Wondrous Wildlife
By Vern and Lori Gieger
“The Only Thing We Have to Fear is Fear Itself”

    We’ve all experienced that sudden rush of adrenaline. It can be brief, like the startled reaction you have if a balloon unexpectedly pops or if you are surprised by someone or something you didn’t expect, over in seconds, as soon as you realize there’s no danger.
    A fear reaction happens whenever we feel threatened, signaling us of danger and preparing us to deal with it. Fear is a normal human emotional reaction. It is a built-in survival mechanism which we all have. We all have fears, whether it is things that go bump in the night or driving in a big city. Some common fears are heights, water and animals such as dogs, birds, snakes and spiders. But the fear doesn’t necessarily interfere with our daily lives.
    Phobias on the other hand do. Some people almost become prisoners in their own homes. Phobias aren’t just extreme fear; they are irrational fear of a particular thing. A specific phobia is an intense fear of something posing little or no actual danger. Approximately 8% of American adults suffer from a phobia.
    However, humans learn quickly and we can train ourselves to react positively to these perceived threats, not to react with terror to them. Avoiding the situations that make us feel frightened ensures that we become more sensitive to those situations, and so ‘conditions’ us to fear them even more. This is why phobias can be such a big problem; by avoiding things we fear, the fear can worsen very rapidly.
    Phobias that are limited, such animal phobias, are easily overcome and can often be treated in as little as two to four sessions. Sometimes a single, long session is all that is needed. The key is that the person wants to overcome the phobia.
    We recently were contacted by a woman in Ajijic who had a phobia of snakes. She took a tumble down her outside patio stairs because of a harmless snake that was also out for a stroll along her path. Luckily she sustained only some scrapes and bruises to her body (and ego). Realizing that she could have been seriously injured, she decided to confront her phobia. Within two weeks she was able hold our corn snake with pride, confidence and with no fear what so ever. Now the only snakes she is afraid of are the two-legged kind.
    Phobias can not only put you in danger but others as well. If it is serious enough that it causes panic (a very unpleasant experience in itself) you and everyone around you is at risk because panic is a state of mind that makes it very hard to think and act rationally. When you reach this point, it is time to take action and confront it.
    One of our volunteers had a serious phobia of spiders, which she knew was silly and irrational, but chose to ignore the issue until one day when it almost caused her to be in an automobile accident. Now she regularly handles our tarantula with total confidence, no fear.
    Many people acquire their phobias from friends and/or family. If the parent reacts nervously when a pigeon swoops past them or a friend screams when her brother sneaks up behind her with a snake, it may install fear in others.  Then there are the Hollywood horror movies.
    In any event, it’s seldom worth spending time and energy on figuring out the cause. The point is to learn to control the phobia. We learn our irrational fears so we can also unlearn them and never use the fear of failure to overcome your fear as a reason to give up. The only failure is not trying.
    Many people from all walks of life overcome fears and phobias everyday. Professionals who work high up on scaffolds, police officers and fire-fighters have all learnt to handle potentially dangerous situations safely. Anyone can prevail over their fears. If this were not true, we would still be cowering in the backs of caves.
    There is a difference between a dislike, a fear and a phobia. Unfortunately for some, none of these apply. Their actions are simply a ploy for attention and/or sympathy. If you have a fear of snakes, spiders etc. and would like to conquer it or at least learn to appreciate or even like them, please contact us. We will be more than happy to help you. We have helped several people overcome their snake and spider phobias. One thing they all had in common was that after working through their fears, they felt as if a huge weight had been lifted from their shoulders. They felt good about themselves and proud of their accomplishment.