I do, along with 13% of the population. My phobia is that boring, common one – spiders. Even writing the name makes me go uuuugjfhdhdns. (That is a word associated only with my specific fear). And I can’t even say the word for the bigger type without my heart pounding.
I often wish I could swap my fear for something else… like a shark! You never come home and be like, crap – there’s a shark in my living room. But of course it could be worse, such as fearing birds, which you can’t avoid.
So – here are three really annoying things about phobias:
1) Being told that you’re silly or irrational.
I don’t think I’ve ever told someone that I have a fear of spiders without them giving me this gem back:
“You know they can’t hurt you.”
I’m not sure what I’m expected to say back? “Oh my god. You’re right. You’ve just cured me.” I know the fear isn’t logical, I know they can’t hurt me (in the UK at least.) It doesn’t help. (Also, the follow-up that always seems to be, “They’re more scared of you.”)
2) You’re told a bunch of anecdotes about your object of fear.
As soon as I’ve been stupid enough to confess, I always, always get the stories. Like the time they had a particularly awful experience with one, or the last time they had one somewhere horrible and I want to say ‘What part of me telling you I fear them says to you let’s have a bleeding chat about them?!’
3) Articles about a specific fear use a photo to illustrate it.
Who do you think is interested in your article about arachnophobia? It’s probably people with it, hoping to get some tips to make the fear go away. So why an earth would you then go ahead and have a huge unavoidable picture of a spider to illustrate it, meaning anyone with the phobia has just thrown the paper across the room to make it go away.
In the past I’ve had some hypnotherapy to try and get rid of my phobia, but after two sessions I went into the waiting room, and jumped at something black out the corner of my eye, and thought, hm, not so sure this has worked.
I know where my phobia comes from – my mum. Yep, it’s all her fault! She too has the same phobia, but I think mine has surpassed hers, in that she can usually manage to pull herself together to get the vacuum out while I’m still having a meltdown in a room far, far away.
A lot of people conflate dislikes and phobias, for example many people would say they dislike spiders, or other insects. I personally dislike brown envelopes. But a phobia takes it on to another level. I think about spiders every day, am checking for them, getting anxious about them and jumping if something tickles me. Just writing this I’m constantly checking my surroundings, my heart is thumping, my breathing quickening and am on high alert. Having said that my reaction to encountering them can differ – it depends on if I feel I can be ‘saved’ from it. If I’m with someone I know can deal with it, I usually react, and then quickly remove myself from the situation and pull myself together. If I’m alone, it’s particularly big, or I feel trapped by it – we are talking full blown hysteria.
But I also know a lot of people have it much worse – they can develop severe stress and even agoraphobia trying to avoid their phobia completely. Many also avoid therapy believing at some point they will be made to confront their fear directly.
I was talking to a hypnotherapist about it last week, and he was explaining how common it is to ‘inherit’ a phobia. It usually happens at a young age, where you see the parent react to whatever the fear is. At the age it happens they don’t usually have the skills to properly analyse the situation and decide it’s not rational to fear it, they simply trust that their parent is reacting in the correct manner.
So I asked him where my mum may have got her phobia from, as neither of her parents are phobic. He explained that phobias often develop from just one situation – where something has made you jump; an object/animal reacts unexpectedly or you encounter it during an already stressful situation – which heightens the risk of it becoming a phobia.
Now this kind hypnotherapist has offered to give me a free session, and take a different approach to the previous hypnotherapist – and is pretty confident he can reduce my fear. He has told me I may never be the greatest fan of spiders, or even like them – but he should be able to stop the fear.
I’m keeping my fingers crossed, and will let you know how it goes!
Do you have a phobia? What of? Have you managed to get rid of one in the past, and if so – how? What annoying things do people say to you when you tell them what your phobia is?