Why do people have fears? Why do we let fears control our lives? I never thought I would ever get over my own fears. These fears made my childhood very difficult and hard to deal with. When I was a kid, I was scared of spiders. As great as my parents were about letting their kids explore the world and letting us develop our own opinions about the organisms we encountered, I think my fear of spiders was largely my dad’s fault. He still tells me stories about how our house would have been “overrun with black widows – overrun!!” if he hadn’t hauled a can of Raid out into the backyard and sprayed the heck out of every black widow he found once a week.
He talked about the sun spider (not a true spider, but still an arachnid) in the laundry closet with a hint of fear and has told me the story with a spider several times. It goes like this. One night, I called out to my dad, telling him that there was a spider in my crib. He looked around and didn’t see anything, so he told me I was dreaming and should go back to sleep. A few minutes later, I called out again, saying that there was a spider in my bed. He looked again and still didn’t see anything. I kept insisting there was a spider, so he eventually started pulling off blankets to prove that there was no spider. Of course there was a spider, THE BIGGEST BLACK WIDOW OF ALL TIME! Or at least that’s how my dad tells it. You’d think this spider was about to devour his beloved firstborn, that I was lucky he was there to save me and vanquish the black widow foe. He wouldn’t ever admit it, but these sorts of stories have led me to believe that my dad might have a touch of arachnophobia.
When my dad, who is rather fearless and tells stories of brave encounters with rattlesnakes and an angry swarm of yellow jackets, actually showed any sort of fear, it sort of rubbed off on you. So, I was scared of spiders too. I remember growing up thinking that most spiders were dangerous, that killing a spider was better than risking being bitten. I used to be so scared of spiders that I’d have nightmares about them lurking under my blankets. I would wake up in a panic and start ripping off the covers to prove to myself that there wasn’t actually a spider in my bed. I knew there wasn’t a spider in my bed, but then again… My dad had told me that story about the black widow in my crib, so maybe my subconscious mind was trying to tell me something…
As I became more and more interested in insects, I learned that the vast majority of spiders really weren’t going to hurt me. I knew that the wolf spider crawling up the wall or the little harmless brown spiders in the basement weren’t going to do anything to me, but the fear persisted. I felt a little stupid for being scared of spiders. But I couldn’t help it. They bothered me. When I was going to school, in the city of my birth, I was imagining that black widows lurked in every corner and I would have daily encounters with all manner of huge spider. Every now and again I would envision a spider crawling up the back of my couch while I was doing homework or something and it would make me shiver just a little.
So, how did I get over my fear of spiders? I don’t know how or why it worked, but I told myself to ignore the spiders and suddenly they stopped bothering me. No more spider nightmares! They can crawl all over me and I don’t care. Black widows are beautiful spiders and I love to watch them. I enjoy seeing the big orb weaver spiders when I’m in the sorts of habitats where they’re found. Sun spiders – spectacular animals! And who doesn’t love a good jumping spider? I might not pick spiders up, just in case I misidentify one I shouldn’t handle or have a strange reaction to tarantula hairs (those things make me itch like mad!), but I’m perfectly okay with spiders living in and around my house. Sometimes I knock their webs down as I dust, but otherwise they’ve got a pretty good thing going living with me. I just don’t care that they’re there.
All in all, I am happy I went on that field trip. Forcing myself to walk through the spiders to get to the pond seems to have done me a world of good. Now, if only I could get over my fear of centipedes…
Courtney from Study Moose
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