Today I find myself collecting spiders to use with a client with a phobia. I’d usually spend most of the time either ignoring them, killing them or sweeping them off my walls… but today I am actually actively looking for them. Who would have thought! I used to fear them myself once, but now, I really don’t see the point.
Do you suffer from a paralysing phobia? Are irrational fears keeping you from living a normal life?
Then it’s important you understand this: we are born with two instinctive fears: the fear of loud noises and the fear of falling. Everything else is a learnt fear. Some learnt fears are not only handy to have but have allowed us to survive as a species.
When it comes to fire, for example, through trial and error, we’ve learnt that if we try to touch it, we’ll get burnt. If we stop in the middle of the road, the chances are we’ll get run over, if we put our hand in a tiger’s mouth, we’re bound to lose it. These make sense. It makes sense not to go down a deserted dark alley, not to walk home alone in the middle of the night, or not to try to pat a rabid dog… we don’t have to have experienced the bite of a poisonous snake to know we are in danger if we are around one.
But what about the fear of spiders for example? If you live in the Australian outback and you come across a venomous spider, it makes sense to avoid it, run, or do whatever you have to do so that you don’t get bitten. If you live in Ireland and come across a Daddy long legs happily dangling off the ceiling, having an anxiety attack is simply a silly thing to do, and bad for your health at that.
We have an inbuilt fight or flight response to help us deal with danger, and my guess is that it’s not meant to go off at the sight of a Daddy long legs. This is an example of a learnt unuseful fear.
When you were a kid the chances are you did not fear spiders or any other insect for that matter. In fact, like many other kids, you were probably extremely curious about them and tried to grab them, or even eat them! I clearly remember spending hours catching flies so that we could feed them to spiders nesting in my grandparents’ farm wall. It was a delicate operation, and a mean one, but boy did we enjoy it!
Needless to say that being a million times bigger than any spider and being able to annihilate most with a single stomp or the sweep of a brush kind of tells us that it’s really the spider that should be trembling with fear, and not us. Yet, if you’ve noticed, they seem to ignore us most of the time, keep to themselves, and either keep building their web or catching flies or other bugs, we are often also afraid of.
We humans also have one thing called anticipation: we can anticipate good things, and terrible things that might happen. Most of us have never experienced a plane crash, but that doesn’t stop some people from sitting on a plane with butterflies in their stomach, sweaty hands and uneasy feelings. But anticipating a fearful stimulus can provoke the same response as actually experiencing it.
Conditioning plays a big part here too: conditioning is why some people love dogs while others fear them. Maybe they were bitten by a dog when they were kids and since then their brain recognises all dogs as dangerous, even though in reality we all know this not to be true.
Some studies show that humans might be genetically predisposed to fear certain harmful things like spiders, snakes and rats. Animals that once posed real danger to us because they were poisonous or carried disease.
But according to recent research the most common fears today are: terrorist attacks, spiders, death, failure, war, heights, crime/violence, being alone, the future, nuclear war…
Experiencing fear every now and then is a normal part of life. But living with chronic fear can be both physically and emotionally debilitating. So, how can you get over your fears so you can get on with things?
1. Get professional help: if people repeatedly telling you “don’t be silly” worked I’m sure you’d be fine by now. NLP and Hypnosis can help you eliminate fears very effectively and more quickly than you ever thought. It doesn’t matter why you have a fear, how it all started or how long you’ve had it for. It’s about reconditioning your mind, so that you can build new more useful memories that will allow you to feel more at ease about that specific thing, activity or situation. You don’t have to fall in love with spiders or bugs or whatever… you can simply be indifferent, and be comfortable with yourself.
2. Get thinking: learn about the thing you fear. Lack of knowledge is often a big component of fear. Developing an understanding of what you’re afraid of can really help you eliminate that fear. For example, did you know that spiders have a very positive and vital impact on our ecosystem? They help manage insect populations by eating lots of bugs. Also, medical research using spider venom has yielded several chemicals that may be useful to control or treat diseases in humans. Spider venom could save your life!
3. Get exposed: When I was a kid a big dog ran crazily barking towards me and almost bit me. Since then I’ve always been a little wary of dogs. Especially small ones… I know, it doesn’t make sense! A lot of our fears don’t make sense. Some may have been conditioned by our parents’ own fears, some may be the result of something that happened a long time ago, or something that almost happened once, but never did. Some were conditioned by movies we’ve watched. It’s easy to be afraid of something when it’s watched in a vividly colourful panoramic screen, with the right sound effects attached to it. NLP helps you put things into perspective by running more useful, nicer movies in your mind so you can get to feel more at ease about things which used to scare you in the past. It’s important to test yourself though, if you can, just to make sure you’re ok now. This is why I am collecting spiders around the house to use with a client later on. Nothing like getting exposed to know you are over it!