Why is someone afraid of heights and mistrustful of her own ability to use a mountaineer’s clip finding herself on a ridiculously high treetop adventure course clinging to ropes?
Would that I were someone who ventured into activities like this with chest out, chin to the sun, striding forward like a Viking on steroids with only the thrill of high heights coursing through my heart.
Alas. My motivations are so much less robust, bullied along by my teenagers’ voices
barking my own words back to me: Face your fears! (These words they remember,
but weekly garbage to the curb night is so often forgotten?!)
Moving beyond fears – I’ve written a master’s thesis on this. As a coach and therapist this is a topic that is always on the menu. Fear is an issue I should have a firm handle on, yes? As the increasingly shrill sound of my body picking up speed on a zip wire proves however, my heart rate and brain’s alarm bells aren’t buying any of it.
Just recently I saw a trailer for the Will Smith film After Earth. Will’s character and his son are marooned on a post-apocalyptic version of earth and the wisdom Will passes to his son for their survival: Danger is real, fear is a choice.
As I imagine (from watching only the trailer) this is a pair whose choices involve: diabolical danger, life-threatening danger and you’re-about-to-be-eaten danger. Danger all around then.
Now, my choices during each of these tree-top ‘adventure’ days have been: stay home and be comfy (but feel sluggishly purposeless at end of day) or put self willfully into perceived danger.
But, let’s think about that again. What does never leaving our comfort zone do for us? What I know for certain is that inertia breeds inertia. Leaving fears unchallenged creates a safe place for them to snuggle up and breed other fears and doubts.
What does taking calculated risks do for our:
- self respect
With each step out of the comfort zone we enlarge what our minds and bodies perceive as possible. Through experience we embody the best ways to deal with our particular fears and gain expertise to accurately discriminate between danger and groundless anxiety.
We learn mastery over both our outer and inner realities.
Mastery over fear takes time and effort to build. The first time visited a Go Ape I was terrified the whole time. I finished only because my daughter was loving it and she was too young to finish without a guardian by her side. The second time I went it was on a course which didn’t legally require a parent to be there. I came down half way through the course. The third time I didn’t go up at all. The fourth time I did the whole course, learning along the way that not looking down was really helpful and with experimentation, found other tricks to get me through without chickening out. The fifth time I actually enjoyed, but still stepped off zip wire platforms very gingerly with eyes closed.
When the sixth time comes, I hope to leap.
What fears have you faced and overcome? What challenges to fear are waiting for their day in the sun?