This morning at home, we had some excitement, which was fun. When my wife emerged from the bathroom, she said calmly, “Marty, there’s a big black spider in the bathtub.”
I was responsible for my daughter Adriana at the time, so I carried her inside with me to check it out. It surprised me that my wife didn’t call it a brown recluse. That has been one of our ongoing jokes. She spent her childhood in the domain of the Brown Recluse, and as a result, anytime she sees a spider with a brownish hue, she exclaims, “Marty, I just saw a Brown Recluse. Go get it.” While I am gathering the offender and taking it outside, I kindly point out to her that the Brown Recluse is not a resident of Northern California.
When Adriana and I peered in the tub, it became clear why Michelle had not referred to the creature as a brown recluse. There was my very first Black Widow spider. This spider has a dark and lustrous black coloration. I don’t really pay much attention to spiders because I’m aware that the black widow is the only harmful spider in our region and that it’s one I’ve never seen before. On the other hand, the color of this one made me a little more wary of what I was doing. I could see a clear red hourglass on the creature’s belly through the translucent plastic of the Tupperware bowl as I was gathering it up and placing it in the bowl. It was a good choice.
It goes without saying that my wife did not share the same scientific excitement that I felt about this finding. She immediately removed Adriana from my arms and ordered me to remove the spider from the property as quickly as possible. It was gratifying and surprising that she did not advise me to end it immediately.
At this point, I’d like to take a moment to put in a little bit of a plug for spiders. They have a reputation for being problematic. They are blamed for various things that are not their fault, such as being the cause of flea bites, tick bites, bed bug bites, and even mosquito bites. You name it, and you can probably blame it on spiders. The vast majority of spiders will not bite humans, certain spiders will only bite if provoked, and of the spiders that will bite, only a select few are actually harmful to humans when they do so. Even the bite of the very lethal Black Widow spider only results in death in slightly more than one percent of all cases.
On top of that, there are the tales that have been passed down about the fabled Brown Recluse. Over sixty percent of the medically documented brown recluse spider bites occur in areas where the spider does not reside. It baffles me how a spider endemic to only the southern and central parts of the United States could be to blame for many mysterious illnesses reported in California and elsewhere. For more context, please consider the following little excerpt from a website that provides information about spiders:
A data review shows fewer than 5,000 spider bite incidents were reported annually in the United States between 1989 and 1993. You might be shocked to find that throughout that period (four years), there were no deaths caused by spider bites. These figures seem very insignificant when weighed against the nearly 800,000 dog bites that result in the need for sutures annually. During the research, there were an average of 20 fatalities caused by dog attacks each year, while 130 people lost their lives due to cars colliding with deer.
You might be asking what exactly this has to do with life coaching at this point in the discussion. Do not be alarmed; I will get to the subject in a moment. Also, in the words of Dr. Seuss, “This may not seem important to you, I know. But it is. That’s why I’m taking the time and trouble to tell you.
How do you feel about arachnids in general? Do your muscles twitch whenever you consider the possibility of one crawling up your leg? Do you wince in discomfort whenever you see one strolling on your wall? Where do those emotions originate? When you were a child, did you or anybody in your family experience a sudden and intense onset of anxiety whenever a spider was discovered? Have your parents instilled that dread in you? And does that dread still dictate how you interact with these creatures?
Let’s be honest: having a phobia of spiders will not stop you from having a successful, abundant, and joyful life. However, there is a catch: What of your concerns currently impede you from living the life you want? What other kinds of anxieties have you picked up from your family, friends, and the culture surrounding you? And how exactly do those worries prevent you from developing into the person you have the capability of becoming?
The fact that our worries nearly always have some basis in the past makes them seem much more significant than they actually are. When we have a scary experience in the here, and now, we react to the projection of a deeply ingrained idea planted within us long ago. When we look at the projection, our worries are magnified many times over, just like a spider’s shadow looks enormous and scary when it walks in front of a light. When observed from a perspective of present-time awareness, the actual spider poses considerably less of a threat than one might anticipate. Your fears, too, will become more bearable once you move your perception from the shadow to the source of the problem.
Fears are fueled by the fabrication of falsehoods and exaggerations, which are feasible only in shadowy and hidden areas. As soon as you admit to yourself and others what you are afraid of, you can start to see your worries for what they actually are. The challenge, of course, consists in understanding how to bring those worries into the open. Now, to complete this task:
When you see a spider and have a feeling of dread in the pit of your stomach (or a snake or a mouse, or you glance down from a balcony, or you board a plane or fill in the blank), recognize that this is a perfect opportunity to practice shifting your perspective of the circumstance. Therefore, the next time you find yourself face to face with a spider, rather than running away or shouting for reinforcements, try to pause and breathe for a moment and become an explorer of your inner world instead. This will help you deal with the situation much better. It’s okay if you have to catch the spider and put it in a container that is airtight for it to be able to breathe, so don’t worry about it! And after that, see if you can view that spider with the same objectivity level as a scientist.
Develop the mindset of a detached spectator of your own life. The next time you are faced with a fear that does, in fact, prevent you from living the life you want, you will find that this practice will significantly assist you. When you tremble before a presentation, walk into a job interview, or share your portfolio with a gallery owner, become a scientist and examine the cause. It’s possible that once you figure out what’s making you scared, you’ll be amazed to learn that the situation isn’t as terrifying as it seems in your head.
Oh, and once you’ve finished confronting those other phobias, don’t forget to show your new spider pals some gratitude for all of their help.