by Kim Alexander, M.S.
It’s a perfectly breezy summer day. I walk out my house to the see the sun shining brightly and all seems right in the world. As I sit on my front step to keep Cosmo company while he busies himself doing Shih Tzu things, I see a large black object flying in my peripherals. As I swing around to get a better look, I catch a WASP flying into a small tree in my yard.
Initially, it took much impulse control to not allow my fight or flight response to take over… which would be much more flight than fight! Instead, I stuck it out… if at least for the sake of keeping Cosmo company. Besides, it was just one wasp.
However, as I sat there, I noticed more and more wasps of all sizes fly in and out of the very same tree. At first I thought it was the same one but then paranoia took over and I began to look for distinguishable features like size and flight path. I guess it might be safe to say I was in complete terror.
The thoughts running through my head were as irrational as they come… I mean it lead me to waste time looking for distinguishable features of wasps! I was telling myself that these wasps are ALL going to come after me. We now have a wasp problem that WILL NEVER get better. I CAN’T live in New York. I HATE residential neighborhoods. The wasps WILL fly into my room when I’m sleeping and then I’ll be swarmed like a scene from the movie Arachnophobia. Then, I’ll get stung like Macaulay Culkin in the movie, My Girl, and no one will be there to save me!
Very quickly I realized how irrational and unhelpful this thinking was because all my “worst case scenarios” were greatly exaggerated, had movie references (which are inherently exaggerated and dramatic for box office purposes) and ultimately… absolutely nothing so grave has occurred since discovering the wasp nest. Cosmo and I are physically intact and these wasps appear to have no conflict with us.
I think reality checking is the key in this situation. It was necessary to eventually consult an exterminator regarding the wasp nest’s proximity to my home. However, in the moment that I became aware of the situation, I was not in immediate danger to the extent of my very exaggerated predictions. Yes, there was an increased potential to be stung… specifically by a wasp. But honestly, given the number of flowers in my yard, there is also a potential to be stung by a bee, compared to the wasps. Ultimately, I was not experiencing healthy concern for the situation as it were. I was causing myself to experience unhealthy/unhelpful fear and anxiety by the exaggerated thoughts I was telling myself would most definitely occur.