How I overcame Ophidiophobia or a fear of snakes.  Snakes were never my favorite animal. In fact, I really didn’t like them for most of my younger years. Then something happened to change that dislike into fear. Not just a little afraid, not just, “oh my goodness they scare me” afraid, we are talking overwhelming and completely irrational FEAR! I couldn’t own an “S” encyclopedia fear. I had to leave a pet store that had snakes anywhere in the building. If a snake appeared on the television screen, I had to leave the room afraid. Zoos were painful, because I knew at any moment there would be the inevitable snake exhibit.

What caused this fear? Well, looking back, it was silly school age pranks. I was on a camping trip with my science class. This was an annual trip, that promised to be a great adventure. On one of the days of the trip, the teachers broke the group up into smaller groups and took us tramping through the woods to learn all about nature. We observed moss growing to identify directions, edible versus poisonous plants, we even took water samples from the nearby streams to take back to the lab at the camp site for testing. We felt scientific, grown up, curious and smug.

Then, our young and relatively inexperienced leader (it was her first year teaching) realized that we were lost. That’s right, we could not follow our steps back to the campground. So, we formed a circle and began to call as a group for help. The teacher had contact by walkie talkie, but they couldn’t pinpoint where we were. We called and called, no avail. There was a plate on the ground nearby that looked to me like it might be valuable. (My mother collected antique glassware and I think I was looking for a diversion.) So, I went over, picked up the plate and with that, the coiled rattle snake started hissing and shaking it’s tail.

I screamed at the top of my lungs! The search group found us immediately! The snake never attacked and all was fine. Until that night. The group was rounded up for our nature lecture and the teachers decided to talk about snakes. The boys in the group found this great fun, as I was still a bit squeamish. On the way back to our tents, they giggled in delight as they yelled snake at every turn, pointing up into trees, down on the pathway, everywhere. I survived the trek back and prepared to get into my sleeping bag.

Well, the boys had concocted a plan. They had found a non-poisonous snake earlier in the day and left me a little surprise in the bag. It took every staff member present to keep me sane and alive.

The teachers decided when we returned to school the following week that they would teach more about snakes, to help take the mystery and fear out of the situation. A snake handler was brought in. He lectured and brought some friendly snakes in for us to meet. I went into shock. Everyone was asked to come up and touch the snake. I froze. When the bell rang, I still had not touched that thing. He put the snake down on the floor, so I would have to walk past it. I sat on the table in front of me and started to rock back and forth. It was not going to happen.

I carried this fear forward for many years of my life. It kept me from enjoying kayak rides, golfing anything where the possibility of a snake existed. I began to realize just how much this fear limited me. Further more, when my sons came along, I became aware that boys like snakes. I couldn’t let my fears become theirs nor could I give two creative young men such an easy tool against their poor old mom!

So, I needed to employ the techniques of neuro-lingusitic programming and self hypnosis. I allowed myself to go back in my thoughts as the adult me to revisit the original fear inducing events. I observed them and reminded that frightened child that I was able to survive, proof of that was the adult me today. I gave myself permission to have a healthy respect for snakes, eliminated the need for gripping fear.

Next, I changed my thoughts and words about snakes. I stopped defining myself as a person who was afraid of snakes. Instead, I began to affirm that snakes had a significant purpose on this planet and I was curious about how they helped our eco-system. I began to think of snakes as much more frightened of me than I was of them and even told myself I could have compassion for them because I understood fear.

I began to get pictures of snakes and look at them, imagining how they might feel. Next, I visited a pet store that had snakes and went into the room where they were kept. On my second such visit, I asked the store owner if I could touch one. It felt smooth, not slick. I actually giggled at this! I have since held huge pythons, felt them move around my arms and even my shoulders. I have thought of them as cute! I drew the line at owning a snake, I can’t/won’t deal with the feeding issues.

I recently was poolside at a local club when a native black snake wandered by. There was a tourist there, who was terrified. She called to me to warn me that there was a snake in the vicinity. I smiled and continued what I was doing, until I observed her fear. So, I got up and steered the snake away, in another direction. She was relieved, I felt empowered!

I have had clients come to my office with this same fear. For me, this is a great session to have. I love the freedom that comes with overcoming a fear of snakes.