When was the last time you did something that absolutely terrifies you?
Fear is a strange thing. It’s kept our species alive for millennia, by preventing individuals from repeating dangerous acts; at the same time fear imprisons us, keeps us taking the ‘safe’ path so that we don’t do anything different, try anything new, and risk loss or injury. Yet if we want to become more than we are, we must deliberately challenge our own fears, move past them over and over again, until the fear no longer raises its hand against us. And the strangest thing about fear is that chemically, the neuropeptides released in the brain by fear are exactly the same as the peptides released by excitement.
We get to choose how we feel about an event. We can decide to attach fear… or excitement. And however we choose is what we will feel, every time we remember the experience.
Of all the fears that we develop, we’re only born with two: Fear of loud noises; fear of falling. I don’t know why that is. But I know that I’ve been absolutely phobic about falling for most of my forty-two years. I’m fine so long as my feet are on something solid. I can look down from great heights and only marvel at how far I can see. I’m fine with my feet on shifting ground so long as I keep myself from thinking about falling. But let my mental self-discipline slip; let me feel myself fall, with nothing under my feet; and I panic, no matter how securely I’m held.
For years, I pushed at the edges of the fear, daring it – daring myself. With roller coasters, mostly. But always the terror waited just beneath my false courage. I could feel it sitting there, coiled, ready and waiting to strike – and I absolutely wouldn’t try bungee jumping. So what kind of progress was I making in trying to desensitize myself, really?
That was why, on my first cruise, I chose parasailing as a shore excursion, even though the tour of Avalon and the Botanical Gardens were more my speed.
I’d signed up ahead of time. Around that same time I started learning about brain peptides and how to properly employ the power of the subconscious mind. And I was left with the question: Is conquering fear really that simple? Not easy, but simple – I just pick what emotion I’m going to associate with the experience, and voila?
The morning of the excursion, I was feeling more trepidation than anticipation. Botanical Gardens and a ride in a glass-bottomed boat was sounding more and more attractive as I bid ‘farewell’ and ‘have fun’ to Don, Leanne, Lee, and Jerry. As we boarded the boat, I wondered if it was too late to change my mind.
No. No, no, no! I had decided to do this. I was going to do it! I was going to fly and I was going to have fun – even if it killed me!
Ted and I were third in a group of four. We motored into the bay; our crew released the sail in the shape of a giant Jack o’ Lantern – appropriate, given that it was just after Halloween. The chute luffed, then caught the wind and filled out, dragging on the boat and jostling us just a little. (Wish I’d had the GoPro set and recording for that!) We were given a brief rundown of what was about to take place – I didn’t really take in very much of it. The first set of our fellow flyers went up and came back all smiles; of the second, one asked me to take pictures of her with her camera. An avid camera hound, I was only too happy to oblige.
And then it was Ted’s and my turn. We were hooked to the bar that in turn was tied to the parachute, our weight difference carefully balanced, and… well, you can watch the video. You will hear the exact moment I consciously decided I was going to attach excitement to this experience, not fear.
It really is that simple.
Do something that scares you. I dare you. And I double-dare you to attach excitement instead of fear, and see what happens.