Susan hated mice. I knew how she felt. I'd had my own aversion to rodents (though of the cartoon variety) ever since visiting Disneyland with my family. I swear, one more chorus of 'Mickey Mania' ...
Susan's nephew Adam was going to Portugal with his mum and dad for two weeks and Susan had been volunteered for Gerbil Minding duties. The mere thought of it sent her into a cold sweat.
Generally I treat phobias with systematic desensitization and it can take a few sessions before the patient can handle their previous worst nightmare (which usually involves physical contact). Unfortunately Adam and his family were flying out the next day and Susan had promised (in mid panic attack) to collect the beast that very evening. What to do?
There's a technique called losing the numbers which can be used as a convincer for someone who refuses to believe they have been in a trance. You make them lose a number between 1 and 10 (usually 7) and then wake them up. They are then asked to count their fingers and you can watch the confusion spread over their face as they get to eight or nine and realize they are going to end up at eleven! And it doesn't matter which way they count; aloud or silently, left to right or right to left. They have eleven fingers. You ask them to write down on a piece of paper how many fingers they have, sign, date and time it. Then you remove the suggestion and restore the number 7 (very important, that). No more convincing is necessary.
I decided to use the same technique with Susan. She went into trance and I told her that she had "no recollection of a fear of mice or any other rodents. Nothing in her long-term memory. Nothing in her short-term memory. Nothing in her conscious or unconscious minds. In fact, so much so that she had no idea what I was talking about." Then I woke her up.
"What?" she said.
"Nothing," I said.
She had a great two weeks playing with that Gerbil and looked after it twice more before it died. Now Adam has a hamster. Susan likes that too.