As much as I don’t really agree with keeping animals in Zoo’s, I today made a visit to London Zoo to attend their very successful Friendly Spider Programme. Having had a spider phobia all of my life, I have found encounters with the eight legged folk quite traumatising which upon reflection is of course ridiculous. The last thing someone with arachnophobia needs to hear is ‘Its Only a Spider, its more scared of you then you are of it’ etc- as these remarks and suchlike actually only reinforce the illogical fear that is buried deep within the subconscious; we think with our conscious mind and react with our subconcious.
As much as I am an optomistic person, to be honest I didn’t think much of the day ahead of me. I mean, did I really think that I was going to be one of those crazy nuts at the end of the course who wants to hold the tarantula I thought no way! I arrived at the meeting rooms in the early afternoon and registered my attendance. There I was met with a hot beverage and a ‘prep talk’ from one of the kind volunteers. We were ushered into the auditorium and the programme opened with an introduction from the hypnotherapist; a lovely man called John. Together we were encouraged to talk about why we did not like spiders and the places we most feared their encounters. We were told that phobias are either passed down from our parents or that we are ‘worriers’. Until today I looked upon fretting as a weakness however this is not true and was explained to us; within each species of animal some of us are genetically programmed to be worriers so as to be the ‘look outs’ for the rest of the pack! Well I am most certainly a worrier and although this may somewhat be genetic to a point, I have also learned that behaviour from both my parents who are also worriers. Anyway enough about that. Next up was a talk from the head of invertebrate, Dave, who also grew up with an irrational fear of the eight legged folk and he told us lots of interesting facts about spiders and how important they are for our environment and also about how safe they are too. After an hour or so we had another break and then we were asked to go into another meeting room where we were instructed to lay down on the floor with a cushion to undergo group hypnosis. Seriously, even as John started to talk I thought it really was silly and no way would it work! After the thirty minute session we were asked to attend the bugs section at the zoo and I thought that would be okay- I didn’t feel different, I just felt relaxed and chilled out. We were asked to look at some of the spiders through the glass and I couldn’t quite believe it but I had my face pressed up against the glass looking at them in great detail! I was then asked if I wanted to practice catching house spiders which I did with ease, calmly and confidently. Next thing I knew I was with one of the bug keepers placing my hands into a plastic box that had a huge house spider in and the little fella started to run over my hands. There is more- I then went on to hold the beautiful Mexican Red Kneed tarantula in my hands and stroke its velvety smooth legs. Whow, I still can’t quite belive it but I love spiders and I’m on the look out for them now in a good way. I feel like a great weight has been lifted from my shoulders. No more lying on the beach with one eye open or freezing up and having panic attacks! Gone are the days of phoning a friend if no-one is home, to come and move a spider for me, that is so last year!
For more on the Friendly Spider Programme at London Zoo then visit http://www.zsl.org/zsl-london-zoo//news/scared-of-spiders,20,NS.html for more details.