Have you ever had recurring nightmares? I have.
For years, I went through cycles where I had a scary spider dream. In this dream, nasty, black, hairy spiders dropped from the ceiling onto my head. They just kept coming, I felt helpless, and I became so frantic that I woke up in a sweat.
I’ve considered myself to be an arachnophobic — a person suffering from a phobia of spiders — since high school. My phobia has caused me to freak out whenever I saw a spider. It has even caused me to jump out of a car in the middle of traffic when a spider crawled across the dashboard.
I figured for years that my phobia was the natural result of a traumatic experience I had as a kid. I was about four years old when my mom and dad took me to a Putt Putt Golf place. While they were playing golf, I was jumping on a small trampoline with some other kids. All of a sudden, this huge, black, hairy spider came after me on the trampoline. I mean, this was the King Kong of spiders — it seemed at least three feet fall, and it may even have had fangs! I screamed, and everyone came running.
By the time I reached adulthood, I had more or less resigned myself to having spider nightmares. When I got married, however, they became much more of a problem. My nightmares were “active” — I was moving around in the bed, my arms flailing to keep the spiders off me, and I was screaming, “No, no, no!” This tended to freak out my poor wife, who sleeps deeply. She woke up terrified that in my flailing I was going to hit her. She could calm me down enough to help me get back to sleep, but the next morning, I often didn’t remember the episode, while she had lain awake for hours, trying to get her heart out of her throat.
Then one day, I read an article about phobias, which explained that phobias are really “unnatural” fears of everyday situations. For example, I was scared of spiders, which many people are afraid of, but when my fear prompted me to jump out of my car into moving traffic, it had become an “unnatural” fear that placed me in real jeopardy. The article said that many times our minds create phobias by taking something we have a “natural” fear of and attaching an emotional trauma to them. It’s a coping mechanism used by the mind to help us get through the traumas in our lives.
After reading the article, I decided to do a Shadow Work® process about my spider nightmares. I did what we call a Warrior process, in which I “killed off” something inside me that had been been tormenting me. It turned out that the trauma my mind associated with spiders was an experience I had with bullies who lived in my neighborhood, who used to beat me up and terrorize me as a kid. Just as I had in the spider dream, I had felt helpless when the bullies attacked me; they just kept coming, and there was nothing I could do to stop them.
Warrior processes are very invigorating — wow, did I have fun taking care of those guys!
Since doing that Shadow Work® process, I haven’t had a single spider nightmare. Even better, I am now okay around spiders. I don’t particularly like them, but I don’t have the unnatural fear associated with them any longer, and I’m not going to jump out of my car into traffic again. Goodbye, arachnophobia!
Many people suffer from phobias of heights or tight spaces (or, in my wife’s case, of husbands who have active nightmares!). If you are bothered by an unusually strong reaction to an everyday situation, I encourage you to consider attending a Shadow Work® workshop or calling a Shadow Work® coach to help you look at the unnatural fear driving your phobia.
Jeff Manchester is a Certified Shadow Work® Group Facilitator and Coach. Jeff and his wife and children live in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
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