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How to overcome Fear

If you have a phobia (irrational fear) of spiders or anything else for that matter, it is possible to cure it and no longer be afraid of whatever it was that you were afraid of!

Note: There is nothing frightening on this page.

Most people are scared of spiders, or something else, to a level which is "irrational", ie where there's no actual good sense reason for the fear. Fear of the dark is surprisingly common, and there are a great many people who have a very particular phobia of something or other. Sometimes it can be a fear of balloons, peach fur, plugholes, feathers, or any of a wide variety of things, often things which the average folk think is very odd to be scared of. If you have such a fear, don't worry; it's surprisingly commonplace.

Some of these fears, we're born with them, and they're part of the internal firmware that's evolved over millennia to be integral to the mind. Presumably, in the prehistoric times before humans evolved into their present form, survival favoured those individuals who did not fall prey to various hazards; poisonous snakes, spiders, vast gaping precipices, hidden dangers from prowling beasts in the dark, etc.

Some fears are an individual thing, where you have had an experience when you were very young, and this has then turned into a phobia. For example, if you were scared by a flapping bird in early life, you might have a fear of feathers in adult life. Because of the chance random nature of these experiences, you might have a fear of something very strange which you can't tell people because they might not believe you!

Whatever the fear, help is at hand, as there is a method to cure a phobia. The method is not difficult, and is painless, but it takes some patience. It doesn't cost anything, and it doesn't require any special skill.

Let's assume for the ease of writing this, that you're afraid of spiders. If you're not, and it's a phobia of something quite different, just substitute whatever you're afraid of whenever I mention "spiders"...

How to not be afraid of spiders:

The first thing to realise is that you've not got a zero tolerance of spiders. (Zero Tolerance is something politicians go on about and it's bravado that is supposed to sound good rather than being based in reality). So, although you don't like spiders, if I told you that someone ten miles away had a small spider in their loft, it would not worry you.

There is some level of exposure to spiders which is not a problem for you. It might be that a tiny spider in a jar in the next room might not be a problem, or that a photo or drawing of a spider would not be frightening. Whatever that level of tolerable exposure is, it's worth doing a few experiments to determine where the level is.

Even if, to people who aren't scared of spiders, the situations seem absurd, it is worth examining where the tolerable level is for you.

This is a scientific observation, and you write it down in your diary, for example: "2006/07/22 I am not scared very much of spiders less than 2mm across 200m away".

Now this is the interesting bit, because even without any effort or having to put up with being scared of these things, your tolerance starts to improve. Just by thinking about it and realising that the spider less than 2mm across 200 metres away was not scary on that day, a week later you can examine the state of the phobia again and realise that a 3mm spider 150m away would not be too bad. This goes in the diary.

Examining small (possibly dead) spiders in jars at a distance might not be scary, or at least within limits. This is worth practising to see where the limit is.

Yet again, just by observing this, the fear reduces and the limits extend. At no time in this do you need to be actually frightened by anything. You can conquer the fear without having to suffer.

After a while, even if it takes months, you'll be amazed, not at how unafraid you are of spiders now, but by how your earlier writings about the fear seem much more severe looking back. So, you are being cured of the phobia.

So, that's it; how to stop being frightened of spiders!

If your need to get rid of the fear of spiders is very severe, one option to consider is a special course offered by London Zoo. The course for arachnophobes is a serious business and involves hypnosis.

Other notes about fear: Almost everyone is afraid of spiders to some extent (arachnophobia). Fear of the dark is a natural evolutionary adaption and has some interesting features to it. Fear of heights, again a self-preservation thing. Fear of enclosed spaces (claustrophobia) also has survival implications, and similar situations exist for fear of open spaces or too much going on (agoraphobia). Agoraphobia tends to happen accidentally by staying at home too much and not getting out enough.

I've done experiments into fear of the dark, and I've also found there is an odd fear which can occur if you try to run blindfolded across an open field or beach, where the imagination invents imaginary things you're going to run into. Interesting stuff! The research continues!

Curiously, I have found that my fear of being out of my depth in water disappears when underwater! Also, I've seen from a video, fear of heights is much more present when on a ladder than when sitting on the edge of the doorway on a helicopter.

Irrational fear of flying, or, more precisely, crashing, is a manifestation of the more general fear of being exposed to risks which you are unable to control or influence.

Also see how to get spiders out of the bath