Many people have an unnatural fear of spiders. When we walk up on a spider, or one crawls into our personal space, many of us lose our ability to think reasonably. It stands to reason that spiders have a whole lot more to fear from us than we do of them. We are giants, and one well placed foot can mean the end of their existence; yet, we continue to be afraid of them.
Some fears are healthy; in fact, we are biologically programmed to fear and flee from things that could possibly harm us. We don’t always know what types of snakes, spiders and other bugs are poisonous, so our natural fear takes over to protect us. However, educating ourselves on poisonous spiders and snakes can help us to respect these animals rather than fearing them.
Most phobias are conditioned responses to a stimulus. The stimulus is the object of our phobia. If you have arachnophobia, and a spider crawls into your line of sight, you may respond to it with intense, irrational fear. You have this phobia because you have been conditioned to respond to spiders with fear. For some people, the mere thought or mention of a spider will send them into a phobic response.
How I deconditioned my responses to a spider phobia
In my mind I have reason to fear spiders. I’ve been bitten a number of times while sleeping. I’d never feel the bite, but I’d wake up with two little fang marks with each bite. In a house where I previously lived, it was almost an everyday occurance to wake up with spider bites on me. They were those black wood spiders that are so scary looking.
I learned to get rid of my spider phobia through deconditioning. I learned to stay calm in the presence of a spider. I started deconditioning in my head before I ever came into the presence of a spider. I reasoned within myself that most spiders are harmless, and that they have more to fear from me than I do of them. I thought about their body shape as a good thing, rather than an ugly thing.
Once I became comfortable with the thought of being near a spider, I continued my deconditioning by allowing myself to be in the presence of granddaddy long leg spiders. There are some granddaddy longlegs that like to congregate on the front door of our house. I just stood there looking at them and let my anxiety rise and fall. Once my anxiety had leveled out I picked up a granddaddy longlegs spider and placed it on the palm of my hand. I wasn’t scared. I felt it tickle my hand as it walked around my hand. I gave it my other hand and it moved from one hand to the next. Then I moved my hand to the door and let the spider walk to the screen on the door where it wanted to be in the first place.
Every now and then I continue to pick up granddaddy longlegs spiders just to reaffirm that I’m not afraid of them. Nowadays, I actually like granddaddy longlegs spiders. They have helped me to overcome my fear of other spiders. I still don’t like the black hairy spiders much, but I’m not going to go running from them in fear, and I’m not going to kill them either. I learned a trick from my daughter about how to get unwanted spiders out of the house. My daughter gently sweeps them out the door. I now can approach one and gently sweep it into a dust pan and let it go outside.
I got over my fear of snakes in much the same way. A friend of mine had 2 pet snakes. I learned to handle them and let them hug me around my neck. Getting rid of my phobias was just a matter of replacing my fears with confidence.