Snake Phobias or Ophidiophobia are common and treatable with emotional freedom techniques. In just one EFT session, EFT trainer, Jenny Johnston, helps her client resolve a severe fear of snakes so that she can finally enjoy taking her children to the zoo.
By Jenny Johnston, EFT TRN-3
“Nola” (not her real name), is a 40-year-old married mother with 2 children, 11 and 9. She has had a severe phobia of snakes her whole life, as had her mother and grandmother.
Nola had emigrated from the UK to Australia and remembers hyperventilating when landing as she thought there might be snakes on the ground when they landed (she knew Australia had a lot of snakes).
She was brought to see me for EFT by her close friend who was my sister-in-law. She arrived looking very nervous and told me she was very nervous and had sweaty hands. If she hadn’t been driven to see me, she would have been too anxious to come to the appointment.
I smiled and offered Nola a cup of tea and with my sister-in-law, we sat around the coffee table and informally talked together first. I explained to her that EFT was a gentle technique that wasn’t designed to frighten her or make her more anxious in any way. EFT would be something that she could learn and take away for herself as a tool to relieve anxious feelings about anything when they came up for her.
She seemed to relax more and asked, “You’re not going to show me a picture of a snake or make me hold a plastic or rubber one, are you?”
I let her know that we would not be doing anything that she didn’t feel completely comfortable and at ease with. She would have complete control over how the session would go, as I would always ask her to tell me her anxiety level on a SUD Level scale of 1 — 10 while I would be asking her permission to go on to the next stage after first explaining the each stage in detail to her.
I told her that we would not do anything that she was too anxious to try. She relaxed a little more. I asked her if she was ready to begin our session in another room and whether she was comfortable to do so without her friend. She was comfortable with that.
Once in session, I asked Nola what she knew of EFT and I inquired into what had her friend told her that made her be OK with coming to see me. She explained that her friend had told her it was something about ‘tapping’ certain parts of the body and that you could get rid of phobias.
I told her in a little more detail about how EFT was like an emotional form of acupuncture, without the needles. I gave her examples of some of the types of people I had helped with Emotional Freedom Techniques, such as war veterans with severe post traumatic stress disorder. I also explained that it was a very gentle and painless technique–not designed to confront you with your fears, or increase your anxiety in any way.
I then asked her if she was feeling anxiety right at the moment. She said that she was and I asked her to give me a number from 1 — 10, with 10 being the highest, to represent her anxiety. She said that it was about a 5. I asked her how she felt that anxiety in her body. She said that it was in her breathing, (shallow breaths) and sweaty hands and churning stomach.
I offered to show her how to feel more comfortable using EFT. I asked her to copy me as I showed her all the points on the body to tap and then asked her to repeat after me as we tapped on the karate chop point.
Even though I feel anxious already and I feel it in my stomach, hands and breath, I’m OK and I’m just sitting in a room and I’m safe, as I deeply and completely accept myself.
Even though I have this anxiousness in my stomach, like churning, I am OK and I choose to feel surprisingly comfortable, sitting in this room, I deeply and completely accept myself.
Even though I have shallow breathing and sweaty hands, I am OK and I am just sitting in a room with a friendly person doing this funny tapping thing, as I deeply and completely accept myself. (She smiled).
Reminder phrases —
This anxious feeling, churning in my stomach,
making my hands sweat,
making me take shallow breaths,
this 5/10 anxious feeling,
I don’t know what is coming next and I’m a little anxious about it,
this anxious feeling,
I’m OK so far, nothing scary has happened,
this anxiousness in my stomach,
I’m just sitting in a room tapping,
it’s a little weird and I feel a bit silly,
I’m hoping it will work but I’m not sure,
I trust my friend and I’m OK so far,
this remaining anxious feeling in my stomach, chest and hands,
it would be nice to feel calm,
calm in my stomach, chest and hands,
I am safe and comfortable right now,
I am OK and I choose to feel safe and calm.
I asked Nola to check how she was feeling and to rate how anxious she was. She said that her level had gone down to a 2.
I asked her if she was now comfortable to just tell me about her fear of snakes. She was happy and comfortable enough to tell me. I asked her to tap (following my lead) as she told me. (a version of Tell the story technique).
She said that from as young as she could remember, her Mum and her grandmother would scream if they saw a picture of a snake in a magazine and throw the magazine as far away as possible and scream out for someone to get the magazine out of the house and off the property, (the bin wasn’t good enough).
She said that her mother would never go into the garden or let her children play in the garden for fear of snakes.
They had never gone to parks or camping and were never allowed near long grass as kids. She said that she could see that her own children were now missing out on going camping or going to places where their friends went because of her fear of snakes. She said that she had never been to the country or taken the kids to the Zoo because there are snakes in the Reptile Enclosure there.
