We all know someone with a fear of clowns, also called Coulrophobia… If we go back to reality, we find that it is one of the most common phobias, which shares the same level with others such as Glossophobia or fear of speaking in public, or Arachnophobia or fear of spiders, or Odontophobia or fear of the dentist.
Although it is a fear that is usually born in early childhood, the phobia of clowns is inherited in adulthood, and today there are many men and women who avoid circuses at all costs, simply because they do not have to meet with the clowns These characters have been designed to encourage laughter, but the truth is that they arouse many fears. Today in Supercurioso we have encouraged ourselves to delve into what Coulrophobia is. Can you come with us?
Let’s think for a moment about the typical image of a clown: the face painted in absolute white, colorful makeup full of glitter, a gigantic red smile that covers the face from one ear to the other and seems not to be erased by anything, a multicolored wig, enormous shoes and equally colorful costumes… Without a doubt, it is a very unpleasant description. The natural function of clowns is Make jokes, jokes and pirouettes, which make the audience laugh. And if so… Why are so many people suffering from clown phobia in such a severe way? Well, let’s see what Coulrophobia is about.
Discover what is the coulrophobia
Just like the strange phobia of the number 13, the fear of clowns or coulrophobia is real, and it is more terrible than it seems. Although to some it may seem like a joke, the truth is that it is not. Let’s start by understanding what a phobia is; it is not a simple dislike or rejection, but an exaggerated, incapacitating and gripping fear that invades the person in an extreme way. Talking about what Coulrophobia is is precisely referring to an exacerbated terror towards the figure of clowns.
But why do people have a phobia of clowns? Those who have dedicated themselves to the study of strange phobias do not agree on a single theory. However, one of the most widespread hypotheses is the one that speaks of Coulrophobia as an effect of the influence of cinema and literature.
Indeed, certain films such as Poltergeist or the very famous It saga, based on the book by Stephen KingThey have cultivated these fears in people. But, is this really the entire cause of clown phobia? Or could it be that these movies terrify us because of something deeper, something underlying the human being?
In fact, there are other theories that seem to indicate the opposite: apparently, these masters of horror knew very well what they were doing when they selected a clown as the protagonist of their horror sagas. It seems that we could be programmed to fear clowns, or at least to distrust them.. What do you think? Was it first the Coulrophobia and then the horror movies? Or was it the horror movies that gave us the phobia of clowns? It looks like we’ve run into the old chicken-and-egg dilemma again, but let’s fix it.
The theory that we are programmed for the phobia of clowns
When talking about what Coulrophobia is, we come across a proposal that states that, although there may be social factors that lead us to be afraid of clowns, these are not the determining element that causes the pathology. But how is that verified? Well it would suffice to look at babies who, without having seen these films or having had a direct influence that made them associate clowns with fear, could suffer from Coulrophobia or phobia of clowns.
In fact, quite the opposite, For babies and children, clowns usually appear in happy contexts: parties, celebrations, birthdays. Always moved or mixed with face painting and trampolines, inflatables and cakes. And yet many children fear clowns. In fact, it seems that this phobia can develop even before learning to speak.
So what does this mean? How can a child who doesn’t even speak yet acquire Coulrophobia? Well, just because a baby still doesn’t talk doesn’t mean that he doesn’t think, or at least that he isn’t programmed to think. And it is that a baby is an excellent behavioral analyst, because before understanding language, babies learn to recognize and interpret our gestures, not only to communicate, but also to predict our actions. Then, Since the clowns’ faces are so covered in makeup, the physiognomy itself is erased. Babies can’t interpret any gesture of that frozen expression, and therefore their defensive and natural reaction is to fear, or at least to be on their guard against this situation. It would be one of the theories about what Coulrophobia is that best justifies its origin.
