The brave person is able to uncouple the emotional and behavioral components of fear, resisting the behavioral response of flight and facing the fearful situation, despite the discomfit produced by subjective and physical reactions. ~ Martin E.P. Seligman, Ph.D.
I conquered one of my biggest fears last week…
I have had a fear of heights since I was sixteen years old when I was literally stranded upside down on a small-town carnival ride with my girlfriend for close to fifteen minutes. The guy who was running the ride purposely let all of the other ride-goers off and then moved our bucket to the top of the ride and then walked away… I panicked as I grabbed onto the metal bar in front of me and my hands began to sweat as I envisioned myself sliding out of the bucket and plummeting to the ground. When the ride operator returned and got us down off of the ride he laughed (apparently freaking out young teenage girls was his form of entertainment…) but I found no humor whatsoever…
I had never been afraid of heights as a young girl and loved climbing trees spending hours perched up in the branches like a bird… no fear at all… then it all changed that fateful evening at the carnival when my phobia emerged and took over for the next forty years of my life. I decided while planning for our summer vacation to Missouri this year, that I was bound and determined to Zipline in the Ozarks because I was tired of being afraid…
I was pretty calm while getting all rigged up in the seat harness at the zipline place until a gentleman who was part of our group started discussing his first experience… when he went down the line upside down… upside down?… you have got to be kidding me! I asked him if he did it on purpose and he says “oh no, I didn’t try to do it”. I can barely contain the terror in my voice when I ask the instructor if it is common to go upside down and he looks at me like I am a bit on the crazy side and he tells me that “no, you won’t ever go upside down”. So who am I supposed to believe – the nice guy in our group with the poker face or the instructor who is trying to avoid having me go into the screamin’ meemies?
Then the nice guy standing next to me tells me that the hardest thing is to run off the edge of the platform that first time… it then hit me… I had to basically jump into thin air… oh dear God, what the heck was I doing???? Needless to say, my pulse started racing and I had an extreme hot flash like no menopausal woman has ever experienced… and we hadn’t even left the the building yet! Then I looked over at my friend Peggy… all 100 pounds of her in a petite 5’2″ frame and she was grinning from ear to ear! She was so excited to do this little adventure of ours and it was at that defining moment that I knew I was going to do this because I wasn’t going to let my friend down. I was going to pull up the bravery from my tippy toes and I was going to conquer my fears and embrace this experience if it was the last thing I did (and yes, I was praying big time that this would NOT be the last thing I did).
So off we went across the parking lot and climbed up the first tower on rickety steps and swaying wooden beams… and then it was time… I ran across that little platform and threw myself into thin air… and IT WAS AMAZING…and the second line was was just as amazing, as was the third… and the fourth… and the fifth… and the sixth (with speeds getting up to 50 mph)…and the seventh…
Zipling on seven different lines was an awesome experience but what was really the best part of this adventure was the opportunity to bond with a group of people I had never set eyes on before. There was the dad and son duo who were on their second time around because the first experience was so much fun…, there was the tall, lanky guy who was all legs and a big smile…, and his wife (who honestly said that this particular bucket list item was definitely off her list for good)…, and their friend who had the most comical air aerobics imaginable…, and then there was my friend Peggy with her contagious excitement and cheers for every one of us as we came in for each “landing”. Last but not least, were the two awesome guys who taught, led and protected us while throwing in a whole lot of humor to make this experience unforgettable.
So what did I learn?
- Courage is easier to embrace when not wanting to disappoint someone you care about (e.g. I could not let my friend Peggy down by backing out at the last minute).
- Letting go of control and flying by the seat of your pants once in a while can be exhilarating.
- Taking risk can be done safely as long as you listen and learn from those with experience.
- Some of your greatest supporters may be found in the most unlikely places
The Indian Point Zipline crew in beautiful Branson MO are the Best!
How have you conquered something you were fearful of? Did you learn anything that was unexpected at the time?