She said that she knew her snake phobia was limiting her life and that of her kids and she didn’t want to pass on her fears to her kids. She also said that when she moved to Australia, she was very anxious when the plane was landing as she thought that there would be snakes on the tarmac.
I explained to her about how the ‘Writing on our walls’ are formed during our first 6 years and that she had learned her mother’s and grandmother’s response to snakes which was now an automatic fear that she had ‘downloaded’ from them.
I let her know that EFT can dissolve that ‘automatic’ fear response that her body had learned.
I then asked Nola to rate her fear IF she were to imagine landing in Australia, but NOT to imagine it. (Tearless Trauma Technique). She said it was 10/10. I asked her to tell me how that 10/10 would have felt in her body IF she were to imagine it. She said in her whole body — shaking, wanting to cry, panic, headache, feeling sick in the stomach, but especially her breathing.
I asked her how her breathing would be and she said that it was like she couldn’t take deep breaths and like she had asthma. I asked her to begin tapping on what that feeling would be like IF she were to imagine it.
Even though I have this anxious feeling like I can’t take deep breaths, as I thought there would be snakes everywhere, I’m OK and I deeply and completely accept myself anyhow.
Even though I feel panic and sick in the stomach, and I know I learned this from my Mum and her Mum, I am looking forward to ‘unlearning’ it and I accept myself deeply and completely.
Even though I have my Mum’s fear of snakes in my breathing, I choose to look forward to being able to take deeper and fuller breaths with each breath that I take as I deeply and completely accept myself.
Reminder phrases —
This fear of snakes, when I was landing,
this fear of my Mum’s,
this fear in my breathing,
it’s hard to take deep breaths,
I learned this so well from my Mum,
I’m good at learning,
I choose to consider that I can learn to let go of my Mum’s fear,
I choose to take deeper breaths,
there were no snakes when I landed,
it’s amazing how my mind can make me anxious just sitting here doing this tapping thing thinking about snakes,
I choose to allow my mind to feel surprisingly calm sitting in this room thinking about snakes that aren’t here,
this remaining anxiousness in my breath,
this remaining fear in my breathing,
I choose to take deep breaths easily,
I wonder what it would be like to feel calm in my body and my breath right now,
what if I could just feel calm right now even thinking about snakes on the tarmac,
my mind is so creative,
it created a fear response to something that wasn’t there,
what if my mind can just as easily create calm.
I asked Nola to rate her anxiousness now when she thought about landing and that there would be snakes on the tarmac. She said that she felt surprisingly calm and a little silly that she had been so anxious about something that wasn’t even there. (Cognitive shift).
She rated her anxiety at 2 out of 10 thinking about landing and any snakes that could be on the tarmac.
I asked her if she could remember a time when she ever saw a real snake and she said that she had never seen one, just her Mum and her Grandmother’s reactions to them seeing pictures of snakes. I asked her if she remembered the first time that her Mum or Grandmother ‘freaked out’ over a picture of a snake. She remembered a time when she was about 4 that stood out in her mind which she rated as a 6 out of a 10.
We tapped on the fear she felt as a young child when her mother screamed in fright and the fear response that her 4-year-old self felt in her body until the SUD levels went down to 2 out of 10. (We also tapped on her Mum’s fear response to a piece of paper that had coloured ink on it, that couldn’t hurt her if it tried, the fear of ink on a piece of paper, it happened to be arranged on the paper to resemble a snake but it was only ink and couldn’t hurt anyone etc).
I then asked Nola to tell me how anxious she would be right now, if I had a piece of paper in the drawer of my desk that had coloured ink on it that was shaped in the form of a snake. She said that she was 5 out of 10 level of axiety and it was in her stomach and chest.
I assured her that we would not bring out a piece of paper with ink on it that was shaped in a way to look like a snake unless she was completely calm and gave me permission to do so.
We then began tapping-
Even though I have this SUD Level of 5 out of 10 anxiety in my stomach and my breath just thinking about a piece of paper in the drawer, I deeply and completely love and accept myself anyhow.
Even though I still have some of my mother’s fear response in my stomach and breath to a piece of paper with coloured ink on it, I know I am safe and nothing here is going to harm me and I completely love and accept my body’s learned response from my Mum anyhow.
Even though my Mum didn’t mean to pass her fear on to me of coloured ink on paper that looks like a snake, I deeply and completely love and accept her, her Mum and myself and I am determined not to pass their fear on to my kids.
