Making child’s play of entomophobia


Amanda Gachot describes her experience of working with Tommy, a 7-year-old boy with anxiety/phobia towards bugs.

by Amanda Gachot

My first step was to ask some pre-meeting questions of Tommy’s mother.

Q: Which bugs is he scared of?
A: Bees, all flying bugs, spiders.

Q: When did it start?
A: When he was younger, he watched the Spiderman movie. In the movie the young boy gets bitten by a spider and then acquires spider powers.

Q: What is he not scared of, that is fairly similar to bugs?
A: Birds, snails.

Q: How does he panic?
A: Now, he screams, moves away. If he sees a fly he screams for me, and I have to come and remove it. Then he is ok. He is slightly better than he used to be, before he had panic attacks.

Q: What superhero characters does he like?
A: Star Wars, the baddies. Darth Vader, Galaxy Wars. Bounty Hunters. (Perhaps he likes the baddies as they are fearless, a resource he would like more of).

I asked Tommy’s mother if he has any action hero toy that he could bring with him. I could use it in many ways: to tap on, if he doesn’t want me to tap on him. Or, to use the toy as a role model to show Tommy how somebody behaves when the energy is flowing freely, that is, with no disruptions. Darth Vader can be fearless.

I also asked her to get him used to the idea of coming to see and to say this to him: “Tommy, how would you like to learn to be brave like Darth Vader, when you are around bugs? Amanda has helped other boys become braver by learning a little bit of magic, which is really easy to learn. Would you like to learn?”

Pre-session planning

Rapport. Thinking about how to build rapport with a 7-year-old, I placed some stuffed toys in my therapy room and wore casual clothing, not serious and smart.

Instead of sitting on my therapy chairs, Tommy and both sat on the fluffy rug on the floor, so I was at his level, in an informal way.

I made a colourful ‘Feel-o-meter’, complete with spinning dial for checking SUDs. I also made a ‘fear’ thermometer with words and numbers, also for SUDs. I pinned these colourful charts up around the room, adding colour and fun.

I spread out some line drawings of action heroes with dots marking out the tapping points and lots of crayons.

I had a special one for him of Darth Vader for him to take home, where I had stuck tiny little crystals on the magic points.

I added an old, flexible cable with wires sticking out from each end to demonstrate how the energy runs through us. A knot halfway along shows how the energy can become blocked.

Language. The whole session has been planned with a 7-year-old’s language in mind, centred on his favourite ‘fearless’ character.

The session

I helped Tommy relax by showing him the fish and chatting a little bit about football, while Mum sat in a chair behind him.

Bug info and SUDS

I then invited Tommy to tell me, in his own words, about his fear. I led with: “Mummy says that sometimes you get very frightened when you see bugs. Can you tell me about that?”

He said yes, he didn’t like frogs. (I wasn’t expecting that!). They are slimy. He told me that when he was little his dad put a frog on his head. He hated that.

It was dead, in a net – but slimy. I asked him what else he was frightened of. He said flies, but not dead ones, only live flies. I asked him if it was ok if we played a game to test how scary each bug was. He was happy to play this game.

Scary bug test game

I had printed some drawings and photos of some of the different types of bugs that the mother had earlier said scared Tommy. I ordered them in an order from least scary, leading up to really scary lifelike.

I also had hidden away two glass jars, one with a dead fly in and one with a bee, still alive, which I had captured earlier. I handed him the Feel-o-meter and explained that when he turned the dial to 0, that meant he was completely happy and relaxed about the bug, when I showed him a picture. If he felt terrified, then that would be a 10. A 4 might be worried and an 8, scared.

He understood and we started. I showed him pictures starting with a silly characterisation of a bug in sunglasses with boots on. He laughed and put the dial to 0. Then I showed him some colourful pictures of bugs such as butterflies, crickets, but only drawings. He was a 0 with these and they both went into the 0 pile.

Then I showed him some real photos of flies. He put the dial to a 7. I gave him some scissors and glue and invited him to cut out one of the flies and stick it on a blue piece of paper that he had already chosen. He was going to make his own mind map.

We stuck the fly in the middle of the paper, both kneeling on the fluffy rug, heads together. I asked him what he didn’t like about the fly. “Bug, oval eyes and slimy butt”. We noted this against the fly photo with a number 7.

I told him I had a dead fly in a little glass jar, with a lid on. Should we test him on that? He agreed. I got the little jar out, he wanted to make sure it was dead. I assured him it was. He rated it a 7, due to oval bug eyes and we placed the jar on our mind map. We carried on with my photos.

For big scary spider, he said 0. So that went to the 0 pile. He said he wasn’’t scared of spiders.

Then I had a photo of a bee. He rated it a 2. We were going to cut this out and stick it on our chart, when he said he would be more scared of a bee that was alive. I told him I so happened to have in my other glass jar, a rather dazed bee, which I had captured earlier. He was moving very slowly around the jar. I explained the lid was on and asked would he like to see it. He agreed. He rated ‘in the jar, moving slowly’ a 7. If I was to open the jar, and let it fly around the room a 10. I asked him what he was most scared of, he said the twitching legs. (later when tapping he also said the sting). This went onto our mind map on scary bugs. The last entry was a hand drawn frog by myself. I asked him to rate his fear. He said if alive, a 0, but if dead, a 9.

