Ornithophobia or fear of birds - How hypnotherapy can help

The lady was a little late. She had parked her car, close to the clinic, in plenty of time. Before opening the car door, she scanned the pavement – and then watched the sky for a while. Nothing. The sound of argumentative seagulls kept her in the car for a while longer – but the harsh squawking seemed to fade into the distance. Eventually she gathered her courage, left her car, hurried to the clinic door and pressed the doorbell with some determination.

As the door opened, she was anxiously looking up and down the road. Breathing a deep sigh of relief, she quickly entered. This poor lady was suffering a lifelong fear of birds – otherwise known as “ornithophobia”.

As a five year old, she had visited her elderly grandmother in the country. Those were the days of the “outside loo” – a toilet housed in an old wooden shed at the bottom of the garden. On the first evening, she needed to go. She picked up the small torch and made her way through the back door and into the dark. The garden path, leading to the shed, snaked between two tall flowerbeds. The torch threw ghostly shadows – but eventually the little girl reached her urgent destination. 

Unbeknown to her, the local farmer had shot a brace of pheasant a few days earlier. They needed to be “hung” for a few days and the coat hook on the other side of the shed door had seemed like a good idea.

The little girl fumbled with the latch in the torchlight. The door eventually creaked open and she made her way in. The pale beam illuminated the ancient WC and it’s great Victorian cistern. As she turned, two pairs of gimlet eyes were glaring at her. Shocked, she dropped the torch. The terror was immediate, chilling and profound.

Decades later, this lady was struggling. Her husband wanted to book their summer holiday abroad. She knew what this meant. Al fresco meals interrupted by birds searching for crumbs. Her immediate descent into panic. The sudden dash indoors. Flustered waiters trying to get her out from under the table. Tears, embarrassment, humiliation and apologies. She couldn't face it - not again. Something had to be done.

Two sessions of hypnotherapy were planned. One concentrated on time regression. In other words, she revisited the original trauma – but in a safe way – as a mature adult. She was then able to support and reassure the young person she once was. The second session used a “rewind” phobic cure technique. She rehearsed a walk in the park using fast-forward and fast-rewind imagery. In this way, the emotions were disempowered. Audio recordings were provided for home practice.

Ornithophobia is common. The initial trigger is not always as Gothic as the one above. The comedienne Lucille Ball remembered that a bird became trapped in the house on the day her father died. Her fear was lifelong, debilitating and well documented. Interestingly, Tippi Hedren – the star of Alfred Hitchcock’s horror masterpiece, “The Birds” – continued to love and appreciate birds, despite the harrowing ordeals she must have suffered during filming.

The lady's husband booked a week in the Canary Islands! A few weeks ago, a card arrived:

 “…we ate both breakfast and lunch al fresco with, for me, no problems with crumb-hunting doves! I have also experienced seagulls at close proximity on the ferry and not turned a hair!”. The card design was of two exotic birds. Hypnotherapy really can help.

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