Arachnophobia or fear of spiders is incredibly common.
Around August to October every year, I receive requests to help deal with spider phobia. I used to have it myself up until I trained as a hypnotherapist. I learnt my behaviour from my mother, and many people cite their mothers screaming at poor spiders prompting their phobia from early childhood.
Research has shown that humans inherit such phobias because they experience fear at an early age. Your mother screams and your hippocampus remembers that because it’s helping you to determine which animals are safe and which are potentially dangerous.
In the UK, we have benign spiders, in the States and Australia, it’s an entirely different story. Even though I have conquered my fear of spiders, I wouldn’t want to live in a country full of poisonous spiders.
Over the past 30 years, the celebration of Halloween has become more popular in the UK. One of the more dominant icons of this holiday is the spider. One year I had three mothers come to me because they had to host Halloween parties and handle fake spiders. Their fear generally stopped them from doing this even though they were fully aware they are pipe cleaners!
Case Study one
Katherine is a mother of three, two girls and a boy. She’s very aware that she doesn’t want to pass on her phobia of spiders, but fears the eldest may already have picked up this problem.
It’s October, and she’s trying to organise a Halloween party. I explained this was an excellent way to allow her hippocampus to become acclimatised to holding fake spiders. She admitted that she had always avoided them as they made her shiver
I also asked if the tops of tomatoes did the same, and she laughed. Like myself, she had managed to spook herself while picking tomatoes, thinking the small green tops once removed from the round fruit was a spider. So easily done!
During the sessions
The first session we focused on just relaxation. The second session we carried out “The Rewind” on the occasions where Katherine had responded the strongest, as she couldn’t remember her first encounter.
During the third session, I read out from her words, exactly how she would like her experience with spiders to be. “I’d be able to walk into a room and if I saw a spider, to go and get a glass and card, and place it over the spider. I would then place the glass over the spider, allow it to walk onto the card, take it outside and shake it onto a plant.”
When she arrived for the last session, she had managed to purchase and place on her hand a toy spider. Katherine was able to look at spider photos in her son’s book. She had removed one spider from the bath, and been ok about watching a documentary about them.
It would be time before tried to pick one up or handle it yet, but she was already feeling a lot braver than before.
Also see: A-Z phobias
Spiders are incredibly useful, so don’t squash them. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spider