia, and it means a phobia of little holes clustered together. There are fabric patterns that resemble holes, and if you are Trypophobic, you can have a reaction to those. Or it can be a lotus seed pod, that you can see in this Pop Science article on Trypophobia. You could feel sick when you cut into a block of swiss cheese. Or, in my daughter’s case, even a massing flock of birds can bring out this phobia. Or is that her bird phobia (Ornithophobia)? Or a combination phobia?!

You will note that in this photo there aren’t really any holes. These are little “pimples” on the surface. Maybe these were created by the pool builder for traction. I suspect my pool looks like this, too, but I promise not to look at anything except the water surface! Any kind of pattern where a multitude of holes could lurk can cause a reaction in sufferers.

How about this one? A little coral–

Oh my. Some people say that this phobia is when a natural fear of something dangerous has become a fear transferred to things that are not dangerous. But I always say you can’t be too careful. Imagine all the bugs that could slither out of your basic pancake batter.

Do these kinds of holes or pseudo-holes or patterns that vaguely resemble holes make you squeamish?

A writing question: if you create a character with Trypophobia, how important is this to your characterization? Does it just become an interesting “tic” and a way to identify that character or is there a more intrinsic purpose to that character trait? Would it affect more important aspects of what motivates the characters and how the character lives her life?

On another note, remember how my mom is here through February? Now my aunt and uncle (my dad’s twin) are coming here for a couple of weeks in February, too. We are going to be busy!

P.S. If you’re wondering about my weird post title, I was thinking about my poem “Waking Up” in Doll Godย that features an Alice in Wonderland ย character. I read it aloud the other day and was thinking about Alice when she’s so small and at risk in her environment.


Filed under #AmWriting, #writerlife, Arizona, Characterization, Nonfiction, Writing, Writing Talk

47 responses to “Imagine Alice So Small She Can Fall Down These Holes

  1. I actually like the patterns and love the thought of your dad’s twin coming to stay. I have a thing about twins! (Always wished I had one.)

    • Oh, Jean, you are a strange one ;). hahaha I do like patterns, per se, but not ones that resemble these creepy things above.
      Twins are fascinating, I agree. Being the daughter of a twin is an experience in itself. For instance, I thought of my cousin (uncle’s daughter) more as a sister than a cousin.

  2. What an interesting post, Luanne. Never heard of this phobia, so well explained. BTW: Alice in Wonderland has always been one of my favorite books. When I was five and newly adopted, my Dad read it to me and I wanted the book to go on forever. My brother and I had been in foster care and no one had ever read to us. It was magical!

  3. Very interesting post, Luanne. I’d never realized that this “phobia” had a name. While I’m not actually fearful of those various patterns, I do get a creepy feeling when coming upon them. What a great way to start the week! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Hah, you see, that creepy feeling is part of it. I never really thought I had this problem, although I’ve known about it for awhile because of my daughter. But when I saw the side of the pool my skin started to crawl when my stomach lurched. I hope I don’t get worse about this. But it’s hard to see how the coral above could be considered beautiful and not creepy . . . .

  4. I read about this a few weeks ago, and looked at dozens of photos corresponding to the article. None of them bothered me enough to make my tummy lurch, although I don’t care for the center of lotus flowers, they are a bit creepy, alien, so different from other flowers, lol…but from what I read, it’s not uncommon.

    • Anything that makes good fodder for a horror movie has the creep factor for sure. And anything with enough holes (or the appearance of enough holes) that alien nasties could start coming out all at once is just the worst. I can deal with one snake, one spider, one anything questionable better than hordes of creeps! Yes, how could anyone think that lotus center is pretty? Ugh.

  5. I never noticed these before. I hope this doesn’t sensitize me to it. Pancakes hmmmm….fill those holes with syrup!

    • I know! I’d hate to start this phobia in you! Yes, let’s think of butter and syrup dripping into those holes instead of anything coming out!

