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Woman With Crippling Michael Jackson Phobia Finds A Cure In Hypnotherapy

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A bartender plagued by a phobia of Michael Jackson since she first saw his acclaimed "Thriller" video at five years old has turned to hypnotherapy to finally beat it for good.

Poppy Johnson, 23, remembers feeling absolutely petrified when she saw the iconic music video on TV one day as child – with her fear becoming so bad that the mere mention of the King of Pop or one of his songs would cause her anxiety.

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The phobia was a real handicap, as her parents were big MJ fans and had lots of memorabilia.

Scared of being ridiculed until finally deciding to seek help earlier this year, Poppy, of west London, said: "I never really spoke about it or told many people. I worried they'd think I was silly, or struggle to understand how I could possibly have a phobia of Michael Jackson.

"But now, opening up has given me the courage to go and see a hypnotherapist. I've had four sessions so far, and I can already feel that fear lifting."

Recalling how her phobia was triggered when she saw the "Thriller" video on a music channel, while her parents – who she does not wish to name – were in another room, she was haunted by the scary scenes, which include Michael Jackson turning into a werewolf and a zombie dancing in a graveyard as the undead rise from their graves.

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Hailed as one of the best music videos of all time and incorporating references to horror movies, Poppy said of the film: "I tried to watch to the end but couldn't. I just remember being absolutely terrified, especially of the bit where Michael Jackson's face changes into a werewolf.

"From then on, I'd get flashbacks to that bit in particular if ever I saw him on TV or in magazines or newspapers – or even if I heard one of his songs."

With MJ enjoying his heyday as she grew up, his songs and videos were playing everywhere – making it impossible for Poppy to avoid him.

She said: "My parents were quite big fans, so we had things around the house like Michael Jackson posters and mugs. I never told them about my phobia though, so they didn't realize the effect seeing him had.

"I would get physical symptoms like sweating and shaking. Even seeing him out of the "Thriller" costume in every day life on TV would bring back all that fear.

"I was living with constant anxiety of seeing him, hearing him, or someone bringing him up. I just couldn't stand it."

Dogged by scandal, there were times when MJ was constantly in the news and, after his death in 2009, then again earlier this year when the Channel 4 documentary Leaving Neverland aired, Poppy even tried to avoid using the internet and social media, as talk about the star was non-stop.

She continued: "It's hard to do in this day and age, but I'd try to just stay off social media and avoid places where anybody might be posting anything about him."

Poppy has even had to devise strategies to manage her anxiety over the years, in case she caught sight or sound of Michael Jackson.

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She continued: "If I'm out in a café with friends and a Michael Jackson song comes on, I'll take myself off to the loo and try to breathe, calm myself and focus my mind elsewhere, away from the fear.

"Only a handful of people in my life knew about my phobia, so often when people asked me if I was okay, when they saw I was panicky, I had no choice but to say yes.

"I didn't feel comfortable telling lots of people, when I knew they wouldn't take me seriously. Lots of people misunderstand phobias and don't realize how debilitating they can be. It doesn't matter if it's an irrational fear or not, it's still a fear and real to the person who's feeling it."

Eventually, in early 2019, Poppy decided enough was enough and, after reading about him online, booked an appointment with top London hypnotherapist Aaron Surtees.

She said: "I'd heard really good things, especially about people who he'd helped overcome unusual phobias, like mine. He has an excellent success rate, so I figured I'd give it a go."

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To date, Poppy has had four sessions with Aaron, and expects to need around six in all.

Already noticing a difference, she is confident she will one day be able to conquer her phobia for good.

She added: "If I hear songs now, I can feel myself getting gradually calmer. I see a difference every time. People have been really nice and supportive since I told them."

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By speaking out, she also hopes to encourage other people out there living with unusual fears to seek help and to reassure them that they need not be embarrassed.

She said: "I feel so comfortable with Aaron. During our sessions, we will speak and try to pinpoint where my phobia came from – which I think was the 'Thriller' video – and to tackle that anxiety head on."

PA Real Life/Collect

"It's hard to explain the actual hypnotherapy side of things, but I just feel I'm in such a calm place. I can definitely see it getting to the point where I can go out without feeling on edge.

"To others out there living with an unusual phobia, I'd say try not to be embarrassed. Opening up to someone may just give you the courage to go and get help."

