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In this week’s post I discuss six steps to overcoming arachnophobia including research, looking at images, watching videos, looking at spiders and holding spiders. These are small steps you are encouraged to take at your own pace, using coping methods to reduce your anxiety. The article urges you to consider a spider as afraid of you instead of the opposite way round through positive coping talk and researching statistics to reduce your fear. By Malminder Gill, published online by Hypnosis In London blog on 09 December 2014.
Arachnophobia is one of the most common phobias and a very difficult and unpredictable one to avoid. You may fear spiders because of their dark appearance and unpredictability. You may fear spiders because you believe they will hurt you, that they are dangerous and deadly. The good news is you can overcome arachnophobia with some simple and small steps.
- Learn Some Facts – To begin with, you need to research spiders. Don’t research the top ten most venomous spiders, research the spiders that might be living in your local area. There is a theory that we fear spiders because we don’t understand them unlike dogs and cats who we empathize with. So try and understand them. Learn about the differences between each species. Collect together a sheet of facts such as ‘most spiders can’t even penetrate human skin’, ‘most spiders will only retaliate if you attack them’, ‘most spiders have poison that is far too weak to harm a human’ and so on. It’s even better if you can get numerical statistics and proven studies to support your facts. Accept the fact that spiders live alongside humans – the truth is they are everywhere, many probably live in your house and never leave in their entire lives. If there are so many spiders, why haven’t you been hurt before? You haven’t been hurt because they won’t hurt you. Keep this fact sheet with you for when you get scared.
- Look At Photos – The next step is to look at pictures. Just photos, not real spiders. Set goals for how long you stare at the picture. You might start by saying you’ll stare at the photo for 3 seconds then 10 then 20. Notice the details of a spider. The more you look at the spider, the more you should grow accustomed to it’s image and feel less afraid. As well as focusing on the image, also place it somewhere in your house or in several places. Continue your daily life without allowing the anxiety of the image to overwhelm or distract you.
- Watch Videos – Once you’re more comfortable with images of spiders, try watching some videos. The most important thing for this step is don’t watch horror movies or freak incidents. There is no point in watching Arachnophobia when you have arachnophobia, you will take ten steps back and find it ten times more difficult to make progress in overcoming your anxiety. Watch normal, average spiders interacting naturally with the environment and watch it from a scientific and analytical point of view. Pay attention to how the legs move, watch them spin a web.
- Look At A Spider – Now you need to ask someone to trap a spider under a glass or transparent container. If you live somewhere more exotic, don’t pick a known poisonous spider, why even risk it? Instead pick a small and harmless spider, research them if you need to. Imagine how you would feel trapped in a small space. When you see the spider moving excitedly around the container, understand that it isn’t being aggressive or angry, it is afraid and confused. Before the person trapped it, did the spider try to move away from the person, did it attempt to hide? The spider is far more scared of you than you are of it. Stand a certain distance away from the spider and watch it. When you feel ready, take a step forward and keep repeating this until you are close by. Remember to move at your own pace and if you feel the need to stop and start again another time, do so.
- Look At A Spider: Part 2 – When you’re ready, look at the spider without the container. Keep a certain distance away and when you are less anxious, take a step forward until you are near the spider. Watch how it moves in its surroundings. Although most spiders are happy to sit still, if it moves closer to you and you are panicking, take a step back until you feel comfortable again. Have a friend or family member with you who is prepared to contain or handle the spider if you need to stop. Set goals on how long you can stay close to the spider or how long you can stay inside the room with the spider. See if you can look away, knowing that there is a spider.
- Hold A Spider – The final and most difficult step is to hold a spider. If you find the idea too daunting to begin with then first wear gloves and long sleeves so the spider is not touching your skin. Hold the spider in your hand and when the spider begins to move away, use your other hand to guide it back again. Hold the spider over a container or box so that if your anxiety is too high, you have the ability to drop the spider quickly and step back. If you are okay with holding the spider, remove your gloves and try touching the spider with your skin. Once again hold the spider above the container so you feel safer. Don’t ‘play’ with the spider or taunt it, observe it moving over your hand and only guide it when it moves outside of your comfort zone.
For each step, it is important to move only at a pace that is comfortable to you. Don’t feel pressured to move to the next step if you are not ready. On the other hand, if you find yourself coping quickly, then move on to the next step quicker. Throughout each step you should use positive coping talk; say, ‘I’m afraid of this spider but I can do this’, ‘I can touch this spider’, ‘This spider isn’t going to harm me’. Having a friend or family member there can be an extra safety net and they can comfort you and help to keep you calm. When you feel your anxiety rising, use general anxiety coping methods such as controlling your breathing; count to three when you breathe in and count to three when you breathe out. It might help to hold a stress ball or listen to music. Overcoming a phobia means reducing your anxiety to a level you can cope with that doesn’t interfere with your daily life. You don’t need to sit in a room with 50 spiders, you don’t need to allow them under your clothes, consider only what is necessary. Recognise your achievements and feel proud of the progress you make.
Malminder is a Clinical Hypnotherapist in London’s Harley Street, helping people to overcome and manage personal challenges. Read more about Malminder’s London Hypnotherapy Practice and how she can help you here.
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