Is anyone else troubled by this? Significant resources are being deployed to create a model of the biggest snake ever to walk the earth. A prehistoric, dinosaurish-sized snake. 45 feet. 3,000 pounds. And then this, this … monstrosity is going ON TOUR around the country, terrorizing (ostensibly educating) unsuspecting people.  I’m on my knees, praying to the snake gods that my city will be spared a spot on this freak show circuit. You see, I have a snake phobia. Totally batshit-crazy, incapacitating, I’m-gonna-die-if-I-see-a-snake phobia. I feel faint when I look at photos of snakes or see them in zoos. But — and this is the exceptionally twisted part —  I also have a sicko compulsion to view snakes, from a safe distance, and learn incredibly detailed information about them. (So I know where I stand on the food chain, to quote my brother-in-law. In  his case about sharks, but whatever…)

I get very irritable when people talk down to me about snakes, like I don’t know that they aren’t ‘slimy’ or am unaware that some snakes give birth to live young or that true sea snakes, which have special sea-water filtering glands, don’t come ashore to lay their eggs etc. I know my damned snakes! This is a photo I took in India a couple years ago of my son idiotically peering into a rock python lair:

Darwinism at work!

And looky here:

My 8 year-old niece, under my direct supervision, in mortal danger.

And this is my personal favorite. Do look carefully; it’s a real treat:

"Keep the little ones back!"our guide helpfully advised.

I like to joke about my snake issues but I’m actually beginning to think I could use some help. Mostly, if you have a phobia, I think you can just develop some handy work-arounds. You know, like driving a little out of the way (or maybe quite a bit out of the way) to avoid, say, the Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge. I mean, just as an example, of course.

But the problem is that I actually love to walk in the woods and visit snakephilic countries. It’s true that I am in the process of buying a house in the least-snakey state in the country but, still, there’s a good chance I will step on one once in a while, or find one rooting around in my wood pile. Or maybe I’ll just have another of those dreams that my house is sited on top of a snake hibernacula like this poor hapless Job-like family from Idaho, who REALLY should have known better when their drinking water turned brown and started smelling like… snake “musk” (and I bet you’ve never heard of that before!):

PHOTO: Snakes

Idaho family home="Satan's Lair"

I still break out in metaphorical hives recalling a National Geographic photo (it must have been in the early 70s) which featured a 20-foot reticulated python swimming next to a pretty blonde lady. It was one of those half-underwater shots; I threw up, figuratively, hundreds of times looking at that photo.

Shall I go on or have you had enough? Really, I’m just wondering if you think I should seek “treatment” for my problem. I’m asking because my friend, who is a well-known psychologist, also had a snake phobia. Past tense. And his phobia was cured — I mean, for real: cured; he was photographed smiling with an 8-foot python around his neck — in about an hour. He swears it took an hour. He also tells me that phobias are … drumroll… the only 100 percent curable mental health problem. Even allowing for me being way crazier than my friend, and being a slow learner and all… it seems like maybe I could be cured in a day or so. Maybe a weekend, max. Apparently the key predictor of success is having sufficient motivation. If I’m motivated enough, I can be 100 percent guaranteed snake phobia-free. But that seems like a pretty big variable to have under control before committing to the therapy, no? Should I go for it? Get motivated? Advice welcome.

About ErikaChristakis

Yale Lecturer in early childhood education/Licensed teacher/Former preschool director/author. In possession of: unmarketable bachelor’s degree (Harvard, anthropology), semi-marketable graduate degrees (public health, education…). Rewarding career at the intersection of family, society, and schools (including long stint in parenting vortex). Forging a new path to connect all of the above.
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5 Responses to Snake-a-thon

  1. DO IT. Just because I want to read how it goes.

  2. Kirstin says:

    Don’t bother. I can’t imagine snakes fairing well in the new era of new weather . . . You’ll triumph. Besides, it goes way, way back, if you read the mythology in the Bible.

    By the way, Western WA has NO snakes, and no poison oak or ivy.

  3. adauphin04 says:

    LOL! So how has the phobia treatment (if you’ve sought it) gone? I certainly won’t talk down to you about snakes. I’m one who does her damndest to not judge people or tell them they’re being silly because …

    You are who you are, period. Not that we’re bosom buddies or anything, but because I’d like to be accepted for who I am (warts and all) I do the same to/for others.

    Snakes are who/what they are; limbless creatures that have gotten a bad reputation because of the bible. That’s all.

    You are who you are (or, what I know of you); an awesome writer with wit and intelligence… who just happens to be a bit weird about snakes. =0)

    • You’ve totally made my day. Thanks!!! You are too kind. Haven’t done the phobia treatment … Yet. But I’ve already seen three snakes since moving to Vermont (supposedly the least snakey place in the country) and I didn’t collapse from hysterics. I’m doing some visualizations and reframing: snakes are unloved and just doing their best with limited abilities etc etc.
      But: did you know that there really is a genetic basis for this? Some primates are naturally fearful too!

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