By Jim Poling Sr.
Oh dear, my ophi has returned. I tried to hold it back, but it walloped me into a dizzy spell.
A picture taker on Kushog Lake is to blame for my relapse.
I was perusing that lake association’s Facebook page, looking for photos that might show winter’s ice disappearing. I found one of open water beginning to appear along the shore. Good news! Boating season not far off.
My eyes moved from the open water to the rocky shoreline. And there it was among the sun-warmed rocks, basking evilly in the spring sunshine – a very large water snake.
I don’t know why a water snake was out with ice still on the lake. I do know it wasn’t out to do something good. Snakes are like that.
This one must have been at least four feet long, or even longer. I can’t say for sure because my panicked fingers quickly keyed the computer off. My stomach roiled, my lips quivered and I looked for a place to lie down.
That’s what my ophi does to me. It leaves me physically ill and mentally unhinged.
My ophi is ophidiophobia, fear of snakes. Lots of folks have it. California anthropologist Lynne Isbell has estimated that around a third of people are scared of snakes.
People magazine reported that tough guy Matt Damon “cried like a baby” when snakes were spread over the set of his 2011 movie We Bought a Zoo.
My case is severe. I was hunting one day when a snake slithered down a rock face in front of me. I lost all rational thought and, shooting from the hip, I emptied my 12-gauge shotgun on the snake. I spent the next hour picking ricocheted shot out of my skin.
Some researchers believe that ophidiophobia is evolutionary, something developed in our ancestors as a survival system. I read that in Verywell Mind, a website that offers articles purporting to improve mental health and balance.
The article said ophi can be tricky to diagnose.
Surely, they are joking! When I see a photo of a snake and start vomiting, that’s all the diagnosis I need.
That article said that if you fear only large snakes, or venomous snakes, you have only mild ophidiophobia. If you are afraid of smaller snakes as well, it’s severe.
Yeah well, a snake is a snake; large, small, brown or purple. And, my mental health would be much improved by a world without them.
The good news is that ophidiophobia can be cured. Hypnosis is said to be one cure and is actively promoted by a number of hypnotists advertising on the internet.
One promoter is Glenn Harrold, a Brit who says self-hypnotherapy helped cure him of problems with drugs, alcohol, street crime and other destructive habits. He now produces and sells self-help advice.
“The only way to completely free yourself of the fear of snakes is to re-programme your mind under self-hypnosis,” he says on his publishing website.
The theory is that it is normal to be nervous around unfamiliar animals. So, you start dispelling the fears by becoming more familiar with them.
These fears supposedly can be pushed aside by slowly becoming exposed to snakes. This can start by talking about them, viewing photos of them and developing positive thoughts – like snakes are not really slimy and slithery. This leads up to actually seeing a live snake, then eventually holding one.
Holding a snake definitely would cure my ophidiophobia. It would disappear forever because at the first touch I would be stone cold dead from a heart attack.
Other therapies include systematic desensitization and cognitive behavioural therapy which “help sufferers change their unproductive thought patterns.” This apparently “allows sufferers to distinguish that their intense fear is in their imagination.”
I can assure the phobia experts that my fear is real, not imagined. And, my thought patterns are not unproductive. They are productive enough for me to convince my wife that a bowl of ice cream every night actually is good for my health.
I don’t need hypnosis or other therapies to reprogramme my mind. I’m happy the way it is. I just don’t like snakes and don’t intend to ever make friends of them.