I asked an expert how to cure my fear of holes
Edited photos of clustered holes on human skin is my kryptonite
Trypophobia is the fear of holes and I’ve had it for as long as I can remember. It’s not only affected me but also my family and many of my friends as well.
Luckily, my fear of holes isn’t so terrible that I can’t even stand to look at crumpets – although, it doesn’t make me feel entirely comfortable either – or to the point that it disrupts my day to day life.
However, every once in a while, I’ll see a rock on the beach covered in tiny holes and it’ll make my skin crawl or my friends would think it’s funny to spam me with pictures of clustered holes edited onto a hand and it’ll make me feel incredibly nauseous and lightheaded – edited photos of clustered holes on human skin is my kryptonite.
I decided to take control of the situation and reached out to a phobias expert for advice on how to cure this nuisance.
Phobia expert Christopher Paul Jones, told me Trypophobia can originate from a fearful experience in the past such as being stung by a bee while looking at a honeycomb. He explained: “This is when the brain makes a connection between a shape and fear – it’s what’s called a stimulus response.”
He assured me that the phobia was curable and took me through some of the steps.
Step 1: Find the trigger
Christopher encouraged me to find my trigger and relive it. “By using the Integrated Change Processes, re-experience the event with a new perspective, say, whilst calming the mind. Once the emotional charge has been removed from the event in your past, the mind no longer has a reference linking fear to holes,” he explained.
Which sounded easy enough, but turns out I can’t pinpoint where this fear came from no matter how hard I tried.
Perhaps I tripped on a funny looking rock with small clustered holes when I was younger and decided it would be my arch nemesis for the rest of my life or perhaps someone threw a crumpet at me once and I became frightened. Either way, there was no way I could try to relive a memory that no longer existed so I had to skip this step.
Step 2: Play with the images
I was told to try some easy techniques from home, the first one was to mess around with the disturbing images. For example, making it black and white or adding some comedy music and turning it into funny cartoons.
I photoshopped one of the photos of clustered holes on human skin to black and white and put on some Weird Al Yankovic – which was possibly the weirdest experience of my life.
I have to admit, taking the colour out of the photo made it a lot more bearable to look at. However, I soon became nauseous and light headed again and had to delete the image. The music didn’t really do anything to help to be honest.
Step 3: Associate the fear with a different memory
Another recommended technique was to think of a positive memory when you couldn’t stop laughing whilst simultaneously focusing on the fear.
“The mind cannot experience two different emotions at the same time,” said Christopher. So by reliving the bad experience from a place of laughter, the fear disappears. However, this technique is not as easy as it seems. You can’t simply force yourself to think happy thoughts. He warned: “For this to fully work, you need to feel it in your body.”
It is ridiculously difficult to laugh whilst staring at an image that makes you want to vomit, let me tell you that. I had to constantly look away because it made my skin crawl and sent shivers down my spine. However, I didn’t give up. I got creative and decided to turn on a stand up comedy show whilst forcing myself to look at the image. It worked for a little while but then I got distracted and realised I wasn’t looking at the image at all. So that one was my own fault.
Step 4: Repeat
A phobia like this can’t exactly be cured overnight. However, I’ve noticed that the more I force myself to stare at these images and play around with them, the easier it becomes. Maybe practicing these techniques repeatedly over time will make a significant difference but I don’t see crumpets becoming my new favourite food any time soon. In the meantime, I’ve resorted to kindly asking my housemates to refrain from spamming me with pictures of small clustered holes – but it’s not like they listen to me anyways.