Snakes

Persistence with a snake phobia

EFt Tapping Outdated ImageNote: This is one of 3,000 articles written prior to the updated Gold Standard (Official) EFT Tapping Tutorial™.  It provides practical uses for EFT Tapping and most EFT'ers should find it very helpful.  However, if your benefits are temporary or a more in-depth approach is needed, you are urged to explore our newest advancement, Optimal EFT, by reading our free e-book, The Unseen Therapist, and/or (3) get help from a Certified EFT Practitioner.  

Hi Everyone,

With the use of EFT, many phobias disappear within moments. These are among our "one minute wonders" and are delightful events when they happen. Other phobias, however, contain many aspects (including numerous traumatic events involving the phobic object). Masters of EFT recognize this wide range of human responses to EFT and exercise persistence where necessary.

Betty Moore-Hafter used not only persistence but many elements of creative skill to finally relieve her client "Peyton" of her VERY intense and lifelong snake phobia. In her article below, Betty gives us many insights into this complicated case. I add a few augmenting comments which may provide the reader with further understanding.

Hugs, Gary


By Betty Moore-Hafter

"Peyton" came to see me for help with her snake phobia. She was planning a trip to Costa Rica with her boyfriend and they were going to hike in the rain forest where the chances of seeing a snake were great. But Peyton's fear of snakes was so severe that she anticipated having a panic attack, getting physically ill and even having to fly home. She didn't think she could go through with the trip unless her phobic reaction could be changed.

As it turned out, she had had an incredible number of truly traumatic snake experiences in her life. Hers was not to be a "one-session wonder." We ended up doing four sessions. It took patience and persistence, but the final result was quite remarkable.

Session 1: As Peyton told me about her many snake experiences, from both childhood and adulthood, I realized that there were some genuine reasons for her phobia. In this first session, we focused especially on her physical reactions, what happened in her body when she thought about snakes. I had purchased a rubber snake which was quite lifelike and used it to help her get in touch with the feelings so that we could tap for the intensity. We addressed all the aspects we could -- how the snake moved, its eyes, its tongue -- doing EFT for each one. We tapped for the tightness in her chest, her rapid heartbeat, her panicky feeling. We tapped for her childhood where there were snakes around her house and in the basement. She felt much better. I suggested that she could visit a pet store and see how a live snake in a cage affected her and tap some more.

In between sessions: Unfortunately, Peyton's pet store visit backfired. She did go to a store and entered the room with all the snakes in cages and was amazed that she still felt OK. She was sure we had made progress. But then right beside her a snake was suddenly taken out of its cage to be shown to a customer, it was wiggling and writhing and, as she said, she lost it.

She went into complete panic and it was so severe that tapping didn't seem to help. She then had nightmares and felt re-traumatized. I told her I thought she had just had "too much too soon" ... that she needed someone else with her to tap for her, addressing specific aspects... and that there had indeed been progress, otherwise she would never have been able to go into the "snake room" so easily. As Gary says, it's not that the EFT hadn't worked, we simply had not addressed enough specific aspects and root causes.

Of course, I was a little worried that she didn't think the tapping had helped much when she was so triggered. But I think she was just overwhelmed and, being new to EFT, had trouble using it effectively while she was so distraught. Having someone else to tap for her could have made a big difference, I think. To her credit, she didn't get discouraged but came for more sessions.

Session 2: I asked Peyton to talk about her recent pet store "trauma" and exactly what had bothered her. We did EFT for all specific aspects until that felt neutralized. We then decided to focus on earlier specific snake events.

I used a deep relaxation induction and suggested to Peyton that her mind take her to the event we most needed to pay attention to. What came up was the time when she was pregnant and "saw something move" in the crib that had been prepared for the baby. Unbelievably, this is a true story -- a snake had gotten into their house and into the crib!! We used the "movie method" to go through the story, tapping every step of the way. Eventually she could tell the story without any bad feelings.

I then created a hypnotherapy experience (or you could call it a visualization) involving a "safe place" and an anchor. She wanted her safe place to be an island where no snakes had ever lived. So there were many layers of protection: the ocean around the island, the island itself, a little cabin on the island, and then a "shield of protective energy" around her. I had her bring her thumb and first finger together, breathe in deeply and silently repeat the key words "safe and protected" on the exhalation. We did this several times.

GC COMMENT: This "thumb & forefinger, breathe and repeat" process is what Betty is calling an "anchor". An anchor is a process whereby one can re-create a previous emotional state by repeating a process associated with that state. In this case, Peyton's safe place is associated with this anchor.

BETTY CONTINUES: She thus anchored that safe feeling and would practice calming and reassuring herself that way through the week.

Session 3: Peyton brought in a book about Costa Rican wildlife and we worked with the snake pictures, which she said still "freaked her out." With each picture, I asked her, "so what bothers you about this one?"

GC COMMENT: Excellent technique!! This case obviously has a lot of aspects and this question about each of the snake pictures will bring many specific aspects to the surface.

BETTY CONTINUES: Thus we could tap for very specific aspects:

"Even though the snake looks evil...""Even though the shape of its head bothers me...""Even though this viper is poisonous..."

Finally, the pictures seemed neutralized. I guided her into relaxation again and asked her deeper mind to take us back even earlier, to whatever event we needed to pay attention to.

