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Friday, Aug 23, 2019

Shashi Tharoor’s Word of the Week: Pistanthrophobia

When the walls come up, and stay up, after someone is cheated on or left in the lurch.

more-lifestyle Updated: Jun 22, 2019 17:55 IST
Shashi Tharoor
Shashi Tharoor
Hindustan Times
(HT Illustration: Sudhir Shetty)

Pistanthrophobia, noun: The fear of trusting people

USAGE:After two broken engagements, she was so overcome by pistanthrophobia that she never even dated anyone again.

This is a more common affliction in the Western world than in India, and it might well be worth exploring why. Many people in the West appear to suffer from pistanthrophobia, often due to past experiences of relationships gone bad. It is often apparent in the reluctance of people to commit themselves to a loved one or amatory partner, for fear that they will suffer betrayal. (This could also lead to philophobia – the fear of falling in love or being in love).

It is understandable that human beings don’t want to be hurt again, but it is also irrational to assume that because one or two people let you down, everyone else will, too. The future, after all, is never the same as the past.

In Indian society, we have the opposite problem: we are so used to being swaddled in relationships where trust is taken for granted (family, caste, clan and so on) that we trust others too freely and readily, often to our cost. (It is no accident, for instance, that even educated Indians are the victims of Nigerian scamsters and credit-card spammers, because they trust some stranger who tells them he is going to send them a million dollars, if only they send him 5,000 first).

In atomised societies where individuals are left to navigate the world themselves, betrayals often lead to pistanthrophobia. In India, even if someone cheats you, there’s always someone you can still trust in your immediate circle whom you can turn to for consolation. It doesn’t make us immune to the condition, but it certainly makes pistanthrophobia a lot less common here.

First Published: Jun 22, 2019 17:55 IST

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