This post is about how to overcome your fear of spiders. Maybe. Sort of.
Don’t worry, I haven’t included any spider pictures–if you’re anything like I used to be, you won’t even move your mouse over a picture of a spider. They’re that evil.
I used to be terrified of spiders. Now, not so much. I’m still not fond of them, but I can sit in the same room as them without shrieking and flailing.
I’m going to share what I did to overcome my fear of spiders. It would probably work for you, but I almost guarantee you won’t want to do it.
My fear of spiders
My parents tell me I’ve been scared of spiders since before I could talk. Spiders used to make me burst into tears before I had the vocabulary to say, “Get that evil demon spawn bug away from me.”
After I learned to talk I would jump out of bed in the middle of the night saying “spiders in the bed”, and refuse to get back in until my mum had swept the bed clean.
She told me later she never actually swept out any spiders, but she went through the motions and I guess I was convinced.
I thought my fear might go away as I got older. Logically I knew the spiders in New Zealand weren’t dangerous and they were more scared of me than I was of them (and all the other things that people who don’t understand arachnophobia say). Logic didn’t help and the fear didn’t go away.
I couldn’t go within a room of a spider. If I thought one was on or near me, I’d actually levitate, and shake my arms so vigorously they nearly came off. While shrieking, of course.
There came a point after I moved out of home when it was pretty inconvenient.
I won’t say that’s why I got married, but an advantage of having a husband is always having someone around to relocate the spider from behind the toilet.
The cure for my fear of spiders
I didn’t set out to cure my fear of spiders. I just realised one day it was gone. Mostly. Then I realised why.
I’ve heard of desensitisation therapy, or whatever fancy name you want to give it. It has two problems. First you feel like a real idiot saying “I want you to progressively expose me to more realistic representations of spiders.” Second, then you have to knowingly expose yourself to increasingly realistic representations of spiders.
I didn’t do that.
Instead, I went into the desert.
Let’s call it the quest for the Holy Grail. The reason had nothing to do with spiders.
I probably saw spiders in the desert. I don’t remember. I was more concerned with not starving, getting to the top of the next hill, not dying from heatstroke in the day, and not freezing to death at night.
I was exhausted. Every time I sat down from walking for a two-minute rest I fell asleep. Lifting an arm, let alone walking, was a gargantuan effort.
I remember sitting leaning against a log at one point. Something crawled up my back under my shirt and started biting me.
Normally you’d get some sort of emotional reaction. Irritation, even anger. I was so tired I didn’t feel anything. I reached under my shirt and pulled out the thing that was biting me.
It was a huge ant with waving pincers.
I threw it away and went back to sleep. Yep, there are ants. Some bite, some don’t.
My theory is that something similar happened with spiders. Normally when confronted with a spider I’d get a huge adrenaline surge, fly away from the evil spider, and not die. So my subconscious would decide a huge adrenaline surge was the way to go, and would resolve to do it again next time.
But on my search for the Holy Grail, when confronted by a spider I had no energy left to create an adrenaline surge. It would have been way too much effort.
Much to the surprise of my subconscious, I didn’t die.
Hey, it thought. That was easier than freaking out and everything still turned out fine. Let’s do that again next time.
So the next time I saw a spider, my subconscious thought “adrenaline surge? Meh.” And very little happened.
Fear of spiders? Cured. Mostly.
No, I didn’t come home with the Holy Grail, sorry to disappoint.
The guinea pig solution
You could try what I did.
If you like picking cactus spines out of your shin in the pitch black in the middle of the night when all you were doing was looking for a bush to pee behind.
If you want to hike all day through the desert for three days without eating more than few reeds that may or may not have been edible.
The quest for the Holy Grail was an amazing experience, but it was far superior in retrospect than at the time. For the two weeks I was there, I mostly just wanted to go home.
If you’re not big on deserts, you can try the guinea pig technique instead.
To me, spiders are freaky partly because of how I imagine their bodies–all spider-shaped with indecently many eyes.
But what if they weren’t spider-shaped? Imagine a spider was a tiny guinea pig. A cute snuffly little nose, floppy ears, and innocent beady eyes. Oh, and don’t forget the whiskers for avoiding getting stuck in narrow spaces.
Only this hamster isn’t happy with average-speed escapes, so it’s strapped on huge robot legs for epic fleeing. But still, look at the little nose!
I can’t promise it’ll work, but give it a try. All the best for your next encounter with robo-guinea pigs.
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