#2 daughter got back into town, picked up her dog, and went home. In between her arrival and departure, we had her brother and sister and niece in for brunch, watched Monk, and talked about her week in Charleston.

The topic of phobias arose. #2 daughter and I both have phobias, and so does #1 daughter. #1 son seems to be immune.

#2 daughter had been hanging out with some people who are "triggered" by various things. Their experience, she concluded, is not the same as phobia.

We talked about it this morning after brunch. Our examples: her snorkeling in Belize and my getting stuck on a bridge in Paris, unable to walk across.

#1 son felt that proper attitude could allow us to soldier on and overcome our phobias.

#1 daughter said that she thinks she can cope with phobia better than her sister and I because she is able to make her mind blank. This skill allows her to soldier on.

I don't have that kind of control over my brain. If the reptilian hind brain decides that I can't step onto a bridge, I can't do it. The part of my brain that moves my foot forward is overruled by the part that thinks some stretches of roads (and paths and bridges) are deeply dangerous.

The people in Charleston, #2 daughter said, were enjoying their "triggers," laughing and bragging and giggling. She and I generally keep our phobias a secret insofar as we can. She says it's like wetting yourself in public — embarrassing.

We try to behave normally. Terror or not.

"How scared are you of dentists," Natalie asks Mr. Monk, "on a scale of one to ten?"

"One to ten?" he scoffs. "I'm so far past that, I laugh at your tens."

I have been so frightened of specific spatial phenomena that I thought I might die of fear.

Is a jocund attitude more healthy? Or does it just mean that "triggers" are not serious and phobias are?