Have a guess how many people I have treated for a spider phobia?
Not a single one.
There’s a bit of a cool club among the spider haters, I have noticed. Let’s explore this a bit further.For many people, they are genuinely afraid of spiders, but not enough so that their lives are disrupted and upset by them, and they can kinda co-exist with them. They are not fun to be around, but they are at kind of shudder factor 4. They’re ok.
I’m not scared of spiders. When I was little, I grew up opposite a railway line, which invariably meant that we would have spiders in the house, and they didn’t really bother me. I kept away from them, they mostly kept away from me.
Occasionally I would take my eyes off a spider on the ceiling for a SECOND, look back, and it had gone. WHERE? Para-glided somewhere? My, those little buggers can move fast. And often that’s what people are actually afraid of. It’s not the spider, it’s the movement.
What are we really scared of?
As a friend of mine put it, “They’ve got too many legs, and they move funny”.
Can’t say fairer than that. For some people a fear of spiders will come from a very unwelcome direct contact with one of the little sods which has caused a traumatic reaction, and for others, it’s an association with loud noises.
Think about it; mum is scared of spiders, sees one, screams, bats at it with a frying pan, and three year old you sees mum batting at a tiny little spider with a frying pan, screaming, and not explaining to you what’s happening.
But back to my treatment numbers. None. Nada. Zip.
Safety (and coolness) in numbers
I ran a facebook ad campaign a while back which had loads of engagement; it had a picture of a burning house, with the caption, “There was a spider, but I think I got it now”, and then some blurb advertising my services. This got loads of engagement and shares, and loads of “OMG Shell, this is you”, and hundreds of shares. Did I get enquiries on how to deal with the phobia? Nope.
In hypnotherapy we use a system called subjective units of distress (SUDS); it’s a scale, some use percentages, I often use 1 to 10, and for phobias, I often use things like “from hmmmmm…..ok I see you there……to….I’m not liking this…….to…….Bae, kill it with fire…….to Bae, I killed it with fire, Bae. Bae?”
You get the picture. So many place themselves on the last stage but still don’t want to deal with it.
I’ve worked out why.
The spider haters club is stronger than the phobia.
Phobias can have a lovely side effect called Secondary Gain.
Secondary Gain means that while you have the phobia, you have something of your own, something that you can enjoy, make you part of a club, make you special; on Facebook, it’s the Big Lads Scared of Tiny Spiders Club. Haha look at us, big hairy arsed lads, aren’t we daft. Or the all girls together club, let’s all cram into the shower together to keep away from it, and the last one who can fit in gets to kill it. Secondary gain can feel bigger than the phobia and almost make it feel like have the fear is worthwhile? Really? It’s worth it to be scared?
Yes yes yes I am stereotyping, but this is what secondary gain does. It allows us into what we feel are socially acceptable groupings rather than admitting we have a fear of something we feel is ridiculous to be scared of.
Phobias aren’t always about the thing causing us the distress. But they’re real. Don’t feel silly for having a phobia. Let me help you. A phobia is NEVER ridiculous. A fear is real, the reaction to it may be out of proportion, but if it’s making your life the size of your bedroom, then we need to talk.