Fear of Snakes

A. Fear of Snakes is the Most Common Fear.

The fear of snakes (ophidiophobia) is the most common fear in adults according to a Gallup™ poll. Fifty one percent of people said that they have a fear of snakes, with women far outnumbering men. Most scientists believe the biggest reason is primordial, i.e., hardwired from ancient times. Other, more modern, triggers include things such as trauma, parental influence, religion, manipulation, physio-chemical factors, etc.

Being the most prevalent of all fear suggests that ophidiophobia may be difficult to suppress.

There is always a positive outcome from every negative consequence. Searching for a positive attribute by itself replaces the anxiety with analysis.

Consider this: How many people in a chemistry lab who are mixing sulfuric acid with ethyl alcohol are thinking of snakes swirling around in the liquid? None. That is because analytical thinking uses 60% of your brain, while reacting to a primordial fear barely uses 10%. Rational thought robs the fear of its energy.

Here is a practice quiz: Can you name any positive outcomes from the fear of snakes?

Here are some sample positive outcomes: 

  1. With so many people having this fear, there are an enormous number of qualified professionals who are knowledgeable in treating it.

  2. There are many books, websites, training videos, and the like to help people.  An internet search for snake fears would be a great starting point. 

  3. Given that more than 51% of the population have this fear, there must be many of your friends that have this fear. The two of you may be able to get together, compare, learn from one another and support one another.

  4. A company can run a TV ad showing their product performing better than their competitor’s product.  The competitor’s product just happens to be sitting in front of a background with a snake peering out.  Since 51% of all people have a fear of snakes, associating a competitor’s products with snakes is likely to have some effect.

  5. In the United States 179,000,000 people have this fear and research shows that the death rate associated with ophidiophobia is essentially zero.  Hence, it’s not going to kill you. 

  6. Since 3.85 billion people in the world have this fear, there is a fantastic opportunity to find and market a product to help those people. How about a cute stuffed snake for your dog called Fluffy? Every time the dog bites the snake it says, “I love you.”  This type of positive feed-back can be used to lessen the fear—and on a repeating daily basis.  It also involves your dog, allowing them to be your loyal assistant.  Furthermore, if you can have the product assembled for $1.00, delivered to the customer through Amazon™ for $1.50, you sell it for $5.00, and you only reach 1% of the population, that still represents a profit of $635 billion dollars.  Move over Bill Gates. 

  7. Knowing what triggers your fear, gives you an advantage in inventing and selling products to others that avoid those hidden idiosyncratic triggers.  Patent attorneys say that in every invention 75% is associated with finding the problem and 25% is attributed to solving it.

  8.  What other advantages were you able to find???

B. Primordial Fear of Snakes.

Primordial fears are controlled by the “id” or subconscious mind.  They exist without the occurrence of an outside influence or learned fear.  This means that primordial fears are not processed in your brain the same way that learned fears are.  

This is where Dream Interpretation Comes into Play.  Dreaming is a way for the brain to organize the information that it received during the day.  There is so much information entering the brain every day that it must be processed.  The vast majority is disregarded while the important information is combined and organized before being shipped off to the memory cells.  Primordial fears, on the other hand, do not come from sensory inputs during the day.  They have been there since birth and are hard-wired in the ancient brain regions. 

Click on the Read More link to learn more about Dream Interpretation.

Dream Interpretation. Dreams relating to snakes are not triggered by primordial fears, but from learned fears.  If you see a snake in your dream, you most likely saw or heard something about a snake a day or two before.  This is what happens more than 90% of the time, and it can be combined with other bits and pieces of information in haphazard and bizarre ways.

If you did not see a snake earlier in the week, then a snake in your dreams could be a symbol of something else.  This is particularly true for repeating dreams. 

The following table illustrates this point:


Dream Interpretation

Dream Description Potential Dream Meaning

1.  You are capturing or killing the snake.

You may have vanquished an enemy and saved the day from a threat.

