Can She Face the Fuzz?

"In 2007, my New Year's resolution is to conquer my fear of clowns, masks and fuzzy characters. It may seem wacky, but it's very real to me," says Laura, who has had this fear for as long as she can remember. "I'm afraid of anything with unusual hair or make-up, especially clowns. I think they're evil." The only character type she is not afraid of is Santa Claus. "Santa would never hurt me," she says. "The Easter Bunny, however, has big scary eyes and those big teeth. You never know
what he's going to do."

As soon as Laura sees a costumed character, she feels the need to run away. "I go into fight-or-flight mode. I feel like an elephant is sitting on my chest, like I can't breathe. I feel like I'm having a heart attack. I'll cover my face," she explains.


Laura says that her fear is affecting her son. "My son, Nicholas, is missing out on so much because of my fears," she says. "As a mom, it makes me feel really sad that Nicholas can't experience some of the things that other children experience." Laura won't take him to a theme

park for fear she might run into a scary creature. "If he's ever going to see the inside of an amusement park, I need to face a fuzzy character," she says.


Nicholas says that he doesn't dress up in Halloween costumes either, because his mom doesn't like them. "My hope is that Dr. Phil can help my mom get over her fears," he says. 

"I'm not going to ambush you. We're not going to have a bunch of fuzzy characters run out here unannounced and jump all over you," Dr. Phil assures Laura. "I want you to know that I respect that this is a genuine fear for you, and I'm genuinely going to make an effort to change it." He asks her where she thinks the fear comes from.

Laura explains that one day when she was 6 years old she was home alone after school, and robbers tried to break into her house. "They were actually men dressed like women, and I looked out the window and saw them in these costumes. They were wearing these red dresses with white polka dots and a lot of make-up and wigs," she explains.

"At 6 or 7 years old, that's really scary," Dr. Phil says.

"It was very scary. It terrified me," Laura agrees.

"You paired these things together, and so since then, of course you don't feel comfortable around them, because they represent a very traumatic time in your life," Dr. Phil explains. "You recognize that at a logical level, that that's not a rational fear." He explains that a rational fear is a response is to a clear and present danger, while an irrational fear is when you have a the same fear response, but nothing is likely to be of harm.

"I know that they're not going to hurt me," Laura says.

"You've been hardwired," Dr. Phil tells her. "It's automatic, click, bang. It just takes you back to that moment where you have this conditioned reflex. So, what we have to do is we have to uncondition the reflex. We have to disconnect that extension cord that goes from your brain to your fear response."

Dr. Phil introduces Dr. Frank Lawlis, psychologist and chairman of the Dr. Phil Advisory Board, who specializes in the mind/body connection. "What I'm going to do is send you off right now with Dr. Lawlis," Dr. Phil tells Laura. "What we're going to do is show you physiologically, how to disconnect this conditioned reflex so you no longer have the automatic response."

At the end of the show, Dr. Phil brings Laura back onstage. "How did you do?" he asks.

"I did great," she says. "I think I'm fixed. The man is a miracle worker."

"Are you ready for some fuzzy characters?" Dr. Phil asks.

"Yes," Laura says, determined.

The Peanuts gang from Knott's Berry Farm " Snoopy, Lucy and Charlie Brown " come on stage and meet Laura. She shakes hands with them.

"How did that feel?" Dr. Phil asks Laura.

"I feel great. I feel like I can do this all the time," she says.

Nicholas joins his mom onstage. "Did you see
what your mom just did?" Dr. Phil asks.

"I am amazed at what she just did," he says.

Dr. Phil tells Laura and Nicholas that Knott's Berry Farm is inviting their family to their amusement park in Buena Park, California, where they will spend two nights at the Knott's Berry Farm Resort Hotel. will provide airfare for the family.