extreme or irrational fear of spiders.
I expect most people know someone who has arachnophobia to some level. Thankfully, for most it’s more than a simple dislike but not something that really has a big impact on their life. For others though, the fear is extreme. My arachnophobia fell into this last category.
I can’t remember when I first knew I was scared of spiders but do remember being in the car on a trip to my grandparents’ house when I was around five or six years old. I felt a tickle on my leg and looked down to see a spider crawling up my leg. My Dad had to pull over onto the hard shoulder to get rid of the spider so I could calm down, because I was screaming so much.
I don’t remember any incident or fear of spiders between then and when I was around 13. I had a nightmare about a spider. It was bad. In the dream, I was in our dining room and reached into the cabinet to get a glass. At the back of the shelf was a cobweb – not a silky web like those we usually see; this one was thick and hard and jagged. As my fingers reached the glass, a spider crawled onto the back of my hand. It was the size of my hand and its back was smooth, like a crab. I froze, unable to bring myself to move or do anything about it; literally frozen with fear. Another hand then came into the picture and grabbed the spider from above to lift it off my hand. The crab-shell-like back came off the spider and the rest of it stayed on my hand. The “innards”, which were white tubes in the dream, fell out.
It was at this point that I woke up, hysterical. I tried to go downstairs but I found myself unable to open the door from the hall – scared that a spider would be hiding on the handle. My Mum woke up and heard my distress and came down stairs with me. I was reluctant to go into the dining room, in case it hadn’t been a nightmare. I could still see and feel the spider on my hand. It took a long time to convince me it wasn’t there, and even then I was rubbing and clawing at my hand because it still felt like it was there. This continued for days – I couldn’t be in the room on my own, couldn’t use door handles, petrified that there would be a spider.
That’s the time I can pinpoint my arachnophobia to. From then on, whenever I was really stressed, I’d dream of spiders. I couldn’t bear to hear the word “spider”, couldn’t say it, write it. If there was a spider in a picture in a book, I couldn’t touch the page to turn it over. People seemed to talk about spiders all the time, and each conversation would trigger a panic attack. Things continued like this for years. At university, I had to change room in the halls of residence because I couldn’t open the window in my room – there was a lake not far behind my room and there were always at least a dozen spiders in the frame whenever I opened it. The window was next to my bed and I was scared all the time.
Things didn’t improve much over the coming years. In a house I shared, we had a large basement kitchen. Sitting around the table chatting one day, I watched as a spider crawled out of the cellar into the kitchen. It was bigger than my hand. Our freezer was in the cellar and I never went in there again.
After the birth of my first child, I was determined I would do my best not to make him afraid of spiders, but after a small spider crawled on him when he was a baby, I couldn’t bring myself to touch him until he’d been bathed by his Dad. A spider in the bath would mean I had to bleach the bath before I could use it again. This phobia was affecting my life on an almost daily basis. You’d be surprised the number of times pictures of spiders pop up when you scroll through Facebook. It always left me unsettled.
A breakthrough came when I was studying for my Certificate in Sound Therapy. We were learning techniques for intensive treatments with tuning forks and I volunteered to be the guinea pig for another student to practice this technique. It involved me picturing the thing I wanted treatment for – so I had to picture spiders whilst the treatment was performed. It took about 30 minutes and I cried all the way through. Silent tears rolling down my face as my colleague performed the treatment. After she finished, I sat up and everyone in the room said I looked ten years younger. I felt like a huge weight had been lifted but my arachnophobia didn’t feel any better.
Of course, I should have realised that it would take time for the treatment to have an effect – it takes time for our bodies to process the sound. Over the next few weeks, I began to notice a difference in my phobia. I was definitely still afraid of spiders, but things were lessening – I could hear the word without wanting to scream. I could turn a page over if there was a picture of a spider. In little ways, I was coping better. It was not a magic cure, but bear in mind, I only had one treatment. As a sound therapist, I can treat myself in many ways, but I can’t do this treatment to myself and I’ve never come across another therapist who can perform this treatment, at least not close enough to me to make it feasible.
So, that was ten years ago. That one treatment has continued working in my system over that time. It brought me to the point where I could sit in a room despite there being a spider on the ceiling (unless it was huge, or in my bedroom.). I don’t need to clean out the bath if there’s been one in there. These are huge improvements.
And then yesterday evening I was with a client in my therapy room. We were discussing her week when I spotted a small spider crawling on the wall quite near to me. I couldn’t leave it there – I didn’t want it to become an issue in the middle of a treatment, so something had to be done. With only a very slight hesitation, I grabbed some couch roll and scooped up the spider and threw it outside. I didn’t freak out; didn’t feel the need to wash my hands over and over. I was calm. And a little bit impressed with myself. I’m 43 and, having had arachnophobia for at least 30 years, I have got rid of a spider for the first time in my life.
If you suffer with arachnophobia, or indeed any phobia that you’d like help with, please do get in touch. As you can see by my experience, I can’t promise to cure you, but I can help. And of course, you’ll have the option to have more than one treatment, which would bring about improvements much more quickly.