Confronting Fear

It’s time to do something about my fear of spiders.

Why, when I’ve made it through 51 years of life as an arachnophobe, do I feel the need to confront this fear now? After all, I’m still alive. My strategy seems to be working: experience a moment of acute discomfort, ask a nearby hero (Joe, usually) to make the spider go away, get out of the vicinity of extermination and disposal, and distract myself so I won’t think about the spider all night.

I’ve spent my life living in places where the spiders are, as my rational brain would agree, small and harmless to humans.

Now, I’m moving to a place where the spiders are, as even non-arachnophobes would concur, enormous and potentially life-threatening.

Okay, that’s a gross exaggeration (another thing arachnophobes do is overestimate the size of the spiders they’ve seen. One of the nicest things Joe can say to me when there’s been a spider in the house is, ‘that really was a big spider’). Not all of them are large and very few are venomous, and I have it on good authority that the largest and scariest will be found only in very remote places I’m unlikely to be (e.g. deep in a forest and way off a path).  It is highly improbable that truly nightmare-worthy varieties will ever be found in my house, on the ceiling over my bed, waiting for me to fall asleep so they can use my flesh for food, warmth, or whatever horrible purposes they dream up in the gelatinous brain that lurks behind their multitudinous unblinking eyes.

But still, it’s the even remote possibility of their presence that bothers me. It’s not rational, after all, this fear. Like many of the other estimated third of people in the United States who are afraid of spiders, my visceral reaction when I see one–a slight (or more than slight) feeling of panic and revulsion–is not some well-thought out response to data. I even trust that the experts are not lying when they make pronouncements like We have no poisonous spiders in, for example, Wisconsin.  But what if this particular spider doesn’t know it doesn’t belong in Wisconsin?

I’ve tried being rational about spiders.  I truly appreciate that they kill insects that actually are harmful to humans and that they contribute greatly to the ecosystem.

I have been brought to tears by the beauty of a spider’s web in dawn’s light, sparkling with drops of dew, each one of which is a tiny crystal orb capturing a miniaturized view of the surrounding countryside.

I enjoyed reading Charlotte’s Web, but tried not to think about what Charlotte looked like.

I believe that spiders are part of God’s creation, and, because God is love, there is some benevolent purpose for their existence and they are worthy of my respect and appreciation.

I do not for a moment believe that they are more afraid of me than I am of them.

In planning for the inevitability of seeing spiders of various sizes in our new home, I searched out a couple of websites about spiders in South Africa.

Good news:  that’s where I got the information about the most dangerous ones being way off the beaten path and my chances of seeing one really scarce.

Bad news:  they have some really big spiders there. Big spiders, even if they’re starting from far off in the woods somewhere, can move faster on their long weird legs than small spiders, and eventually, says my fear, they’re going to find their way to where the experts say they won’t show up, and I’m going to meet one face to face, my two eyeballs staring into its eight.

One species of the big spiders isn’t poisonous, which could lead a rational person to think this item belongs in the good news category.  However it’s non-lethalness is not outweighed in the horror column by the fact that if approached it will rear up on its hind legs and bare its fangs.  Its fangs.  

I don’t want my fear of spiders to get in the way of our new ministry.  I don’t want to rely on my familiar strategy of depending on my wonderful husband to “take care of” the spiders.  I want him to look back on this time with joy at faithfully fulfilling his vocation as a teacher of theology, not as an exterminator.

I know that losing my fear of spiders won’t mean happiness living with them (I still can’t picture wanting them inside the house).  I just want not to feel queasy thinking about them, and if I do see them, I want to be able to do my part to escort them outside and then get a good night’s sleep.

So, it’s time.  I’m going to try the steps outlined on the wikiHow website about DIY exposure therapy.  I’ll keep you posted. And for others who are afraid of spiders, I promise not to post any spider photos or videos. You’re safe here.

If this works, someday you’ll have another friend you can ask to take care of the spiders for you.

IMG_6522

My goal.

5 thoughts on “Confronting Fear

  1. Amy, I totally understand—I have that fear of snakes! And now back in North Carolina where copperheads are in abundance, well, just yikes, every time I go outside my back door! We have a fenced yard for our pups and I understand their urine keeps them at bay, but outside the fence we have a pine tree grove, where copperheads LOVE to crawl!!! I planted a bird feeder a couple of years ago in that grove—out of reach of my doggies—when I walk out there to refill the seed I put on my tennis shoes—downgrade from rubber boots I’ve been known in past times to wear—and just make myself do it, looking carefully, ready to scream, pass out, whatever will happen if I see one! And get this—2 years here now and I’ve only seen one snake—a dead garter snake on the side of our neighborhood entrance road! No copperhead sightings! I will watch your progress! You can do this!

    Liked by 1 person

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