For information about Aaron, visit

We're all self-conscious about something, and it doesn't help when our faults get thrown in our faces. You don't want doctors hinting that something is "weird down there," nor do you want someone to tell you you're balding. WE KNOW.

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When you know your kids backwards and forwards, this is the best tool in your arsenal.

Getting our kids to listen to us is not always the easiest of tasks. They're willful and stubborn, but we've got a mighty weapon they are rarely prepared for: reverse psychology. Getting them to convince themselves to want to do something against their own initial intentions takes some work and a whole lot of creativity, but a little sneaky manipulation goes a long way. Here are some clever parents' tricks that are definitely worth taking notes on.

Redditor u/LeanderD Asks:

Parents of reddit, what's your best example of reversed psychology on your kids that actually worked?

He Floated His Idea Through A Back Channel


Wanted to name my boat. Anything I would think of was dismissed as stupid by my 13 year old son. After deciding on a name, I confided to a male friend my son liked. Made my friend suggest the name as though it was his idea. My son thought the name was perfect. Done.


We Always Want What We Can't Have

One of my best friends through childhood used to be punished with no salad if she misbehaved. She cherishes salad now and would always try to eat as much as possible during school lunch. Coincidentally, her now husband used to be punished with no books, it had the same effect. I think it's hilarious that they'd be hitting the salad bar and library like some black market their narc parents couldn't reach hahaha.


A Deceit That's A Cut Above The Rest


Don't know if this counts, but, at my high school (private, boys only) in the 1960's, they made a big deal about how long your hair was, and would occasionally order a boy to go home and "get a haircut".

I thought it was stupid, until years later, a master confided to me at a reunion that the policy was deliberate. The school figured we'd spend so much energy rebelling about hair length, that we would ignore other aspects of teenage rebellion. (Not?) Surprisingly, they were mostly right.


Damn! That's smart. Wow.


Oh they don't like long hair?

I'll show them. I'll grow my hair out as lon- what?! No I don't want to go "party"? I gotta try out this horse shampoo.


The Forbidden Book

Hi I was a victim,

There was a forbidden book that I was not allow to read on the shelf. My parents said I could only read it if I behave myself.

It was summer holidays and I was playing games all day (after 6 hrs of summer homework). One day I was home alone and had the opportunity to grabbed it. I read like half of it in one go. It was 5000 years of Chinese history.

Safe to say I was bamboozled.


Flowers Of The Queen

My parents always told me my broccoli were the flowers of the queen and that I really shouldn't eat them, or else the queen would get very upset! I, of course, ate the whole broccoli in a few seconds.


I'm telling the queen and she's gonna be pissed


Sleeping Beauty


I taught my kids when they were toddlers that no amount of yelling, shaking or hitting can wake a sleeping adult. The only thing that works is a gentle hug and/or a nice kiss on the cheek.

Edit: Probably needed some more details for the reverse psychology aspect to be clear. It went something like this - Step one, tell the kids I'm going to sleep and nothing they do will wake me (head buried face down is the safest position). Step two, after the initial onslaught dies down pretend to awaken on your own. Tell them you got a bit of nap left in you and nothing can wake you, especially not hugs and kisses.


Holy sh*t...if my daughter woke me up like this I would buy her a pony.


I am saving this comment because this will save lives if I ever have kids, stg.


A Walk In Someone Else's Shoes.

Split custody with my ex. When my son was around 10, he visited two weekends a month. I was waiting tables and didn't have a huge amount to spend, but he was so needy from divorce (and I'm not blaming him, it was ugly), he begged constantly for MORE when he was with me. Whatever more was, it didn't matter... he'd be eating ice cream cone and begging for teriyaki.

I finally realized that he just felt empty, and getting MORE whatever from me wasn't filling him up. His next visit I handed him $100 in cash and told him it was our food/fun budget for 3 days and two nights, and he was in charge of it. I bought him his own wallet to carry. We figured out how many times we were going to eat and what we were going to do, and he paid. He got to keep whatever money he had left...thought he was rich...then realized just how much everything cost. Well. Shoe on other foot then. If we had no money for food, we ate leftovers - and I didn't contribute more to pot. After a few weekends of running short or not getting something he actually wanted because he was foolish with funds, he started to really think about how to spend that money. He budgeted and kept to his budget. And a few times he actually went home with a little cash for his private stash.

