Arachnaphobia Zoo Cure - preparing for hypnotherapy
August 8, 2017 9:01 AM   Subscribe

Dear mefites, in the coming months I will be attending this event at Edinburgh Zoo to help with my terrible arachnophobia (note the page doesn't contain any photos of spiders). The afternoon consists of some information on spiders, hypnotherapy sessions, and then a chance to work with some spiders in a controlled environment. I am kind of cynical about the hypnotherapy aspect, but I am really committed to getting over my phobia. Any advice on how to prepare?

I have a pretty bad spider phobia, which I know is irrational, and is starting to hold me back from things I want to do - like visit jungle-ey places or relax when camping. I get typical symptoms when I see any spider (or a picture or video ) bigger than 1cm or so - goosebumps, racing heartbeat, sweating, shivering, crying, panic. At the moment, I cannot kill or capture regular UK house-spiders as I get too freaked out. I don't want to love spiders, I just want to be able to deal with them when I see them. I'm not scared of any other bugs (or beasties, as we say in Scotland).

I have heard good things about these zoo courses, and I really want it to help. But, I am a bit cynical about hypnotherapy and, of course, the phobia is making me think I won't be able to do it. I have a copy of the 'anxiety and phobia workbook' previously recommended on the green, and have been doing my best to commit to tackling the phobia. Previous questions are a little out of date and/or don't really deal with these practical courses as far as I can tell.

I'm looking for experiences of hypnotherapy in helping phobias (particularly if you were cynical beforehand!), tips for preparing for the day, and any other advice or stories about what worked for you! Many thanks!
posted by sedimentary_deer to Health & Fitness (4 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I don't have experience hypnotherapy and phobias, but for changing habits, it's helpful. It's not magical or woo, it's just a way to help reverse the existing internal programming and has lots of data backing it up. It took living alone to be able to kill bad spiders and things like wasps that refuse to leave on their own. Also I have a hand-vac which is a good way to kill wasps and preserve some safe distance. I have a long-legged spider in my bathroom whose offspring I kill when there are too many, but otherwise leave alone because it obviously kills bugs, leaves me alone, is not a biter, and is out of my way. Good luck and congratulations on what is probably a difficult step to take.
posted by theora55 at 10:16 AM on August 8, 2017

It may be helpful to think of hypnotherapy in terms of "narrative" or "tapes", if you're old-school. We have these loops that run in our heads, about pretty much everything. "Spiders aaaahhhhh!" "I deserve a donut." "Don't cross when the Don't Cross sign is on." Just basic programming.

Hypnotherapy is basically about doing some calmness and breathing exercises to push the brain-clutter away for a minute and focusing really specifically on a new loop. "Donuts are an occasional treat, not an everyday snack, and do not correlate to my worthyness."

The part where you learn to be calm is half of the task. That's going to make the background music of your new loop soft and pleasant, rather than the clanging alarm of donut grief. The idea is that, next time you pass the donut shop, you calmly remind yourself that this is all okay and you're not actually in danger and a lack of donuts today isn't going to hurt you.

Some people really respond to having that programming wrapped in a lot of woo, but from people I know who've done it for phobias and smoking and birthing, it's often just very practical and calm, much like listening to a short guided meditation and less like burning herbs and wearing flowing scarves.

The best thing you can do is just promise yourself you'll be open-minded about it. Obviously you can walk out if you think it's somehow exploitative or harmful. And remember: your anxiety wants you to believe this is going to be terrible, the absolute worst, and probably you will die. Anxiety has a strong self-preservation mechanism. You should regard it as a drunken party guest who doesn't want to go home, and don't believe its excuses.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:22 AM on August 8, 2017 [7 favorites]

Great answers thanks - will work on going in open minded, and I like the idea from you both of thinking about it as re-programming some reactions without all the added woo (Lyn Never, you are right about the flowing scarves!). Never hurts to open your own mind!
posted by sedimentary_deer at 12:21 AM on August 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

I have a wasp phobia, which makes July-October a misery, and for which I've had exposure therapy, which helped a lot. Something you may not know is that a phobic response ramps up fast, then plateaus, then (this is the good bit) drops back down again. The part of the day where you interact with spiders - in a calm controlled environment with calm happy spider keepers - may well give you the opportunity to experience this. It's a pretty astonishing thing when all you're used to is the ramping-up stage.

Anecdotal evidence regarding a formerly severely arachnophobic friend who's done the same course at London Zoo: she is still unhappy at finding a spider in the house but is now able to trap it under a glass and take it outside.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 2:36 PM on August 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

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