Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Unproven Theories: Fear of Drains

The sight of water flowing out of a bathtub drain or a flushing toilet provokes anxiety in some very young children.  At our local Y, the self-flushing toilets in the locker room proved so intimidating to two- and three-year-olds that they were taken out and replaced with manual flush fixtures.  Sometimes children actually express the idea that they might go down the drain themselves.  Usually this is just written off as one of many childhood anxieties, but I think there may be more to it than that.

Let’s imagine that you have always lived in a warm dark place where you were absolutely secure and all of your physical needs were met.  Suddenly one day you were squeezed out through an impossibly narrow passageway into an alien world where you were blinded by light, gasping for breath, and utterly vulnerable.  This is the experience of birth and for a two-year-old it is only a couple of years back.  Perhaps the fear of being sucked down a drain is based on a dim memory of a time when something like that really did happen.

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