I used to be irrationally terrified of wasps, bees and pretty much any buzzing thing with a black and yellow patterning.
Some times also flies that sounded ominous.
Now I say, “used to,” but I still am.
A few years ago I started noticing that Lucien was displaying a growing irrational fears of things as well.
I figured, I have them, why wouldn’t he?
But I need to be a role model, I need to show him that it’s possible to overcome one’s fears. Or if not overcome, then to manage them.
So that’s what I started doing.
Now, as far as I’m concerned, the first step to changing anything is to identify its origin. It’s roots.
And looking back, it’s seems pretty straight-forward where it all started.
I was about 10 years old, a then-friend and I were playing games together. Having placed a wood plank across some stones, we were taking turns to balance across it. Unbeknownst to us, underneath one of the stones lay a wasps’ nest.
Now for those of you who don’t know, wasps are nature’s assholes.
Being the assholes that they are, they didn’t appreciate our childish plays around their home.
Running in terror, as the swarm attacked us and got inside our clothes, we were forced to strip to our underwear.
Surprisingly, I only got stung on my right hand pinky.
But it was enough.
A single event, whose effects reverberates over two decades.
Now rationally I know that bees, wasps, bumblebees and honeybees would prefer not to sting me. Especially in the case of honeybees who lose their stinger in the process and consequently die.
It’s a last desperate resort, not a first choice.
And my brain knows this.
But my brain also tells me to punch all the buzzing things!
My brain used to get the better of me.
Once, I destroyed an expensive DSLR camera by throwing it at a nearby bee.
That’s… a little excessive.
At the time I didn’t know what Cognitive behavioral therapy1 actually was and it’s only in hindsight that I’ve realised that that is effectively what I was doing.
At first, I would only try to sit and watch them fly around going about their business, reminding myself that they didn’t care about me.
With time, as they had a habit of flying into our home, I would try to catch them in a jar and release them.
It’s been about two years now, since I started this.
Of course, every success comes with its failures.
I can still recall the time I caught a wasp in a little plastic Tupperware container. Releasing it outside, only to come back inside putting the plastic container down to realise that the little asshole had managed to hold on to the inside of the container.
Punch all the buzzing things! Run!
I ran into the bathroom to hide whilst Rebecka went and released it outside.
Over time, it became easier to catch and release them.
My brain slowly stopped reacting with its usual surge of adrenaline and cortisol.
A couple of weeks ago I found myself sitting in our garden, home to more flying things than I can count.
And I was surprised when I realised that I had been sitting surrounded by wasps and bees without noticing them.
I’m still have an irrational fear of wasps, bees and all buzzing things black and yellow.
And wasps are still nature’s assholes.
Maybe I can manage my irrational fear and be the role model Lucien needs.
Maybe I can stop punching the buzzing things.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a psychosocial intervention that is the most widely used evidence-based practice for treating mental disorders. ↩