Much of the work we do in nature therapy is geared towards understanding our inner nature through the natural world. Even Einstein advocated turning to the natural world to understand more about human existence, but just recently I had a sharp reminder that despite our academic approach to analysing our psyches - we know so little about Being Human.
A friend posted on my facebook page what he thought was a cute little video of a rat with his head trapped through the port hole in the wall that a telephone cable came through. It showed this ratty head squeaking in rage whilst the ratty body was obviously completely and utterly trapped. The supposed sweetness of the images was in the kindly gentleman doing his best to free the furious fat rodent.
However the cute factor was completely lost on me as I recoiled in absolute horror. I immediately had a feeling that cooties were crawling over and under my skin. A frantic scratching session followed whilst my eyes bulged out of their sockets. I had no idea what had just happened to me. What on earth had triggered that response, a response I might add that I had never previously experienced.
I have dealt with some dastardly things in my time as a nurse such as maggot infested bodies, worm infestations, pustules, amputations and gangrene, as well as extracting various items from bodily orifices. So, I could not fathom what on earth caused the violent reaction to some poor trapped rat.
Well, it seems in my autumn years I have developed something called trypophobia. Apparently around 20% of the population have this ‘condition’ whereby an extreme disgust response is triggered by something as seemingly innocuous as holes. I am itching manically now just typing up this blog despite trying hard over the past days to desensitize myself to certain images.
My particular form of trypophobia is to do with living things emerging from small holes. Not bad for a former midwife. But for some individuals the skin creeping disgust reaction can be so severe they cannot even look at a series of small irregular holes like a lotus flower head.
To my mind there has to be a sound scientific rationale for trypophobia and the answer is probably grounded in the fact that it is not a true phobia but a disgust response. I don’t seem to fear it rather react to it in an extreme way.
Arnold Wilkins of the University of Essex explains the over the top response I experienced is most likely linked with a potentially dangerous or poisonous creature. Take a look at the picture of the deadly blue ringed octopus in this blog which is one such image he used in his study. I had a slight aversion to the octopus markings, but not as extreme as I would if another creature was emerging from any of those holes.
Despite all the angst and scratching, this insight really highlighted for me what Jung described as inherited memories. Nature has provided us with some of the tools we need to keep ourselves safe right from the moment of birth. I had not learned through any sort of experience or reading that a blue ring octopus is potentially deadly but I now know I have a deep seated need to avoid them.
Listening to what our senses are trying to tell us is may not be so important to our physical survival in this modern western world, but it is vital to our mental well-being. We are in danger of dumbing down our sensory perception to the point we no longer understand our own reactions. I was somewhat horrified to read that individuals have been so freaked out by their skin creeps they sought psychiatric support whereas in reality they are sensitive enough to be simply tuning in to an amazing gift of nature. I would want any one of them on my expedition to explore new lands
Seems we are working towards a new way of Being Human. One where we are so out of step with the natural world that our protective reactions are pathologised and treated as abnormal. Use them or lose them forever as my old mum would say and to be fair she is one old wife that knows a thing or two. Who knows where we may need those deep sensory responses again if we are to survive as a species when civilisation once again takes a detour.