Maditude Adjustment: Why Are We Afraid of Spiders?

For most of my life, I was not a fan of spiders. Yes, I am a fan of them now, but up until a few years ago, I avoided them at all costs. And I know they’re more afraid of me than I am of them but that doesn’t help the fact that I was still afraid. But why? Why was I afraid? What made them any scarier than some other bug?

When asked why you are afraid of spiders, what is your gut reaction? I know I immediately think “I don’t want them on me” and I like spiders! Why not? I pick up grasshoppers and beetles every chance I get! When I’m at home tide pooling, I’ll pick up the spider’s distant cousin, the crab, without hesitation.

Just looking photos of spiders can make people anxious. Seeing the joints of the legs on the abdomen makes my stomach clench in an interesting way that I really can’t explain. If there is no way that someone is in immediate danger, what causes this reaction? If you have a larger ant placed next to a similarly-sized black spider they look almost identical. The main difference is the number of legs. What is it about the extra set of legs that is so unsettling? Why spiders?

Everywhere I seem to look attributes our fear of spiders to our ancestors. Apparently way back when, venomous spiders were a much bigger problem than they are today, and humans needed to avoid the eight-legged fiends at all costs to avoid the consequences that may arise from a bite. Lack of shoes, advanced medicine and more creepy crawlies to deal with equals more danger. So the repulsion from spiders helped with self-preservation in the way back times.

So our repulsion is a biological remnant from times past. Maybe someday the rational parts of our brain will prevail and say “Hey! It’s 2016! Even if you get bit by a black freakin’ widow you’re gonna be fine!” There are over 43,000 different species of spider in the world, and only approximately 30 of are dangerous.

The real enemy is the mosquito! Those little jerks are everywhere! They carry disease and they bite all the time. That’s, like, their thing. Do you know what spiders do? They eat mosquitoes. Just food for thought.

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