Do you startle easily? Or, do you remain calm in situations in which more skittish folk scream, squeak, or gasp at the unexpected?

At the risk of appearing to climb on the psychobabble bandwagon, our experiences and environments do contribute to and determine how we respond to even minor occurrences in our lives.

For example, what if for a childish prank a sibling or playmate locked you in a dark closet when you were little? Depending on the length of time spent there before being freed, you might fear the dark or small enclosed spaces or both for the rest of your days.

Or, let us consider the experience of this writer. When she was a little girl, she had panic attacks if a shirt or dress was stuck on her head for even a few seconds. She also had a similar reaction if the sheets or blankets on the bed happened to cover her head. That particular response lasted up to and including the first year of her marriage. Fortunately, that specific issue was a challenge Hubby met and helped her overcome.

As to the reason for such reactions, we could assume the time spent in dark basements and bomb shelters during World War II in Hungary was a contributing factor. Also, the fact that she was a baby protectively clutched in her mother’s arms during such events could account for a dislike of being restrained and the dark.

Our children and the Grands laugh every time the lady of the manor goes around the house closing the blinds after sunset.

“You live out in the country with no neighbors close by, why do you bother to shut the blinds?” her daughter asked.

“I’m shutting out the dark,” the lady replied.

“So it can’t look in?” her daughter asked with a smirk.

“Yes. Besides, I don’t want the coyotes or skunks peeking into the house either.”

This writer was a baby during the war. Whenever bombings were imminent, the radio transmitted an alert for people to seek shelter. The baby would awaken from the deepest sleep and say, “Mama, basement.”

We could speculate that the sound of the radio alert and what it meant left a lasting impression, which shows up in the form of being easily startled. Since most people do not know the backstory, the ease with which folks could startle this writer became a source of amusement for some and wariness around her in others.

After he discovered her tendency to be skittish, the president of our company took delight in slapping a folder on a nearby wall or making some other unexpected noise. Sometimes she would gasp and clutch her chest. Or, her body jumped straight up out of the chair while she emitted varying sounds of distress.

While the president found her reaction amusing, she did not.

Sometimes, folks inadvertently startle the writer and become startled in return. One guy walked past her desk and said, “Good morning.” She gasped and did the levitating above her chair maneuver, and he stumbled backward into the wall. She tried to console him by explaining she was easily startled, but from that day on he remained silent as he tiptoed past her desk, casting uneasy glances in her direction.

Whatever activity the lady of the manor does, she does with full focus. Her ability to concentrate to the point of blocking out everything around her contributes to being jumpy.

There are times she may be aware of your presence or see you, but if you make a noise or speak, she will jump or gasp in alarm. “I must be quite scary to look at,” Hubby often remarked as he peeled his wife off the ceiling.

Hubby had an aunt who was even more skittish than his wife. On one occasion, the aunt was chopping vegetables and meat with a butcher knife. Someone came up behind her and tapped her on the back. The aunt whirled around with the knife in battle stance and frightened the unsuspecting tapper so much he lost control of his bladder.

 

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