As one of the most common adult phobias, the fear of snakes, also known as Ophidiophobia or Ophiophobia, can cause an individual to experience extreme and persistent anxiety. Such was the case for one of my clients several years ago who experienced an intense fear of snakes.
In the EFT session with my client, Evelyn, I soon discovered that her fear of snakes was entwined with numerous Aspects, rooted in disturbing memories and experiences from different times during her life.
Uncovering the Aspects of a Fear of Snakes
To thoroughly clear Evelyn’s phobia, we needed to address each of these Aspects in turn.
Aspect #1 turned out to be a memory of herself as a five or six-year old mistakenly reaching for a coiled-up snake she had thought was a rock. When she saw it was actually a live snake and it crawled off between her feet, she remembered an intense jolt as she withdrew with a startled fright.
Evelyn tapped the horror associated with this memory down to a zero. We then went on to identify the next Aspect of her fear of snakes.
Aspect #2 was the horror and nauseated feeling she had experienced in childhood when she saw a snake that had recently eaten a small animal. The lump in its throat was physically unpleasant for her to recall and made her feel intensely sick to her stomach. Evelyn tapped the nauseated feeling down to zero, then we continued.
Aspect #3 involved memories of Evelyn’s mother shooting snakes in her childhood swimming hole to protect her and the other children. The way one of the snakes writhed and flipped over, revealing its underbelly, was very creepy to Evelyn – like watching a horror movie – it continued to disturb her to even think about it. Two rounds of EFT and the horror vanished from that memory.
The most intense of the Aspects, Aspect #4 involved an incident that occurred when her 17-month-old daughter was just learning to walk. Unbeknownst to the toddler, but clearly known to her mother who watched from a distance of about 50 feet, the child was approaching a large and deadly snake while trying to walk to mom. Frozen with fear, Evelyn could do nothing to protect her child and dared not call out to her because that might make the little girl move suddenly and startle the snake, which might then cause the snake to strike her.
Breathlessly and with heart pounding, Evelyn watched in silent despair as her little daughter stepped nonchalantly over the snake and continued on her way, unharmed. Evelyn described her reaction when she thought about this incident as a feeling of being “sick unto death.” Several rounds of tapping were needed before her intense reaction to this near disaster faded. But it finally did. The expression on Evelyn’s face was one of incredible relief when she tapped on the fact that she “knew and acknowledged” that her daughter had “survived.” She suddenly felt this on a very deep level, never accessible to her before.
As you can see, each Aspect of Evelyn’s fear of snakes stemmed from a different memory and had its own signature emotions – startled fright, nausea, horror-like-revulsion, and the intense fear and guilt at being unable to save her child. For each Aspect, we did separate rounds of tapping. Each time, we started by discussing the particular “flavor” of that fear and assessing her current distress level regarding the particular Aspect (usually that distress level was initially very high). We then came up with appropriate set-up statements, such as:
Even though I almost picked up that snake…,”
Even though that memory makes me feel sick…,”
Or, “Even though that was a creepy memory…,”
The statements were usually followed by the statement, “I deeply and completely accept myself.”
After going through the initial tapping sequence for each Aspect, we would then re-assess her fear level, which was almost always much lower than at the start. We’d then go through a clearing process, repeating the steps to remove the residual trauma, using lines such as, “Even though there is still a little creepiness left…”
When we got to the memory of her dear daughter, several rounds of clearing were needed to remove this complex and highly charged Aspect of her snake phobia. We made sure to include the concept of forgiveness for herself, as Evelyn clearly still felt irrational guilt about the incident. We also chose to include some positive statements such as, “Even though I felt sick unto death (about my daughter almost stepping the snake), I choose to remember how perfectly [my daughter] survived.”
Our 53-minute in-office session concluded with Evelyn first looking at, then holding in her lap, a very realistic rubber replica of a snake. She was able to do this with no pressure from me, and even agreed to visit a nearby pet store to see a real live snake.
At the pet store, she was able to walk up to within four feet of a six-foot boa constrictor, which was being held outside of its cage, by its handler. Evelyn observed the snake with a peaceful, interested expression on her face and said simply, “Why, she’s pretty, isn’t she?”
Six weeks later, Evelyn told me that she was at her office talking about how she had recently watched a tape I had lent her about the Amazon rain forest, which contained footage of writhing snakes. Not only had she been able to watch it, but she actually found herself interested in the subject matter and rewound the tape to watch it a few more times. Her fear had been blocking a natural curiosity.
When I followed up on this single treatment session by phoning Evelyn five years later, she told me that her fear was still completely absent even though she had returned to live in the mountain country of her childhood where snakes abound. She was intelligently cautious of the snakes, but had no irrational fear of them at all.
Certainly, the value of involving a trained tapping practitioner in more difficult and complex cases cannot be overstated. Although EFT tapping was developed to be a self-administered technique and often suffices as just this, it is frequently the insight, experience, and creativity of a trained practitioner that takes the process to its most effective level. Tapping is like any skill – the more one does it, the better one gets at it. However, sometimes only an experienced practitioner can unlock the power of this method in a given situation, especially when the emotions are powerful and complex.
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