wavebreakmedia/shutterstock, Wuttichok Panichiwarapun/shutterstockLike many phobias, Clearwater, Florida-based general surgeon Jamie Daniel’s fear of spiders began after a traumatic event. While she was sleeping, a Jumping Spider had made a nest in a fold of the sheer curtains in her bedroom. “When I woke up there were what seemed to be a billion baby spiders crawling all over me!” she says. While the event happened when she was just 11 years old, she developed a paralyzing fear of spiders that affected her for more than 30 years of her life. Some people may scoff at this kind of fear, but phobias are very real and come in all types. “Anytime I saw a spider in the house I’d shriek and jump up on the furniture. I’d spray them with Aqua Net hair spray, and if that didn’t work, I’d use hair spray and a lighter like a flame torch.” But as with many phobias, fears, or bad habits like nail-biting, hypnotherapy ended up offering a solution.
Daniel’s way of killing a spider may have been on the extreme side, but her fear was real. Seeing a spider would send her into a panic, making her palms sweat, raising her heart rate, and causing her to flee the room. “I couldn’t sleep if I knew there was a spider in the house,” she says. If she saw a spider crawling along the interior of her car or on the windshield, she would have to pull over. “My fear was so bad that I almost wrecked my car more than once.”
Her fear was irrational, Daniel freely admits, and she lived her life trying to bury or overcome her fear of spiders on her own—with no success. In May 2016, Daniel took action by volunteering to be hypnotized on WFLA’s Daytime news show by hypnotist Richard Barker. “I had always been skeptical of hypnosis and was not sure that I would be able to be hypnotized,” says Daniel, “But I have always been arachnophobic and it was causing a lot of anxiety, so I thought ‘what the heck,’ I’ll step out of my comfort zone.”
Barker performed a hypnotherapy session with Daniel as the cameras rolled. When she was awoken from her session, she felt relaxed and calm. “I actually told the newscasters that I felt like I had been to a spa.” When a handler placed a tarantula in front of her, she didn’t flee—or reach for a lighter and a can of hairspray. She told Barker that she wasn’t worried. Daniel was able to handle the tarantula, letting it crawl across her hand. “Since the session, spiders no longer paralyze me—I see spiders at my house and I no longer get tachycardia or freak out,” says Daniel. “I don’t love them, but I can tolerate them.” As for hypnosis, it took just the one session to learn how to deal with her fear of spiders and she now considers herself a believer of the practice of hypnosis. “I learned that the brain is a powerful thing.”