Ralph Higgins

Ralph Higgins
color pencil sketch by Gayle Higgins

Quotes I Like

"If you do not take an interest in the affairs of your government, then you are doomed to live under the rule of fools."

– Plato


Thursday, April 5, 2012

A Failed Therapist

The way I present my marital relationship sometimes gives the impression that it’s more adversarial and contentious than it is in reality. In an effort to reinforce this perception, I thought I’d ramble on a bit about my heart-felt attempts at curing my wife of her arachnophobia.

Gayle is terrified of spiders.  Despite my heroic attempts to help her deal with this phobia, I’ve been an abject failure.  Falling back on my studies of psychology in college, I’ve tried to gradually help her acclimate to these eight-legged creatures. I’ll give you some examples of my altruistic attempts at therapy.

I think it started when I faced her fear head-on.  It was early in our marriage and we were in a pet store or museum.  I found Gayle standing motionless staring at something. She was trying to breathe.  My protective instincts kicked in and I rushed to her side only to find her staring in panic at a large spider in a glass tank.  It was one of those huge spiders that eat small animals and children under twelve.

I led her out of danger, took her outside, and tried my best to convince her that even if the thing got out, it would only eat an arm or leg on an adult. Whatever I said didn’t help. That’s when I realized she needed help.

(Click on the "read more" below for the rest of the story)

I began my attempt to help her acclimate to spiders through gradual exposure in a safe home environment.  For example, I put a small plastic spider on the roll of toilet paper so that when it spun, the spider would fly out. That only resulted in terrified screams and a temporary psychological aversion to toilets.  This only created another problem to overcome. Potty training an adult is more difficult than killing a spider and a rolled up newspaper doesn’t speed up the process.

My brother Tom told me that when he was on a Hawaiian plantation once, his adorable wife Sharon had a similar experience when a large cane spider flew out of the toilet paper roll.  It was as large as a human hand.  Evidently the monster landed in her “panties” and Tom said she busted out of that outhouse like she was in a sack race.  The last he saw of her was when she disappeared over a hill, hopping with her pants around her ankles and screaming like a banshee.

That’s where I got the idea for using the toilet paper spider as a therapeutic device.  I planned to start with a small spider and work up to the cane variety.

I tried everything to help Gayle.  I would tie a spider to a thread and connect it to her curling iron, so that when she lifted it the spider would fly gracefully through the air.  You would expect that at some point she would lose her fear… right??

On another occasion I planted a plastic spider in one of her purses and forgot about it.  It was a purse she rarely used, but not being the most observant of husbands, I didn’t know she didn’t use that purse. But this particular Sunday she had chosen that very purse to take to church.

It was during prayer right before the offering.  All was quiet in the church as she reached into the purse for her wallet. Suddenly the reverence in the chapel was broken by a loud and shrill scream as a plastic spider popped out of Gayle’s purse. The congregation looked to the ceiling for the rapture, but when they turned and focused on the source of the scream they saw my wife beating on me with her fists. 

I didn’t even know what had happened.  I had my eyes shut when the event occurred.  It had been months since I planted that darn thing and I had forgotten all about it.  I was innocent.  

I think it was at that point that I realized I should give up on my attempts at therapy.  I decided to simply accept the fact that when I hear a scream at home, it’s time for me to go after a spider. I finally accepted the reality that I was destined to be the “spider buster.”   It was obvious that I was a lousy therapist and “phobia buster.”  And I was tired of being pummeled by Gayle’s little fists.  I was just trying to be kind and helpful, but I guess it’s true that no good deed goes unpunished.

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P.S. – A lot of people email me saying that they can’t seem to get their comments published.  Please keep trying, because the comments are half the fun.  


  1. Certain things are left unsaid so I shan't discuss the "underwear " as to it's color or whether is said "Tuesday or Wednesday" on the waist band!

    You indeed, Ralph, are a Brave Man!

    Many in my coffee group, that has now met daily for more than eight years, question where I get some of the thoughts that I utter in public. I shall start tomorrow blaming my friend, Ralph Higgins. He made me say it!!!

    All of this blog was an "imagination" adventure. A great blend of family members & insects!

    Gayle, be sure to always look where you are setting!!

  2. Ed-
    Those attempts at phobia therapy happened roughly 20 years ago; early in my marriage to Gayle. I've since changed my evil ways. That embarrassing experience in church with Gayle's shriek and frenetic flying fists taught me two things: 1) No more plastic spiders and 2) pray with your eyes open.

    1. I have always wondered why we pray with our eyes closed! Because Dr. Sands said so?

      If prayer is a conversation with God why should we shut our eyes. When I shut my eyes when my wife is talking to me (i.e. correcting me) I best not shut my eyes!

  3. Ed - Maybe you should shut your eyes when she is "correcting" you. She'll think you're praying and she'll back off. That's when you make your escape.