Spiders are my number one fear – more than death, more than public speaking, more than things I cannot control (tornadoes, fire, etc. – I may write about that some other time.).
This is an irrational thought. Surely even the largest of spiders is more afraid than me – I’m how many times larger? There’s just something about those multiple legs, the way they creep in corners, and the eyes – so many eyes!!!
I can’t even “dispose” of spiders on my own, not even the itty bitty ones. (And by dispose, I do mean killed.)
“It’s spider season. Every year, right about now, thousands of the godless eight-legged bastards emerge from the bowels of hell (or the garden, whichever’s nearest) with the sole intention of tormenting humankind.”
― Charlie Brooker
As I write this, I’m flipping to other tabs to find out why we (humans) are so afraid of them, but the big problem I’m running into is that the people writing and posting these (hopefully) scientific articles on arachnophobia also feel the need to POST IMAGES OF SPIDERS!!! This is UNACCEPTABLE FOR MY RESEARCH!!
Warning!! ALL links on this blog post contain images of spiders. Click at your own risk.
According to scientists at the University of Columbia it’s in our DNA. (see this April 6, 2015 article by Becca Stanek.) I could easily summarize, but why? I’ll use the author’s exact words:
During our species’ early evolutionary phases, we had a pretty high risk of running into venomous spiders. So what may seem an irrational fear now, was then a valuable survival instinct.
Arachnophobia might just be one of the oldest human fears that exist, according to Tech Times’ report on the study. Researchers from Columbia University discovered that our terrified reactions to spiders might date as far back as the human species’ early evolutionary hundreds of thousands of years ago in Africa.
An article by Chris Buddle disagrees to some extent. It does acknowledge evolution near the end, but it begins with the premise that although being bitten plays into the fear it has more to do with the erratic movement of the creature.
Buddle cites a University of London study that links the fear to conditioning (past negative experiences with spiders and /or someone in the household also fearing spiders) and genetics.
My mom – also afraid, though she can kill some of the smaller ones if she has to. Me? Not so much. And although I can’t cite a specific example of an incident that caused arachnic trauma, here is some of my personal experience.
- My husband, good man, will come running when I scream. 99% of the time it’s a spider, and this is met with eye rolls, etc., even for some of the larger varieties I have stumbled upon. I have even had to ask him to deal with a spider so I can proceed with other tasks (laundry, watering plants, etc.) because some arachnid is too near for me to reach what I need.
- I have a brother, six years younger than me. When I was 12(ish) years old, we were home alone while my parents worked late. I was getting into the shower, and a nickel-sized arachnid was lurking behind the shampoo. I made my brother deal with it. (But when a bat was hanging around and making a general nuisance of itself, I was fine.)
- An (empty) egg sac was laid in the smoke detector. This was an unpleasant find. Nope, I did not see it first, but I did fall off the step stool.
- At girl scout camp, I always hoped to ten with one of those sadistic people who like to pull the appendages off daddy long legs. I know those aren’t technically spiders, but eight spindly legs – and speed – is too much for me, and I knew my tent-mate would help me out.
- It’s the time of year where spiders are everywhere. There were at least three sightings in the hall and bathroom at school (by me), and although we can’t offer extra credit, getting rid of spiders is the secret way to earn it in my classroom.
- My front porch is covered in webs, and there was one holding my mail hostage last week. Yesterday, when I watered the hanging plants, I tried to knock one of the webs down with high speed water jets, but no luck.
So now what? Will I ever overcome this fear? Apparently, it’s possible.
Full disclosure time: I’m a busy woman currently avoiding grading a stack of papers that would reach to the ceiling. Although in-depth, thorough research would help me continue that, all research for this blog article amounts to quick Google searching.
I can’t say I’m jazzed by anything I’m finding. This wikihow article has 15 steps. But here’s step two – “Build an Exposure Hierarchy” (see my responses in pink)
- 1. Look at spider pictures – no
- 2. Watch videos of spiders – definitely not
- 3. Hold a toy spider – maybe one of those plastic Halloween rings – if it’s orange
- 4. Visit a spider exhibit at the zoo – big nope
- 5. Go outside and look for spiders – not if I can avoid it
- 6. Capture a spider and watch it – Heck NO!
- 7. Visit a friend with a pet spider – provided I’m not in the same room, sure
- 8. Look at the spider with the top off (if safe of course) – please see #4
- 9. Watch the friend feed the spider – again, #4
- 10. Watch the friend handle the spider – please see #6
Although the article does go into some depth and does have therapy-level options and what to expect from such sessions, this is STEP TWO!!!! However, an article from The Guardian shows the desensitization can work.
Sarah Kaplan of The Washington Post reports on December 15, 2015 about a drug study that helps overcome the fear in two minutes. Although I”m not in favor of an overdrugged population (see my blog post: “You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.” – Ray Bradbury from Sept. 18, 2016.), this could be my only option. Even with it, though, I can’t imagine myself reaching in and holding a tarantula like the woman cited in the article.
An article from BT is about a three hour class, including hypnosis, which sounds pretty good and a viable option. I’m pretty sure it’s outside the U.S., but surely something like that is around here. (Well, maybe not here, in the cultural/educational/retail black hole where I live.) Even the Huffington Post writes on research showing one therapy session can cure it.
This British article from the Mirror is even more extreme in its tips to overcome arachnophobia. Don’t even OPEN if if you have even the mildest of spider issues. (The final suggestion is to try eating one…..if THAT tells you anything.
The thing is, though. Every single one of these requires me to interact with spiders. And that means more than spotting one on the wall and turning on my heel to bolt out of the room while screaming.
I’m also not sure that I want to over come it. Yeah, it sucks – especially if no one is around to “save” me. But because it’s so common, I’m not even embarrassed. At most, it’s inconvenient, and it hasn’t stopped me from visiting more exotic parts of the world where spiders are larger, more venomous, and more populous. As such, I think I can deal with it, as long as I can maintain my denial of how many are probably around me right now, lurking outside the window, creeping behind the baseboards, spying on my from an unseen corner of the room.