2. You came upon a snake and you did not do anything.
You may be analyzing an important decision and you are not sure how to handle it.
3. You came upon a snake and you screamed.
You may have been involved in an important decision and you stood up and voiced your opinion.
4. A cobra rises up and exposes its fangs, and you froze not knowing what to do.
You may be involved in a relationship that scares you and it poses a real danger.
5. A snake is swaying back and forth and has hypnotized you.
You may be in a relationship that could result in sex and you are interested but afraid.
6. The snake is shedding its skin and you are watching. You are afraid and curious at the same time.
There may be a transformative event that is about to occur in your life. It could be a marriage, birth of a child, purchase of a business, etc.
7. You are being chased by the snake and you’re not getting further away.
You may feel trapped by some event or relationship and there appears no way out.
8. You are being chased by the snake and the snake is catching up with you.
You may feel guilty that you are running away from a relationship or event and not confronting the matter head-on.
9. You came upon a snake in your path and you flew over it.
This appears to be a combination of factors such as fear and power. You may have had or may be involved in an upcoming important event or relationship; and you have the financial, emotional, or athletic ability to handle it.

There are hundreds of possibilities.  The only person who truly knows what the dream means, is you.  Unfortunately, you probably do not remember all of the facts in the dream, such as were there other people or other animals, what color was the snake, did the snake talk and what did it say, etc.   The more information you remember, the more you can narrow down the symbolisms. 

C. Learned Fear of Snakes.

Trauma. Traumatic events must be addressed early.  Avoidance only postpones the fear triggers.  A second traumatic event does not replace the first one.  It adds to it.  Sometimes it has a synergistic effect, i.e., two 5-pound fears added together does not make a 10-pound fear but a 65-pound fear.  This is why resolving or smothering the effect of the trauma as soon as possible is important.  As with all the fears, the first thing is to discover each of the traumas and each fear associated with each trauma. 

Take for example stepping on a snake.  That action may invoke multiple fears in addition to the snake.  There may be a fear of dying component, a fear of being bitten, a fear of pain, fear of losing mobility, fear of going to the hospital, fear of embarrassment, etc.  You must identify each of them so that you can desensitize the fear and trauma.  It is not too difficult, but it is time-consuming. 

Religious Beliefs.  Of all of the fears, this one has a strong religious connection.  It starts with the biblical beginning of the human race, i.e., Adam and Eve.  Eve was tricked by a snake to take a bite of a forbidden fruit—the apple.  This caused them to be cast out of the idealistic Eden. There is also a sexual connection.  Before the infamous bite, Adam and Eve were ignorant to sexual pleasures.  That certainly changed.  This is a giant flashing sign saying the snake cannot be trusted and is drenched in sexual pleasures.

  Snakes are mentioned many times in the Bible.  The dictionary definition of forked tongue means “intent to mislead or deceive.”  Almost all religious paintings that has a snake in it portrays them as evil serpents.  It is almost never depicted as a good animal. 

This means that if anything bad happens and there is a snake in the vicinity, it takes little effort to connect the two.  This is a significant and reasonably based trigger relative to the fear of snakes.

But are snakes really inherently bad?

Perhaps the Hebrew word of serpent was meant to be a verb and not a noun.  The devil simply picked the snake to transmit the devil’s thoughts.  The devil could have picked a cow, or an insect or a bird.  That means the poor old snake became the symbol of bad because of a translation error. 

Why would God create a snake and place it in a pure place like the Garden of Eden if it was bad?  God is not known to make mistakes.  If God wanted to help humans, sending snakes to the Earth would have been in the top ten.

  Snakes hunt almost every animal that eat our crops.  Mice, rats, birds, insects, and rabbits would crush all efforts to feed the world.  But the snake stands guard by blocking them. 

Parent Connection. Was either of your parents afraid of snakes? Did they impart their fears on you?   Did you have an over-protective parent who blocked you from going to summer camp because you might encounter a snake?  This could be another one of those learned fears and will need to be addressed.

Manipulation. The movie industry has made sure that you never forget how bad snakes are. Movies such as Anaconda, Serpent, Clash of the Titans, Harry Potter movies, All of the Indiana Jones movies, Snakes on a Plane, and Jumanji, all portray snakes in a terrible way.  As with all scary movies, the best way to avoid that trauma is to not go to those movies. 

The movies intentionally make the snakes the villains and make them larger than real life with human like brains looking for revenge.  Don’t give Hollywood your ticket price so they can continue to scare you with false exaggerated images. 

D. Personality Trait Connection.

The personality trait most applicable would likely be the Type B.  The snake is portrayed as untrustworthy and deceitful.  This is directly contrary to the dominate B-type trait of Honesty.  Snakes do not make sounds and are therefore sneaky.  This is contrary to having the friends trait and being the life of the party.  Almost everything about a snake is contrary to the B-type traits.  

Famous people who are afraid of snakes include Justin Timberlake, Johnny Cash, Matt Damon, Nadine Coyle. and many others.

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