Many years later, he thanked me for this. It really changed the way he thought about money and love.


This Is Worth Giving A Shot

Took my 3 year old son to one of those doctor's visits where he was going to get a shot. He was worried about the shot on the whole drive over, almost to the point of tears. We get to the doctor's office and a nurse subtly lets me know that my son is not just scheduled for 1 shot, but 5 of them in the same visit.

I turn to my son with an exaggerated smile and tell him, "Good news! They figured out how to take that one big shot you were going to get and instead break it up into these 5 little tiny shots so it won't hurt nearly as much!"

You could see the relief wash over his face. He stopped squirming and relaxed completely. He took the first shot and even smiled and said "It's true! The small ones don't hurt!"

We actually made it through the third shot before the effect wore off and reality kicked in. Still... I counted it as a victory.


Put This To The Taste


My mom would tell me she only lets me eat soup after candy and she'd only buy me candy that i didn't like. After a few times, i stopped trying and begged her to let me eat soup first. She gave me a smirk and told me go ahead. This doesn't sound as evil as it was. But trust me i suffered.


So what was the candy?


Mint chocolate, raisins, stuff like that. I still hate them to this day. Who the f--- thought while eating chocolate "hmm id like some tooth paste with this."


This is Truckin' Awesome

Mum had sworn a bit around the house.

When 4, while out at the supermarket, I said F word really loudly.

Very quickly and intently, she asked if I had just said "Truck" and said that was a bad word and not to ever say Truck like that again.

I thought that was the bad word so used that when being naughty.


The "Silly Mom" Routine

The "Silly Mom" routine.

My kid, and a few other kids I've known, would balk at getting ready to go. I'd grab their clothes and say, "Well, if you won't put on your clothes, I guess I'll put on your clothes. Cute shirt, by the way! Does it go on my foot?"


"Does it go on my head?"


"Oh, that's right, thanks! So, it must go on your legs, right?"


"I just can't figure this out! Where does this adorable shirt go?"

[kid grabs shirt and puts it on] ON MY TUMMY! SILLY MOM!

"Oh, thank you so much! Now what about these pants? Shirts go on tummies, so...the pants go on the tummy, too, right?"


[continue until kids have dressed themselves]

I would also do things like hand the kid my keys and say, "Alright, you're driving, I'll sit in the booster seat in back," attempt to feed the kid by putting a spoon up to his ear or his belly button, and attempt to put away his toys in the refrigerator.


Some Foot For Thought.


My mum would always yell at us "if you don't do X, you have to go to bed without socks!"

I never wore socks anyway, and I'm ashamed to admit that this worked.


That would work really well on my son, or make him cry for a really long time... He's 3 and over the last few weeks has decided that he is fully unable to sleep without socks on.


Toddlers man. Completely unpredictable.


I'm Greens With Envy

My mum had a friend that would put vegetables on her own plate and not the kids.

When the kids asked she would be reluctant to share, "that's grown up food. But I suppose I can let you have a little."

Her kids grew up loving vegetables.

I sat at the dinner table for 3 hours staring at the yucky cauliflower I refused to eat.


This reminds me of an instance when my child convinced my wife and myself to change our plans for dinner. We were in a grocery store to pick up something quick and easy to eat that we wouldn't have to prepare. Our daughter, wanted none of that, she demanded that she wanted a salad from the salad bar. We started to argue back, but then realized: "Our child demands that we feed her vegetables for dinner instead of a microwaved meal, why are we saying 'No?'"

We had salad for dinner that night.


The Power Of Choice

I don't so much know if you would call it reverse psychology, but I didn't realize it until my dad told me this.

When there were chores that needed doing, he noticed if he asked me to mow the lawn, I would complain and procrastinate. But if he asked would I rather mow the lawn or wash the windows, I'd pick one and just get it done.

Shattered my brain when he told me when I was in my twenties. I use it when I'm coaching or baby sitting all the time and it almost never fails.


The Boy Who Cried 'Ouch'


I've done this one with tens of kids. Any time a kid gets "hurt" (falls down on grass, gets gently hit in the face with a ball, etc.) instead of stopping the activity to pick the kid up and see if they're ok you just scoot them off to the side and resume. Within 10 seconds of not getting all the attention and seeing the fun is resuming they pop right back up and are magically healed.

This of course is only for the "injuries" that aren't actually injuries.


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