She had a strong impression of being on her bed as a child with a snake in the room, on the floor. As the story unfolded, her father came and killed the snake and took it away. She didn't know if this was a real event, but it brought up intense emotion, which we tapped away.

GC COMMENT: Please note that, in this case, Peyton made up the story. This is often VERY helpful, especially where specific memories are difficult to locate. A made up story can often be ideal because the client can put in it whatever features seem important. Also, a made up story is not completely made up because it comes from within the person and reflects their understandings, experiences, etc.

BETTY CONTINUES: Again, using the movie method, we neutralized every aspect of this event with EFT until she could go through the story without feeling any intensity. Once again, we created her "safe place" on the island deep within her, anchoring the safe feeling and layers of protection. She was beginning to feel empowered.

Session 4: By e-mail, Peyton let me know that she was ready for our field trip. I had told her that as soon as she was ready, we would go to a pet store together. So we did! She felt no nervousness, so we didn't have to tap to get her there. Watching the snakes in cages was fine.

The challenge was to have a snake out of the cage. One of the employees was happy to assist us and took out a small female python. I tapped a little for "even though this snake is out of its cage and it's wiggling..." but Peyton really felt OK, with none of the old panic. She started asking questions. "So why does the snake move its head that way?" "She's curious," said the employee. "See how her tongue moves? That's so she can pick up information." Peyton was fascinated. She got closer and closer. Finally she asked, "so what does she feel like?" "She's kind of velvety," said our helper. "Would you like to touch her?"

I was holding my breath when Peyton reached out and touched the snake! She stroked the snake several times and couldn't believe it herself. Within seconds she was on her cell phone calling a friend, "You aren't going to believe what I just did. I petted a snake!!"

I was reminded of that wonderful session on the first set of EFT training videos where Becci's phobia of rats and mice is released and she pets the rat. But her results were achieved in about 5 minutes -- ours took 3 long sessions with the 4th session for the "field trip". I think this story underscores two of Gary Craig's most important guidelines: "be persistent" and "be specific." "Peyton" wrote me the following e-mail which she is glad for me to share:

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e-mail from Peyton after our last session

Dear Betty,

I must say thank you again! I still can not believe that I touched a snake the other day too. But I did. Thanks to your help. I really appreciate the help you gave me. I can not say that I like snakes but I do feel that I have a better appreciation for them now. I do not see that snake as evil, it was like any other animal, curious of it's surrounding and it can not help how it moves and it's head and tongue. Liking snakes I do not feel is in my future, but I think I can coexist with them now.

I have been afraid of snakes as long as I can remember. I have had snakes in and out of my life for 31 years now. My fear of snakes was very intense. I have been afraid of a 6 inch snake, I was scared of a dead snake, I was afraid of snakes that could not hurt me, I was afraid of snakes behind glass cages. My heart would start beating fast, I would start sweating, and I would usually run the other direction whenever I saw a snake. I would stay afraid for days, I would dream of snakes, I would be afraid to go outside for fear I would see a snake. I spend a great part of my life feeling that snakes were attracted to me, they showed up everywhere: my bedroom, my basement, my baby's crib, and through my life I have seen many snakes where no one else saw them. It has been a fear that in many senses could take over my life at certain times, it restricted what I was willing to do and the fear kept me from a lot of my life.

Now I feel different. Am I still afraid of snakes, well yes I think I still have a healthy caution of snakes. I do not like the way they move, their heads, their tongues. But I know that they can not help any of those things. That is how they move, how they sense things and they are very much like any other animal in the universe. I am still a little nervous to see how I am going to deal with seeing a snake for the first time (in the wild). But I think I can handle it now. I do not think that my fear will take over again. I am hoping that I can stay safe, secure, and protected inside of me and know that snakes are not going to hurt me. I must say it is a great relief to feel this. I can enjoy the summers again, I can go to Costa Rica and not be afraid of freaking out if I see a snake. I think I am going to be okay for the first time in a long time. There is an inner peace that I feel that I never thought I could feel, I touched a snake and I am okay about it. That says a lot to me. Anyone who knows me knows what I big deal that is. I am going to be okay, Thanks Betty! Thanks for everything!

Peyton

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Further feedback from Peyton - her e-mail after the Costa Rica trip!

Apparently she never had to tap anymore, she never had that much intensity. --Betty

It was a memorable trip. I would return. I would also return to a place where they caught 2 snakes, one turned out to be a false coral snake - not poisonous, and the other looked mean - it was a jumping pit viper snake.

I must say I dealt with it so much better because of what we went through. I thought of that many times, when I was walking and a little nervous, I would put my finger and thumb together and say Safe, Secure and Protected and I would feel better. So thank you for that.

I had tested myself and I felt an amazing thing come over me, a revelation I am not really sure about that, but something that was very powerful. I felt this calm that came over me and the last 5 hours were fine. I was glad I had done it and my fear of snakes was not an issue - even though this was the place they found 2 snakes in just the 3 days we were there. I would return there. The people were amazing and strong and I was moved. It was life changing. I am seeing things differently now. Thanks in a large part to your help to get me there. Thank you!

Peyton

Betty Moore-Hafter

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