Rain is thudding down the way it does in the jungle, when there’s nothing to do and everything takes shelter waiting for it to be over. It’s almost midnight and we’re playing cards. Every now and then, piles of dust land on the table from where the termites are biting the roof. Suddenly, the light flickers out and in a flash, everything is gone.
We put down the cards and everyone swears and dives for lighters. The local boys are faster than us. Pur sparks a match in the kitchen across the yard and howls with laughter. When the bulb eventually quivers back to life, we resume the game but then something crawls out from beneath the table and heaves it’s black and yellow weight across our kings and queens. Fear cripples my body like an electric eel and I’m up from the table in a second. Suddenly the village kitten leaps up and slams a paw down, whacking the thing senseless. She tortures it with her little paw, and then spins the spider in circles like a parasol dead across the table. She then eats it. In that moment that kitten seemed ten times bigger than me.
When you’re scared of spiders, they seem to follow you wherever you go. They are drawn in by an evil magnetic force. Spiders got to me so much that I’d cry when they were near me. It’s an ancestral fear spun wildly out of control. Also one of the most common phobias in the world.
Two weeks before my flight to Asia, I was searching Thai spiders on Google… the Pandora’s box of images you wish you’d never opened… When I saw what the country offered in terms of arachnids, I literally threw my laptop across the room. Trust me, never let a spider get in the way of you and the world. I decided it was time to hypnotize my phobia away…
Be prepared to pay a limb for hypnotherapy, especially in London where I was at the time. With help from my granma I found an affordable hypnotherapist deep in the crags of western England. I entered her spotless domain on a summer’s day and she threw a sheepswool blanket over me and told me to lie down on her sofa.
I couldn’t believe it had come to this. She chanted some stuff and I lay there with the sun hot on my eyelids and felt myself drifting unwillingly towards REM sleep. Her voice led me through sparse white corridors as she got me to envision spiders in a white room. The kind of place that heaven is depicted like in movies. I was told to imagine a single spider there growing large, and then gradually fading away smaller,smaller,smaller.
Then she began flicking invisible spider webs away from my body with a wand. It seemed suddenly futile and stupid that all my spider fears so deeply embedded, would suddenly dissipate in the face of this woman and her Harry Potter-esque crystal wand charms and essential oils.
I wouldn’t say that it worked. People say that when you have a fear, the best thing you can do is face it. Once I was in that remote village that I’d decided I’d live in for a few months, there was no escape. I was now the fly in the great spider’s web. If there was a spider on my mosquito net, where else was I to sleep but outside?
Our volunteer coordinator took us inside a nearby cave. Once we were so deep into the cave, past the stalactites that the coordinator played effortlessly like a real drum-set sending eerie echoes through the place, he told us to switch our torches on and bring them to eye level. I followed his lead and suddenly the cave was aglow with what looked like diamonds… Look closer, he said, *arachnophobes, close your eyes now* we edged closer and saw they were not diamonds at all, but spiders – hundreds, thousands of them all with reflective butts, some of them crouching over pearly pouches (spider nests). This was my real-life spider nightmare. I didn’t run away screaming, instead I stayed surprisingly calm, even when the coordinator picked a spider up and it bit him before scampering away underground. But looking back, I have no idea how I managed that.
When you have a phobia, no matter how irrational it seems, to you it is very real. Your mind will clamp down on that one thing it perceives to be a threat. The black shadow moving under the green tarp while you shower. The almost sixth-sense feeling you get when you know there’s a spider in the room. The dreaded tickle on your shoulder. You know exactly what it is.
Maybe the best way to get over your spider phobia is by watching some Steve Irwin shows or spider cartoons, or maybe it’s paying hundreds for a hypnotist to rework your brain. I don’t know, and I’m sorry to say I don’t have the answer in this post, because I still feel like I’m about to have a heart attack every time I see a spider, but next time you are in a spider-scenario and are overcome by paralyzing fear, just put yourself in that poor spider’s position in the monsoon for a moment, and imagine it’s you being terrorized by a cute little kitten. It helps, I promise!!