Yesterday I went to talk to a guy about my dog phobia. I can’t remember how much I’ve blogged about this. I do remember writing about the inciting incident. The gist of it is, in December 02 I was walking by myself in my neighborhood and this dog ran out of nowhere and bit me. It didn’t happen all at once but gradually I grew afraid to walk around my neighborhood, you know, part of my exercise routine, because I was afraid a dog would run out and bite me. I know this sounds funny, it’s funny to me too, but it’s also real and sort of a pain in the ass. I’m not afraid of dogs that I know or dogs on a leash or really small dogs although if they run out and surprise me barking, it does make me feel like I’m having a cardiac episode. Usually I’m not too afraid if Bob is with me. I’m a tiny bit uneasy around dogs that I know but I don’t have to leave the room or anything.
Here’s the thing. My rational mind totally gets it. I realize dogs haven’t changed, just the way I think about them. I see all kinds of people including elderly ladies looking like a strong breeze would wipe them out, all walking alone in my neighborhood, not being knocked over or bitten by dogs. But that hasn’t changed my anxiety about walking around my neighborhood.
I finally called this guy who deals with phobias and I honestly didn’t expect much but was willing to try anything. I’m thinking what can this guy do? It’s not like he has a magic wand or some sort of magic voodoo and I’m going to miraculously be cured of my dog fear. So I met with him yesterday and you know what? It was exactly like magic voodoo.
I’m having a hard time believing it myself. We visited a short time about the origin of the fear. He helped me realize that I’m not really afraid of dogs, I’m afraid of walking around my neighborhood by myself because a dog might come out and bite me. Then we went through a series of visualizations where I pictured exactly what happened, then I pictured it happening backwards really fast. Then I pictured it like a movie of myself, slightly in the future walking around my neighborhood totally relaxed and worry-free and then I pictured it as if I was in the movie, as this person in the future, walking around the neighborhood totally relaxed and worry-free. This is a simplified version but by the time we went through all this (about 1/2 hour), I didn’t feel so anxious when I thought about it.
When I got home I walked around the neighborhood by myself — and not the short easy walk, I went on the long scary walk and I wasn’t scared at all. I kept checking in, thinking, “come on, aren’t you still scared?” and I totally wasn’t.