  6. I think the walls and maybe the ceiling tiles, of our financial institutions are covered in holes, and that explains where the money is going these days. Whoosh! Out through these holes. Wall Street has dollar Trypophobia.

    • Hehehehe. Thanks for the laugh, Anneli! I know what kind of ceilings you mean–those asbestos-ey looking tiles. So many holes. Banks today STINK.

  7. This is interesting, Luanne. I’ve never heard of this phobia. Although I have a few phobias myself, I’m glad I don’t have Trypophobia because I LOVE swiss cheese. I also love characters who have tics.

    • I love swiss cheese, too, actually. Maybe those holes are big enough or random enough or maybe I don’t really have Trypophobia unless the “holes” look like a RASH. Hahaha. I do have other phobias, but didn’t want to overwhelm anybody ;).

  8. I’ve never thought about this phobia, being busy with phobias of my own, such as closed bathroom doors. But yes, the little holes look like something bugs could crawl out of, and I definitely feel phobic about bugs. When we were in Costa Rica, for instance, they grew bolder and bolder, and eventually large red ants were sometimes traversing our bed. One night I got up to use the bathroom and saw a rather large critter scuttle from the middle of the kitchen floor to a hiding place. Maybe a scorpion? Ugh! Dread!

    • You paint a vivid picture here, WJ, of the red ants moving on your bed and the critter scuttling. So glad my bugs keep to themselves for the most part. But we do have to keep out the scorpions with a monthly pest control visit or they would overrunning this house. Some neighborhoods are worse than others in PHoenix, and we are fairly close to the mountains, thus, scorpions. I too have enough other phobias, claustrophobia being one of them. It might have started with an MRI visit or getting locked in the bathroom of a houseboat with only a porthole window. I probably imagined the boat sinking with me locked in there. Everybody else was outside playing in Lake Mead and making a lot of noise. And it was the year of carbon monoxide poisoning in the house boats and several deaths, including a drowning in Lake Mead (and the body had not yet been found), so I was already a little unnerved. And then we could talk about heights.

  9. Well this is one phobia I’ve definitely never heard of! I have a phobia of wasps, so I do understand the feelings one has with a phobia though. Not good! Characters with these kind of fears would make for great reading! How wonderful to have family visits to look forward to. I love times like that. Enjoy! ๐Ÿ™‚ xoxo

    • Ooh, wasps, I’m not even sure that’s a phobia. It sounds like a legitimate fear to me! I also have phobias of closed spaces, high places, etc. I try not to get carried away with them (give in to them), but I have altered behavior regarding those two. I took meds for an MRI, blindfolded myself, and made hubby hold my hands the whole time I was in the tube hahaha.
      Re characters, I think so too. It makes them more real or human maybe?

      • Oh I’m the same with those small spaces Luanne. On the train recently, packed out, no room to breathe, cold outside so I have a coat on but steaming inside, I’m stuck between a row of people blocking my exit and a man sitting to my right. Then a young rude woman plonks her bum down on the table in front of me, inches from me, totally invading my personal space, completely ignoring the fact that I might just want to put something down there. I had to close my eyes and breathe to try and calm down, it took everything I had to do that. Horrible. I fully understand your MRI experience, whatever works to get you through it… <3

  10. Well, this was an unusual post, Luanne! ๐Ÿ™‚ When I looked at the article, I remember that I had read about this phobia. Maybe the same article. I don’t have any problem with it though–unless there are weird or icky things coming from the holes.

  11. I love the poem you mention, Luanne, from Doll God, and I liked seeing a few prose poems in the collection. In that one, I am most reactionary to the eyes of the fly!!! Like Jill, I love characters with tics or phobias, and I am always interested in the phobias that people have in real life. I experience claustrophobia in the strangest of places. For example, when I visited the Midwest, I suddenly became claustrophobic because I was landlocked on all sides (I was in Nebraska), and it was a painful hour or so before I relaxed again. I do not experience claustrophobia in elevators, as many people do. But in movie theaters, I have to sit near the aisle, just as I do on airplanes.

