"People worry too much about germs", I opine. The TV ads for household detergents latch onto collective germ phobia. As if you will die horribly if a single germ is alive in your kitchen. But, in fact, most common germs are as innocuous to you as your family pet. You live together with them in harmony.
"Once", Daniela says, "When I was in severe pain with my back, a friend told me about a friend of hers who was in pain for some time, and it turned out she had bone cancer. I couldn't sleep that night for worry!"
Daniela has an exaggerated fear of illness, and of death.
Anything can happen in life and we all have to die. But thinking about these things to an inordinate degree does not change these facts. Most pain, by a long long way, is benign: it is not caused by serious illness. Contact with germs is inevitable, useful (it keeps our immune system primed), and mostly benign. I tell these things to Daniela.
Then I think of something. Daniela hasn't been eating properly since her husband died two years ago. "I just don't feel like cooking", she says. And she doesn't do the stretching exercises I have prescribed for her. She is not looking after herself.
"But Daniela", I say, "Isn't it a kind of contradiction for you to tell me you're so afraid of illness, while at the same time you are not willing to take steps to prevent it?"
We humans are full of contradictions, we are not rational beings. But Daniela goes away with something to think about.