Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Day 9 of 365: Some Fears Just Aren't Worth Facing

I have a fear of heights. The level of fear varies, from a slight vertigo when looking down from a tall bridge to a dread so intense that my toes dig into my shoes in an attempt to be more firmly planted on the ground.

If only to mock the very phobia I have, I've gone skydiving, hang gliding... I've been to the top of the CN Tower and Empire State Building and Gateway Arch and looked down at all three places as much I could. I love climbing to the tops of mountains and I love looking over cliffs into vast valleys below. I go flying as often as possible and have been trying to nail down a time to rock climb for the last month (something I was going to do with one of my friends back in May, but we ended up putting an offer on our house that day instead). I seek out heights like a masochistic on the loose

There are other fears that I have: fear of driving by big rigs, fear of active volcanoes, fear of calling up a complete stranger and having to ask them for something (even if it's their job to provide whatever it is I'm asking). All of which I intentionally find situations that make me face said fears. While a healthy dose of caution is good when driving by a big rig or spending time by an active volcano, having outright fears just don't make sense. Fear limits me, and I'm not really a fan of being limited. So I face my fears. I pass big rigs on highways and call up whoever I need to call up. There aren't exactly any active volcanoes in the Northeast, but I'm still working on a way to spin "Vacation in Hawaii" as purely a way for me to confront my fear.

However, there is just one fear that I refuse to confront: my fear of spiders. I'm the type of arachnophobic where just seeing a spider can throw me into severe fight or flight. And, out of all the things to be afraid of, this one seems the silliest. Especially in the Northeast, where a spider bite results in a lovely micro-wound and nothing else.

When I confront my other fears (and walk away in one piece), I feel exhilarated. I get a rush unlike any other, which propels me forward to confront even more fears. When I confront a spider and walk away in one piece, I have only one thought on my mind: "Why the hell did I do THAT?"

However, that isn't to say that I'm not learning to control my fear. Where I used to focus on the "flight" portion of my "fight or flight", I am now shifting my mindset more and more towards "fight". And it's been pretty successful. I see a spider and, before I can react in any other way, I find a heavy object (a few times I was so bold as to use a tissue) and kill it. Then I do my little heeby-jeeby dance and shudder at the thought of a spider being so close to me.

Confronting fears is a pretty empowering act. But learning to cultivate that fear into stoic violence works in a pinch, too.

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