    • Eyes of the fly seem round within round! Thank you, Carla! I too love characters like that. They are human and interesting and it is something memorable about them. I guess the poem “Waking Up” is actually about a protagonist and her fears and phobias, from one perspective!!!
      Your claustrophobia seems unique in that it’s so specific and not pervasive. It’s good that you don’t get it in elevators (I am cautious and make sure I have a cell phone). I am fine in the middle seat of an airplane if I’m sitting next to hubby and will sit in the middle of a theater. But don’t put me in a restroom stall that has a door that doesn’t allow me to crawl out underneath!!!!

      • Okay, now I will be looking for that in restrooms! I love the prose poem overall, though I have not written too many for about a decade. Maybe I should attempt it again. Yours are strong and clear!

  12. Never heard of this one

  13. I was okay with the little dots, Luanne, but I admit I was a little worried about the aunt and uncle coming to stay with you and your hubby and mom. But that’s such fun to have your family with you for a while!! The joys of living in Phoenix??!!
    P.S. Did I mention T and I are coming to spend two weeks with you in February, too?? ๐Ÿ™‚

  14. I’m not with you on the dots Luanne I’m afraid – I think the coral is lovely! Interesting point about phobias in writing – I’ve never written about anyone with a phobia, interesting thought….

    • Andrea, you are such a weirdo ๐Ÿ˜‰ hahaha. Lovely, bah humbug. I’ve written about someone with a verbal tic, and I really love how it conveys “stuff” about her. But of course it’s a play that I never finished.

  15. You are made uneasy by the arrays of holes that you displayed and described, but you probably feel completely comfortable when looking at a window screen or a kitchen strainer, which have even more holes – so many that the array of holes is transparent. You know what is behind or in the holes. You probably also feel comfortable with a kitchen collander. Although it is not semi-transparent, you again know what is behind or in the holes. In those three cases the holes are bright, which is usually associated with knowing what is behind or in the holes, but in the arrays that make you uneasy the holes are dark. It would probably be a great refief to know what feature of an array of holes makes you uneasy. That information would also help you control your reactions. Is it not knowing what is behind or in the holes? Is it their darkness? Both? Do pitted surfaces make you uneasy, or only surfaces having multiple holes or tunnels that also open at both ends? Does a cupboard full of cups make you uneasy? What is the smallest number of holes that makes you uncomfortable? The largest diameter of the holes that makes you uncomfortable? To identify what it is about multiple holes that spooks you, track how your reactions change when various properties of the array of holes varies, one property at a time. Good luck!

    • You put me through a lot of questions here ;), and I used them to analyze the emerging phobia. I think it’s like what Carrie said about “life forms.” Anything that reminds me of some creepy living form with lots of tiny holes makes me feel sick. It’s not the little knobs on the pool surface, but that it looks a lot like the coral or something far worse that is living. Cups in cupboards are pretty, so it’s definitely not that. I think even six holes is creepy if it’s a living form, by the way. Maybe even 3 or 4.

  16. I’ve never heard of this phobia either, Luanne. I have a phobia of big holes and looking into them (I can’t stand on a cliff edge). Enjoy your visitors ๐Ÿ˜€

    • Now that is different. Big holes. Interesting. I can’t stand on a cliff edge either, but that is vertigo for me. I feel like jumping off. Yeah, so odd.

      • Absolutely I feel like jumping off too. It tries to ‘drag’ me to the edge (that’s why I stay away from cliffs). Some people say it’s to do with Feng Shui and our sensitivity to the energy that is moving across the land and toppling over the edge – which is pretty scary as well! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  17. Wow, I never knew that had a name. I do get creeped out by some things like that, though certainly not all (like Swiss cheese or pancakes). Mostly those that involve life forms. Thanks for the new word!

  18. Oh, but I think the coral is lovely! I definitely do not have that phobia, but I have plenty others ๐Ÿ˜‰

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