Sometimes phobias fall into that “one minute miracle” category. Not really one minute, of course. But even if takes a half an hour to totally eliminate a problem – that’s still pretty miraculous. We can’t guarantee it, because it all depends on how traumatizing the early incidents were and how long this behavior of avoidance has been reinforced. But every now and then, you get to whip out your magic wand and make phobias disappear in no time at all.
And this was one of them.
“Rosie” was a 9th grade student who signed up to learn tapping from me, her high school guidance counselor. She indicated on her request form that it was for “fear of spiders”. As it turns out – I happened to have an illustrated book of insects – a really nice coffee table sized book – with gorgeous full color photos of all kinds of creepy crawlies. I kept this book in my counseling office because sometimes it helps to have pictures to trigger people who want to work on their fears. Spider and insect phobias are quite common, especially with teenage girls. WIth tapping, the more fully you can experience your distress – the faster the work goes.
So after Rosie took her seat and told me that her phobia was spiders in general, but tarantulas in particular – I “helpfully” reached for my book and opened it to a 2 page centerfold blow-up of a hairy tarantula- easily 5 times the actual size. At that point, Rosie screamed and ran out of my room. I ran after her and managed to persuade her to come back, promising I wouldn’t open the book again without her permission. (Needless to say, I learned a very important lesson that day about not retraumatizating my clients. First do no harm!)
Anyway, we began tapping on how very scared she felt just thinking about the picture. I sat across the room with the dreaded book in my lap and when the fear subsided to a low level, she gave me permission to open it … to that scary page! I did so quickly and then closed the book again. Her level of fear went up. I asked for specific details and she mentioned the color, the hairiness and the many wiggly legs. We tapped on that and a couple minutes later, she asked to see the picture again. I showed her and she was calm. I asked it I could wheel my chair a couple of feet closer and she said yes. I told her to say ”STOP” when it felt too close and she did. We then took another measurement (zero to ten) of how scary it was to have the spider be that close – it was a 5 – and we tapped on that until it came down to zero.
Can I come closer? Yes, she said. I brought the book to her. No fear. How about touching the picture? Ooooooom no. Fear level? 4 We tapped on the oooooo feeling. Then she was able to pet the picture of the spider without any discomfort.
Next, I asked how and when this phobia had started. (Typically this is the way a tapping session begins with the story of the problem and how it began. But I had disrupted the natural progression with my hasty and ill advised picture showing.) It seems that Rosie’s uncle, in the grand tradition of boys teasing girls, had snuck up behind her and placed his pet tarantula on top of her head. This experience a year ago was still sending shock waves through her and she was now scared of all spiders, not just the big, hairy variety.
She was angry at her uncle. Understandably. We tapped on that. Then I had her tell the story in small increments, stopping whenever distress started to build. Eventually she was able to get to the end with only the creepy feeling of the insect on her scalp. I asked if I could put some wiggly fingers on her head and she said yes. We tapped. When that no longer triggered her – I asked for permission for the spider take a trip down her arms. Soon that was fine too.
The bell rang and the period was over. I wished her luck and sent her back to class. Because of the large number of students that year I didn’t get to do a follow-up with Rosie until 3 months later. I was eager to hear if she had been able to encounter any spiders in that time and hoped she had evidence of improvement. The happy ending is even better than that. Her uncle, in an act of contrition, had given his pet to her. She now was the proud owner of a tarantula which lived in an aquarium beside her bed. And every day, she’d take it out and let it crawl all over her.