Written by Hadar Naftalovich
For as long as I can remember, I have been scared of spiders. Especially the big ones. In my head, tarantulas are really scary and very very venomous. They can sense fear. It was obvious to me, that if a tarantula ever landed on me, it would have a feast on my inner freak-out and bite down. Now, back up a moment. What if my pre conceived notion of tarantulas is wrong and they’re not so venomous? (Spoiler: they’re not. (Tarantula Bite Guidelines)) Well, I was prepared for that too. The spider would for sure bite me, and while any one else would be okay, I myself am allergic, and would need to go to the ER anyway.
This fear I had was not only related to tarantulas. It spread to all other types of creepy-critters, but especially smaller spiders. I was so afraid of facing the big ones, that I would even avoid the little ones. I’d make excuses not to go to picnics, and leave my friends if they wanted to study outside.
Turns out that tarantulas are quite docile. While working at the Center for Anxiety, I was given the opportunity to face my fears as part of a session we hosted. We were bringing a Spider-guy in and he was bringing spiders with him. Participants would be given the chance to let one crawl up their arms and toward their heads. I was also given a chance to back out. I didn’t.
So, with much preparation, I let one crawl over my hand. I felt the fear and crawly sensations even after the spiders last hair left my hand. But there was no ER, not even a rash.
What I learned from this exercise is that something good happens when you stop avoiding something you fear and finally face it. One might argue that even someone who is not phobic of spiders would not want to hold a tarantula, and so what does it prove to go out of your way to be scared? We don’t need (or want) to face something terrifying if we can avoid it.
The answer to that has to do with you. Take a moment to think, on a smaller scale, about the things in your life that you avoid like I avoid spiders. Exercising? Studying? Paying bills? We all have them. Things that we avoid every week, or even every day. I’ve made a list of those things I avoid and I’ve started to approach them. I went for a run. I began studying more seriously for the GRE. I finally tried out a new water-color technique I had come across.
Consequently, I began to feel more accomplished and in control. The exercise has made me realize how many things in my day I do because I have to, or as a reaction to what is going on around me. Even though not all these tasks are pleasant, when I complete them I feel proud that I set a challenge for myself and met it.
Sometimes we avoid things, even though they’re good for us. Do something you’ve been dreading. Practice distress, and you might feel better!