Next I showed him some line drawings of superheroes. He asked what the dots were for. I said they were magic buttons and I was going to show him how he could use them. I also showed him a line drawing of Darth Vader with his crystal buttons. I said he could take them home with him, colour them in and would be able to see whenever he needed to, where the magic buttons were. As he hadn’t arrived with a Darth Vader toy (his mother explained that he couldn’t decide who his favourite superhero was, so they didn’t bring any), I used the printout I had of Darth Vader with the crystal tapping points to explain EFT.

Explaining EFT

I asked Tommy would he like to know a secret about Darth Vader? Why he isn’t scared of most things, why he is fearless ... it’s because he has the “Force” running through him. This force/ energy runs throughout him, from the top of his head to the tips of his toes. With Darth Vader, there are no knots, just smooth, free energy. I told Tommy that when he thought about or saw bugs, his energy would get a knot in it, a block ... stopping the force running smoothly within. I picked up my cable and demonstrated what Darth Vader’s energy cable might look like, and then what his might look like, with a knot in it. The only difference between you and Darth Vader is that you have a knot in your Force, when you are around bugs. This knot makes you feel scared. Would you like to remove that knot, so you can be fearless like him? Tommy said yes.

Shall I show you how to do that? Yes.

With your own magic fingers, tapping into your own magical powers. You will be able to go from scared, hurt, angry, to happy and brave, all at the tap of a few magic buttons.

I offered to tap on him first, while he thought about scary bugs. He said ok

Round 1

Even though I am really scared of bugs, I’m a cool kid.
Even though when I see a bug flying around the room, it makes me so frightened. I hate their oval, bug eyes. Their slimy butts and their fluttering legs ... I’m an awesome kid.
Even though I hate bugs ... I’m ok with it.

We tapped around slimy, oval eyes, fluttering legs, scared in my body. We then stopped and did a suds. He reported 4. Great.

Next I asked him for his earliest memory of being scared of flies/bugs. At first he wasn’t sure, then I prompted him by asking him if he had been stung by a bee before or seen something on television (His mother had mentioned the Spiderman movie pre-session, but I didn’t suggest this, and he didn’t mention it). He then said yes, he remembers watching a TV programme about a girl who ate some toast with a fly on it, and she slowly turned into a fly, with big green slimy eyes. It was a cartoon but it had scared him.

We tapped on this.

Even though I saw a programme about a girl who turned into a fly with big green eyes, I’m a cool kid.
Even though this girl ate a fly and turned into one, yuk ... I’m really cool about it.
Even though flies with their big bug, green eyes really scare me ... I choose to feel relaxed when I see them.

Tapped around ... TV programme ... girl with green eyes ... fly girl ... ate a fly.

As we tapped a couple of rounds, I introduced some visualisations. He was lying across the rug as we spoke, starting to get a bit fidgety but still complying. This was fine with me I tapped on him while he lay down. I asked him to feel the Force inside him, smoothing out, running from the top of his head to the bottom of his feet, to visualise if there are any more knots, scary bug knots, which were now leaving his body.

We also tapped around the beestings ... twitching legs

I kept testing him with the Feel-o-meter (which he loved) He went down from a 7 to a 4 to a 2.

I then decided to work on the dead frog memory. I asked him again for his rating ... he said 0. I said wow, that’s great ... you obviously have the Force running through you now. By now, he had been with me for an hour, and he wanted to finish, as he was tired.

The session lasted longer than I had thought. I thought I would only be able to capture his attention for 30 minutes, so I was pleased for the time he allowed us.

I asked him if we should release the bee. He said yes, because he never kills any insects, even though he hated them, he wants them to live.

I asked him how he felt about me taking the lid off. He showed me 0 on the Feel-o-meter.

I then asked him how he would feel if the bee flew out into the room. He said 2, though asked me to open the door so that it could fly away. Something still remaining.

We did a quick round on ‘little bit of scared left’.

We decided to release the bee onto a leaf. He came with me. I asked him if he wanted to push the bee out of the glass jar. He said no, but didn’t freak out at the thought. I said that was probably very smart of him, as we wouldn’t want him to go around touching and picking up all sorts of bugs, without knowing anything about them. So I pushed the bee onto the leaf, and it walked around, twitching its legs.

Tommy stayed close, watching him. I asked the mother, would he have done this before. She said no, he wouldn’t want to be in the same room as the bee. Now this bee was a bit sleepy, so not acting in a usual bee-like way, though fortunately as we were placing him in the flowers, another bee was buzzing around the flowers, and he wasn’t bothered by it.

The only thing I couldn’t test was a bee or fly flying around an enclosed room with the door closed. There could well be another aspect around that, so I asked Tommy’s mother to test that at home.

I told him he could come back anytime and see me, if he wanted to have some more Force and iron out any knots.

He went away, happy, clutching his superhero drawings to colour in, with their magic spots as a reminder for him.

Amanda Gachot
NLP master practitioner, EFT practitioner, Practitioner Diploma in Indirect Hypnosis, Ericksonian Psychotherapy
Email: amanda gachot mail

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