4. Arachnophobia

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Dorothy, a woman in her early forties, has been invited to the prestigious opening of the Tate Modern Art Gallery in London. She is very keen on attending but has a problem that threatens to spoil her evening or even stop her going at all. Installed in the entrance to the gallery is a huge metal spider that cannot be avoided. Dorothy has feared spiders all her life and cannot bear to see them on TV or represented in any form at all. The metal monster of a spider at the Tate Gallery fills her with dread but she really wants to attend this once in a lifetime occasion.


Provocative Therapist: Now let me get this straight! You’re scared of a metal spider?


Dorothy: Yes, I know it’s metal, but I hate all spiders.


Provocative Therapist: Well, then it’s quite natural for you to avoid such a big spider.


Dorothy: But I want to go to the exhibition!


Provocative Therapist: (I frown and wag a finger at Dorothy) No, you can’t go. You mustn’t go. I, your medical doctor, forbid you from going. It will be very bad for your health. Listen to me now…


Dorothy: Nonsense! It’s only a sculpture.


Provocative Therapist: Only a sculpture! No, no, it’s a message from God to warn you off this exhibition. The Tate Gallery has got some very disturbing art you know. It can upset fragile people like yourself.


Dorothy: (indignantly) What do you mean ‘fragile’?


Provocative Therapist: Well you have lovely delicate white skin.


Dorothy: What’ my skin go to do with anything?


Provocative Therapist: It makes you look like a China Doll, beautiful but fragile. Has anyone ever called you China Doll before?


Dorothy: No, they certainly have not!


Provocative Therapist: Calm down, calm down. I just thought you would do better to visit the National Gallery. Those serene Monets are very soothing for volatile, I mean sensitive, people like you. I think…


Dorothy: (not sure whether to be angry or laugh) Now you’re insulting me.


Provocative Therapist: Insulting you? By suggesting you visit the National Gallery? That gallery contains some of the world’s most precious masterpieces; there is no shame in visiting one of the nation’s greatest treasures. They have paintings by da Vinci, van Gogh, Velasquez…


Dorothy: What are you talking about? I want to go to the Tate Modern Art Gallery!


Provocative Therapist: Wait a minute, I’ve got another idea (with exaggerated enthusiasm); The Wallace Collection! Have you seen the Faberge eggs? They’re fantastic…


Dorothy: I think I’ve had enough of this…


Provocative Therapist: Okay, okay no more talk about the classical masterpieces of art in London. But are you sure you still want to go and see this metal spider?


Dorothy: Yes!



FOLLOW UP

Dorothy was quite indignant when the session finished. She told a friend that she was not going to listen to the ridiculous suggestions she had received. Her friend advised her to ‘Calm down, it’s Provocative Therapy!’

Dorothy went to the opening of the exhibition without any trouble at all. I contacted her a few months later and she reported that her fear of spiders was strangely not a problem any more.