Ranted on: October 11, 2007 @ 11:11 am
So, yesterday I went Rockclimbing with Merlin. This is an activity that, when I agreed to go, I obviously hadn't thought through. Because, see, I have a completely irrational fear of falling. It's not heights I have a problem with, and it's not the landing either. It's the actual *sensation* of falling, of moving in a swift downward motion that is completely beyond my control.
So, naturally, I climbed down any walls I climbed up. This worked fine until I got stuck up the top of a firemans pole that I couldn't just slide down. But I don't want to talk about that, or the extended amount of time I spent up there.
My point is, this fear is *irrational*. I was perfectly safe, as shown by the many children (both big and small) that were quite happy to leap off the top of walls and descend safely to the ground (the harness were attached to a study cable that obviously had a dampener or something clever engineering-wise, so when you dropped it was in a safe, controlled manner).
Logically, I understand that I was in no danger. And yet I still couldn't make myself let go of the wall and drop safely to the ground. On the few (very few) occasions that I slipped and dropped the half metre to the ground (I didn't go higher if I wasn't anchored, or if I didn't think I could get back down), I shook and pawed the ground with my body to make sure that, yes, I was *back on the ground*. To reassure myself that I was okay, and that there was no need for the panic, nor the shaking hands.
According to Wiki, Fear is an emotional response to impending danger. It's a survival mechanism, and usually occurs in response to a specific negative stimulus.
Now, the problem is that yes, my fear of falling is an emotional response to, well, falling. I can see the survival instinct, and the danger in falling in an environment without safety harnesses. But what I can't understand is my refusal to align the logical knowledge that there was no danger, with the fear that said there was.
Watson and Ekman (behavioural theorists) have both suggested that fear, along with a few other basic emotions is a trait innate to most higher functioning organisms. (Again, thanks Wiki).
If we assume that I am a higher functioning organism, then my fear (the fear itself, not the falling) is innate. Understandable, okay. It means that feeling fear wasn't established by conditioning or learning. If feeling fear is innate, and I haven't learned it, then how am I to avoid the cognitive dissonance of fear that tells me I'm in danger when I know I'm not?
If I have no control over feeling fear then I have no control over the fear I feel thats associated with falling. The fear I feel is completely irrational.
Still, there are more irrational fears than mine out there. While falling obviously has a possibly dangerous consequence, I have a friend who is terrified of cotton wool. You can literally chase him around the house, almost reducing him to tears with a baby piece of cotton wool. This isn't a guy most would expect that from, he is a qualified snowboard instructor and spends most of his days at the snow jumping from cliffs and breaking collarbones in the halfpipe. And yet cotton wool frightens him.
I'm not really sure where I am going with this, because I don't think I understand enough about it. There are steps you can take, people you can talk to to reduce your fear of something. It worries me that my innate emotions are telling me I'm in danger when my head is telling me I'm not. Still, I should be happy. Falling is easier to avoid than cotton wool, right?