Sam with Charlotte the
cockroach after receiving hypnosis for her phobia
They are among the most reviled creatures in the world – and, all of a sudden, they seem to be everywhere in Bermuda.
Thanks to high humidity and heavy rainfall, the Island’s cockroaches have come out of their winter hiding places and are making their presence felt. But what can a person do who really can’t stand to be around them? Royal Gazette reporter Sam Strangeways found out.
Nobody likes cockroaches, right? There surely can’t be anyone who welcomes the first roach of the season into their homes with open arms, laughing merrily as the creature suddenly takes flight, aiming directly for their face.
Cockroaches are probably one of the least cuddly, photo-friendly critters in the world – but in Bermuda, most people have learnt to live with them. Moving to the Island earlier this year meant I would have to do the same thing – despite a lifelong terror of anything falling under the heading “creepy-crawly”.
Long before my suitcases were packed, my work permit was issued and my house in England was placed on the rental market, the thought of Bermuda’s unfeasibly large flying cockroaches preyed heavily on my mind.
I knew the sub-tropical climate here would ensure a reasonable number of nasty critters but initially I figured: how bad can they be be? A colleague who had visited the Island enlightened me.
“The cockroaches are absolutely massive and they have wings and they fly into your face and get caught in your hair,” he told me, gleefully.
It was just what I didn’t want to hear.
My only previous encounter with a cockroach had been on a trip to southern Asia when I freaked out at finding a medium-sized one in my hotel room.
Although no tears were actually shed in front of the porter who came to remove it, it’s fair to say I was not at my most controlled.
The idea of living with roaches on a daily basis – and in all likelihood making a fool of myself every time I
came across one – was genuinely worrying.
The first few months here in winter were a breeze – only a single cockroach spotted, some distance away, slowly walking along a garden wall.
That I could deal with. What I didn’t enjoy were the endless personal horror stories I was forced to endure. One man told me how, as a teenager, a large cockroach had flown
into his eye and exploded while he rode his scooter.
He crashed the bike and was whisked to hospital where pieces of roach had to be removed from his eye. Others told of waking up to find a roach in their bed, on their pillow and even, in one case, on their cheek.
Inwardly quaking, I vowed to follow all the helpful advice that hardy Bermudians gave me on
keeping the monsters at bay.
That included keeping my apartment spotlessly clean, throwing out brown paper bags and never leaving the door open at night.
The tactics seemed to work and I really thought Islanders might be over-stating the case when it came to the size of the cockroaches and the scale of the problem.
That changed last week when I found a huge cockroach resting on my front door at eye level as I arrived home from work.
I panicked and was barely able to get inside the building. When I did, my racing heart made it clear that the moratorium was over.
The next day I picked up the phone and called hypnotherapist Monica Dobbie.
A friend at home had advised hypnosis as a way of making my phobia more manageable and now seemed the perfect time to enlist her services.
Amazingly, Monica told me she had never treated anyone for cockroach phobia on the Island before.
Instead, she’s had patients come to her with all kind of fears from feet and cats to more common phobias, such as spiders, toads, needles, flying and public speaking.
Monica reckons that her success rate is pretty high and that most patients repeatedly report a dramatic lessening of fear.
That was enough to convince me to allow her to bypass my critical conscious mind and communicate directly with my subconscious.
The idea, as Monica explained, is to re-programme the sub-conscious to make it respond in a more appropriate way to irrational fears.
I arrived for my session (only one is usually needed) at Holistic Health, based in the International Centre on Bermudiana Road, Hamilton, with an open mind about what was going to happen.
Monica asked me a series of questions about why I disliked cockroaches so much and it was the first time I had really given that any thought.
I told her that I associated them with filth and squalor and that they were ugly and I couldn’t bear the thought of one touching me. It sounded a bit daft, when put into words.
Monica explained that an incident in childhood might have sparked my fear of insects and, as we chatted, I remembered when I was a small child and was bitten by some kind of beetle in the strawberry patch in my back
We were to return to that trigger point when Monica hypnotised me – but first, I was to meet “Charlotte” the cockroach.
I’d had a nagging worry in the back of my mind that Monica might produce a cockroach and I was right.
Thankfully, this one, captured on her patio the previous evening, was in a jar. That still didn’t stop my heart starting to pound and a horrible feeling of panic rising in my throat.
Monica, who has an air of incredible calm and compassion, convinced me that the insect would not be coming anywhere near me. I trusted her.
She explained that she’d given it a name to make it seem less daunting and asked me to rate my fear of it on a scale of one to ten.
An overwhelming desire to head for the door made me plump for a rating of eight - I really didn’t want to be in the room with Charlotte, trapped or (especially) otherwise.
The next part of the therapy involved the Emotional Freedom Technique.
Monica tapped acupuncture points on my wrists and head and made me repeat several statements after her.
I had to look her in the eye and say that despite my fear of Charlotte I completely and totally accepted myself.
That made me want to giggle, for some reason, but I forced myself to say the words without laughing.
After a few more affirmative chants, I hopped on the couch and the hypnotherapy proper began. Monica explained that patients had to really want to get better in order for the hypnosis to take effective.
I really did want to nip my phobia in the bud and as such, I slipped into a very relaxed state with alarming ease.
The truth is, I don’t remember a huge amount about what happened while I was “under”.
Monica talked soothingly to me about relaxing various parts of the body and then the mind and a strange sensation of weightlessness washed over me.
The couch underneath me no longer seemed to be there and I just kind of…drifted.
It was very similar to that peculiar state of semi-dreaming that’s experienced just before proper sleep.
Monica later explained: “Hypnosis is a very natural state of being. It’s a bit like daydreaming and I find that people go into this relaxed and pleasant state very easily.
“Once they are there, I give them beneficial suggestions, which enable them to change the way they act, think and feel about their phobia.”
Monica took me back in my mind to the strawberry patch incident but asked me to consider it this time as a rational adult.
I was able to answer questions about what happened but can’t remember anything that I said.
I have a vague recollection of Monica talking me through a hypothetical situation involving a cockroach in my flat. She told me I was calm, confident and able to deal with the situation.
The next thing I knew I was being brought back. What had felt like ten minutes had actually taken 45.
My limbs felt heavy and I could have happily curled back up on the couch for a lengthy nap. Instead, Charlotte made a re-appearance.
This time I picked up the jar without thinking and examined the insect in close detail. My heart wasn’t racing, I didn’t feel like crying and my fear factor had probably dropped to about a four.
I still didn’t want Charlotte crawling all over me but I felt considerably calmer.
The change was actually pretty dramatic.
Charlotte accompanied me back to the office for a photograph and I then (calmly) released her back into the wild.
Whether or not Monica’s positive suggestions will have a long-term effect remains to be seen. The real test will be discovering one at home, which has yet to happen.
But several outdoor sightings over the weekend proved successful and non-eventful. The thought of cockroaches no longer makes my skin literally crawl.
I’m still keeping my fingers crossed that one doesn’t explode in my eye, get tangled in my hair or crawl onto my cheek – but in the meantime, I reckon I can rub along quite reasonably with Bermuda’s least popular pests.
Reproduced, without permission, from The Royal Gazette.
For more information or to make an appointment please contact:
Monica Dobbie ACH
Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist
Member of the National Guild of Hypnotists
Holistic Health (Bermuda) Ltd
Tel: +1 441 505 7531
+1 441 236 3013