Helping Clear a Spider Phobia

My teenage nephew, Daniel, is quite knowledgeable about reptiles and arachnids. Ever since he was a little boy, when my husband, Steve, taught him how to sit really still and catch a lizard, he has been able to be fearless around snakes and spiders. Recently, however, he had a big scare with a tarantula.

While in a pet store, holding a large tarantula in a plastic container he decided to see what would happen if he blew on the spider’s rear end. Well, to his surprise, the tarantula reacted in a way that scared Daniel. Even though the tarantula was still in the plastic container, the surprising way in which the spider moved awakened an instinctual fear that flooded his body with adrenaline and freaked him out.

I asked Daniel to close his eyes and imagine holding the spider in the plastic container. Then I had him feel the dread he had experienced when the spider moved. I asked what level of fear he was feeling right then, and he said his level of intensity was 7 out of 10. The set-up phrases we used were:

Even though the animated spider scared the fricking hell out of me…

Even though I am knowledgeable of spiders and I still got scared of a spider…

Even though I felt like running…

Even though I got really scared of that spider…

After a few rounds of tapping we got his intensity level down to a 3. I asked him a few more questions and found out that he felt the strength of the spider when he moved, and that had scared him. He realized that it wasn’t a wise move to blow on the tarantula – that it wasn’t respectful of it.

So, he tapped while alternating statements like:

The strength of the spider had really scared and surprised me

It wasn’t a good idea to blow on a tarantula

Next time I’ll be more respectful of a spider

This brought his level of intensity down to a zero out of 10. We don’t know, of course, if blowing on the tarantula and that particular move will still be frightening because it was inappropriate to test it. It wouldn’t be fair to the spider. However, the next time I saw Daniel, which was several months later, he said that he didn’t feel scared of the tarantula incident and that when he thought of it he felt calm.

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