Face Your Fears. Amaze Yourself!
About 6 minutes to read
Do you remember a time as a child when a certain situation filled you with adrenaline and excitement yet today that same situation fills you with fear?
We are taught to face our fears, to conquer them, to face them head on but having fear has also been necessary for the propagation of the specifies. If we lacked fear and rush head first into every dangerous situation the outcome is obvious.
I recently faced a rational fear that had a certain amount of irrationality associated with it. This past weekend I went to a Tree Adventure Park to climb between trees while suspended 3-4 meters above the ground.
For others, this is no big deal as each weekend the park fills with all age groups moving agilely between the obstacle courses, zip lining between trees. However, for me it was a big deal as I have a rational fear of heights.
I do not fear heights as such, and can climb to any height I choose, I just cannot come down. I cannot take that first step to descend the ladder, tree, or roof. I cannot take that first step to leap off the platform or swing from the zip line or bungee. Regardless of the safety attachment and not being in mortal danger, I freeze and am overwhelmed with fear.
Why would I submit to such madness knowing my fear? My problem is I tend to forget how petrified I become and how irrational my fear of taking that first step is. I have a notoriously short memory in this regard.
Once again, I was in a fugue as I climbed three meters up a tree on Saturday and was faced with taking the first step off the platform. In front of me, was a fearless seven year old and locked in behind me was my friend and neighbour Katja. I had no choice, the only way out is forward, and I had to take that first step.
I learnt a few critical things related to facing this fear, which I think, can apply to other fearful situations.
Give yourself time
Following fear, my second reaction was extreme self-criticism. I was frozen in place, tense, muscles coiled, sweating profusely and extremely impatient with myself.
I loathed the fact that I was stuck in fear, my immediate reaction was to apologise profusely to Katja and to those waiting on the ground. I wanted to move on but in my paralysis, I could not.
I was not allowing myself grace to adjust to the situation, to find inner patience and fortitude. Those around me were extremely understanding and patient however I was not allowing myself time, I was, in those moments, my worst enemy.
I realised that I had to give myself time. Knowing that the only way out was forward, I allowed myself small doses of patience, I shut the self-critic out of my head, and I allowed the grace I was receiving from others to permeate my consciousness. I gave myself time.
Push yourself to move on
After giving myself time, I realised I had to push myself to move on.
I know this is a contradiction of what I said above, but actually, I wanted to do three things. Scream, cry, and refuse to move.
These were not rational or viable solutions and I had to dig deep within my internal resources and push myself to move on. What was crucial in this phase was not to push myself on with self-loathing and criticism but to encourage myself quietly, build on the small successes I was creating to keep the momentum going.
Change your thinking
The most difficult obstacles for me were those consisting of swinging log steps located below the platform level. Feeling paralysed, holding onto my safety line, needing to step down onto the first block, I found it almost impossible to take that first step.
I realised in those moments that I had to change my way of thinking. Instead of reinforcing my negative beliefs, I remembered that I was secure, would not fall to my death, that meeting the challenge was possible.
After achieving my first successes, I started to re-evaluate if I could face the challenges differently. Was it possible to enter the element from a sitting position? What worked the last time? How could I apply what I was learning to other challenges?
When I became stuck in my mind and thoughts, I was unable to generate action. Therefore, I continued to find new ways to propel my mind forward; I had to focus on the possibility of accomplishing the task and not on my perceived failure and real fear.
Ask for help
I became stuck on a zigzag element. The step out was quite large for both my arm and leg reach and on my first attempt I did everything wrong.
One of the staff members saw what I was doing and came over to offer advice on how to complete the element. He was very motivating, specific, and succinct in his instructions. Listening to the sound of his voice, I was immediately able to implement his directions.
Returning to his post and I realised I was more successful with him and I asked him to stay and help me. In that moment I did not care that I had the attention of many strangers watching me, I did not care how I appeared, I simply knew that I needed help and I asked for it.
Asking for help gave the people behind me knowledge to complete the element. Receiving help motivated and inspired us to continue and gave us the skills to attempt similar obstacles easily.
When stressed and fearful we undergo a physiological reaction, which does not always enable us to listen to the help others offer. In our tunnel vision, we can blend everything out and become fixated on our fear.
What worked for me was intently listening to the voice of my climbing companion Katja. Unhindered by fear, she could often see what I could not. Her instructions were clear and motivating and by focusing on her voice and listening intently, I was often able to complete an obstacle with less fear than if I had not listened to her.
The act of listening intently also enabled me to focus on something outside of myself, namely her voice, and it moved me slightly away from the fear that was so powerful. Moving outside of myself allowed me to create space for peace and stillness to enter.
Know when you are done
There was a moment as I was climbing up a steep ramp to the next challenge where I clearly heard my higher-self say, “Stop.”
It was not fear speaking but rather the voice of reason. My body was telling me enough; stop, no more.
I slowly reversed down the ramp, unhooked myself from the safety system, and stopped for the day. I knew that I was done. I had pushed myself mentally, emotionally and physically to my limit. I had nothing else to prove to myself, I had climbed enough, taken many quivering, fear filled steps, and I was done!
Stopping at the right moment, really listening to myself I felt a sense of accomplishment. Honestly, I did not feel “happy” but I knew that I had pushed myself farther than ever before.
Face Your Fears. Amaze Yourself!
I will not claim to have overcome my fear of descending from high places. I can say however, that I have gathered new skills and perhaps created new pathways in my brain to deal with this fear more easily next time.
I know that before I attempt this again I need to work on my upper body strength, tone and strengthen my arms, and create greater core strength. I need to trust my body to find its natural balance and I need to acknowledge myself for coming much farther than I have before.
We all face fears but within all of us lay the deep inner resources and resilience to embrace them and sometimes overcome them. We all have the potential to amaze ourselves, if we choose to