The Zoological Society of London’s Friendly Spider Programme

This hypnotherapy article over at the Telegraph is promoting some wonderful work being done to overcome arachnophobia. The Zoological Society of London’s Friendly Spider Programme is a four-hour course that claims to free 80 per cent of participants from their phobia. The article states:

It’s a combination of natural history lecture and hypnotherapy, designed firstly to dispel myths and misconceptions about spider motivation (ie, they haven’t been sent from Mars to suck our blood) and then to strengthen our subconscious resolve not to scream each time something scuttles out from under the sofa.

“The first important fact we try to get across is that, out of the 40,000 types of spider in the world, only four are poisonous and none of them live in this country,” says Dave Clarke, team leader of the zoo’s Bugs! exhibition. “Actually, people tend to be less scared by the actual danger that spiders present than by the mere thought of them: the way they seem to move in unpredictable and irrational ways.

“What they particularly dislike is the way in which spiders seem to come deliberately towards them. The truth is, though, that the spider isn’t targeting them, but running away from something else, like a television set that’s blaring light and sound.”

But surely it’s not just the spider’s wonky walking style that makes us want to jump up on chairs and scream? Is there not some deeper, primeval repulsion at work?

“It’s possible that the fear goes back to the days when we lived in caves, when it was sensible to be afraid of small, black things running around the ground in the dark,” says Dave Naish, who runs a similar course at Bristol Zoo Gardens. “No one really knows. A lot of people just pick up the fear from seeing how other family members react, particularly their parents.

“One thing we have noticed, though, is that there are 10 times more women than men on our course. What we don’t know is if men aren’t so badly affected by spiders, or are just more reluctant to admit it.”

The article gives examples and quotes from people who have successfully used the programme to overcome their fear, including England Rubgy star Lewis Moody.

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