And it is precisely this unnatural image, characterized by the exaggeration of the features: a large mouth, with a permanent smile drawn on a background of completely white makeup, wigs and strident costumes and extraordinarily large feet, which completely disorients the little ones, making impossible any kind of prediction. From such a strange person, what behavior should we expect? Good or bad? Instinctively, or we run away or at least, we put ourselves on guard. And this also applies to those who do not have preconceived ideas about clowns. But, we are not finished yet, there is more to go.
Other elements that trigger the phobia of clowns
When we delve into what Coulrophobia is, we find the physical appearance of clowns as the first source of fear. And the analysis is quite deep. It’s not just that we can’t see the gestures of a person who covers their entire face with makeup, and that from then on we don’t know what to expect from them. rather is that their entire attitude is made to not know what to expect from them: clowns are a mess, and that generates an instinctive rejection in us that in some people it manifests itself as a phobia.
Even for those who only know clowns in their most benevolent version, the circus version, not that things have changed much. Well the The role of the clown itself is based on surprise, the unexpected and at the same time clumsy and sometimes anti-social. Just remember the classic acts in which they hit each other with huge rubber hammers, splashed with water or scared with the scandalous horns of their trumpets and cars.
Y there is another aspect that we add to the triggers of clown phobia. It is about his makeup, and in particular, his perpetual and immovable smile. That enormous doll painted in red that is never erased. And it is that children, from a very young age, learn to identify the smile, they learn its meaning, they know how to transmit it and they even know how to fake smiles. Children and adults can distinguish a fake smile very well. And if it is also huge and perpetual, it becomes terrifying! That person who always smiles hides something, we interpret. Or something is wrong with her. In essence, the always happy makeup of the clown can be a great source of fear for us.
The effects of cinema in the development of Coulrophobia
As we mentioned at the beginning of the article, when we delve into what Coulrophobia is, we find a huge literary and cinematographic production that deals with feeding this fear. Indeed, movies like Item and characters like the famous Joker, can arouse animosity towards these figures. They can even decant in the generation of anxiety disorders associated with the phobia of clowns. But, apart from being a potent stimulus that coulrophobes prefer to stay away from, they are not believed to be the source of the origin of clown phobia.
How to overcome Coulrophobia?
Well, as with the treatment of other phobias, understanding what Coulrophobia is in depth is the first step in overcoming it. While we may be programmed to fear clowns, the reality is that not everyone is affected by these fears. In general terms, the phobia of clowns is generated or triggered by some traumatic or unpleasant episode associated with these figures, usually lived in childhood.
So, the most common treatment to overcome clown phobia, or at least control it to a point where it doesn’t cause us discomfort, is psychological therapy. Through the cognitive-behavioral approach, the origin of fear is deepened and the causes that keep it in force are dismantled. Work is done with the patient so that he understands that clowns have no real potential to harm him. That it is about simple and common people, made up to play a role. After this understanding, the patient will be able to resize her emotions and thoughts, and gradually overcome her fear of clowns.
And you, Did you know what Coulrophobia is? Do you suffer from clown phobia yourself, or do you know someone who does? Do you avoid the circus at all costs and skip children’s parties? Leave us all your opinions in a comment. We will be looking forward to reading you! Now, if you don’t suffer from Coulrophobia and are looking for some fun, don’t miss this selection of the most terrifying clowns in history. Also, if you want to find out which celebrity has coulrophobia, we invite you to read: celebrity phobias
Other phobias you should know about
Now that we conclude our article on cynophobia, we want to leave you with this selection of phobias. Do you have any of them?
- What is turophobia, fear of cheese
- What is Eisoptrophobia, fear of mirrors
- What is arachnophobia, fear of spiders
- What is glossophobia, fear of public speaking
- What is acrophobia, fear of heights
- What is hafephobia, fear of being touched
- What is decidophobia, fear of making decisions
- What is tanotophobia, fear of death
- What is aerophobia, fear of flying by plane
- What is ophidiophobia, fear of snakes
- What is hemophobia, fear of blood
- What is clautrophobia, fear of closed spaces