Snakes on My brain

Snakes copy

By: Tina Davidson

Say hello to my friend the ball python.  I met him at the reptile show at the Winter Bird Festival in Morro Bay, CA, last month.

Now you may be thinking, “Did she just write reptile show at the bird festival?”

You betcha.

Morro Bay is a bird sanctuary, a place that takes birding seriously, so it never makes much sense that every year reptiles are given a little spotlight during the Winter Bird Festival.  Don’t they know these slithery showmen, if given the opportunity, would consume the honoree’s and their offspring?

Surprisingly, if my group of friends and I hadn’t gotten in line early enough we would have missed out on the free tickets to the reptile show– only 2 sessions were offered with 25 participants allowed in at a time to pet and handle the snakes, bearded dragons, and blue-tongued skink.

bearded dragon blue tongued skink cuddly tiny snake

During my first year in attendance at the show (two years ago), I hid behind my camera– using it as an excuse that you can’t take pictures and hold snakes at the same time, but in fact I was really creeped out.

That memorable year I witnessed a snake pooping on an unsuspecting girl. This scene cured me from ever allowing my children to keep snakes as pets. That and the fact that snakes live a long time convinces me to say no. I don’t envision my future as an empty nester with only my children’s snakes to keep me company by the fire.

The girl I mentioned earlier, who endured the snake poop, was a champion and handled it better than I ever would have– had it been me, much more screaming and mayhem would have occurred! If a snake were expelling its waste on me, my first instinct (two years ago) would have been to launch that sucker.

This instinct, of wanting to fling a defecating snake, might once have been attributed to the “reptilian” brain.  Paul MacLean developed a theory in the 1960s that the brain had three levels and the reptilian part was the bottom most basic level in regards to survival and instinct.  MacLean’s triune brain theory has been replaced but you may still hear mention of the “reptilian” brain.

We now know much more about reptiles and turns out they are pretty smart (lizards can actually use their snout as tools according to one study). In fact, when scientists, Manuel Leal and Brian Powell at Duke University of North Carolina performed an experiment to test the wits between tits, a commonly studied bird, and Anolis Evermanni, aka anole lizards, their results suggested these lizards were just as smart as the birds.  So, I guess that makes reptiles an admirable addition to any bird festival.  What’s your take?

The Snake-away and Your Brain

This was my second year attending the show, but my first year to touch anything,  So, what changed? Why did I chill with the ball python for longer than just a photo opp?  I had reframed my attitude. I do not have herpetophobi, an extreme fear of reptiles, which would have been much harder to overcome.

What helped me the most was to have the proper behavior modeled. I had witnessed my friend, Janie, bravely handling creature after creature and nothing happened to her. We were warned this year that the snakes had breakfast before the show but I didn’t want to let that crap (literally) stop me– distorted fear was holding me back from embracing a tame snake.

Encountering a rattlesnake by surprise in the wild is a real threat to my survival… not a sweet pet ball python.

What distorted fears are preventing you from moving forward to try something new and enjoy life?

Would you be more likely to attend a bird festival or a reptile show? Perhaps you are dealing with orniphobia, or fear of birds, and not reptiles?

Orniphobia is one of the most debilitating phobias as birds are nearly impossible to avoid, says Lizzie Carver, who runs the bird phobia programme at Birdworld, Surrey. Employing a neurolinguistic process known as the “rewind technique”, Carver tries to re-establish a traumatic moment or episode in her client’s minds and then explore it in a safe space.

We all have things we need to overcome in life and s0me are more debilitating than others. It is never too late to change your brain thanks to neuroplasticity (nerd alert– neuroplasticity is one of my favorite words!)  Whether you apply the myelination technique I mentioned in my last post, or a nuerolinguistic process like the rewind technique mentioned above, there is help and support out there. I hope you find an option that works for you.

Did you know this Snake/Bird Fact?

King snakes are considered kings because they eat other snakes just like king cobras eat other cobras.

Check out a picture of a Cooper’s hawk— a bird who eats other birds. Sadly, it seems that there are cannibals in every bunch.

Special thanks to Dennis Sheridan and the Morro Bay Natural History Museum for allowing us to hang out with all the creepers and crawlers.

Source Citation  & Interesting Reads

“Cold-blooded cunning; Animal behaviour (I).” The Economist 16 July 2011: 83(US). General Reference Center GOLD. Web. 28 Jan. 2015.
“Do something: Tackle your fear: Three therapists who specialise in animal phobias.” Guardian [London, England] 11 Oct. 2014: 6. General Reference Center GOLD. Web. 30 Jan. 2015.
Getting Rid of Distorted Fears, Part 1: Why Kids Have Distorted Fears
Why we Fear Snakes
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