Reminder phrases –
This learned fear, in my stomach and breathing,
My Mum’s fear in my stomach and breathing,
her Mum’s fear in my stomach and breathing,
It’s only ink on a piece of paper,
I know it can’t hurt me,
I can look at all sorts of pieces of paper with coloured ink on it and be calm,
what if I can look at a picture of a snake and just see coloured ink like coloured ink shaped in the form of an angel or a cute kitten,
what if I can let go of my Mum’s fear and forgive her for having it and giving it to me,
what if I can forgive her Mum for giving it to her,
what if I can let go of this fear of coloured ink on paper and help them to let go of theirs too,
what if it’s easier than I think,
It is just a piece of paper and I can just see it as ink,
It’s safe and easy to see it as ink on paper.
(She began to yawn after her deep breath indicating shift). I asked Nola, what her SUD Level was now, if she thought of a piece of paper in the drawer with ink on it that resembled a snake. She said that it was now only a 1 out of a 10.
I asked her if that number went up if I said that I did have such a piece of paper and if I was to bring it out and put it on the desk in front of her.
I assured her that I wouldn’t of course unless she was Ok for me to do that. She said that she was a little more anxious — 3 out of 10 but could give me permission to do so as she could now see that it was only a piece of paper.
I asked her to do a round of tapping first imagining the picture on the desk in front of her first, face down with the ink facing down, which we did. Her level went down to 1/10. Then I asked her to imagine that I turned that piece of paper over and we tapped on that too until it went down to 1/10. I then asked her permission to bring out that piece of paper and put it face down on the desk.
She was very ok with that and her SUD Levels did not rise.
I asked her to do another round of tapping on any remaining fear from her Mum about looking at a piece of paper with coloured ink on it before we turned it over. She was happy for me to turn it over and was surprised that she was able to look at it calmly and see it as ink on a piece of paper.
I asked her if her SUDS went up if she thought about picking that piece of paper up and touching the ink on the paper or if she first would like to watch me do it.
She was happy for me to touch the ink and wanted to do another round before she did the same thing. She was cognitively shifting her perspective and could now rationally see that it was just ink on paper and was able to touch the ink calmly.
She became teary as she touched it and said that she couldn’t believe that she was doing this.
She said, “This can’t be me, I’m touching a picture of a snake and I’m not scared at all. How can this be happening? I’ve been so scared for years!”
I congratulated her and said that she could take that picture home to her kids and her husband and that they would be just as amazed at her as she was.
Next, I asked her if her anxiety went up at all, imagining that I had a piece of rubber in my drawer that had been made in a factory and shaped and coloured to look like a snake. She said that it went up to a 4 out of 10.
I said that if even wobbled as it was made out of rubber and her SUD Levels went up to a 5 out of 10. I asked her if she would like to let go of that anxiety right now and she was very keen to.
We tapped on the piece of rubber that was shaped and coloured to look like a snake in much the same way as we did for the picture of the snake, including the aspect that it ‘wobbled’ like a snake until her SUD Levels came down to a 1 out of 10.
Again, I asked her to imagine it on the desk in front of her, me holding it and wobbling it and we tapped on all the feelings that came up in her body on each of those aspects until she was down to a 1 out of 10 and was happy for me to hold the rubber snake, wobble it and put it on the desk in front of her.
Next we tapped on her imagining what it would be like to hold this piece of rubber and wobble it and how clever the manufacturer had been to make it look and move like a snake, even though it was just coloured rubber. We tapped on all of her feelings in her body and on all of the aspects of going ahead and holding it until her SUD Levels were down to a 1 out of 10 and she was happy to pick it up.
Again, she began crying and commented on how she couldn’t believe that she was holding a rubber snake and how she couldn’t wait to go into the next room to show her friend. They began crying together and took a photo on her phone and sent it immediately to her husband, who rang her back amazed and congratulating her.
I told her that she now had the tools to take into account more aspects like watching documentaries of snakes on TV, tapping on the thought of it first, then watching it.
I also said that she could tap on the thought of going to the Zoo with the family and going into the Reptile Enclosure before actually going, etc. Nola was keen to do all that and promised that she would let me know how she went.
I let her know that she could return at any time if she felt she needed some help or guidance in the future.
She left taking her coloured picture of a snake and a coloured, wobbly, rubber snake with her and was so totally pleased that a 36 year old fear which had dominated her life, had gone in an hour and a half!
3 weeks later I received a beautiful handmade card from her which read –
I am writing to say thank you for curing my phobia of snakes and changing my life completely. Having mastered watching snakes on TV, looking at plenty of photos, I finally plucked up the courage to enter the Reptile House at the Melbourne Zoo. Never before have I been inside a reptile house and I was truly fascinated.
Your brother, sister-in-law and kids were there along with my family and I think I ‘spooked’ all of them. I went back inside 3 times, even insisting that your brother come with me and explain what the snakes were doing as they moved about their enclosures. (My brother used to own snakes).
Thanks from the bottom of my heart for curing me — You really are a miracle worker!
Love and best wishes …”