Is the Fear of Heights Illogical?

When we are born, we have a fear of loud noises. That's about it, actually. Every other fear is learned, either by experience, or by constant conditioning of those around us.

Our parents constantly told us not to do stuff. Like don't put things in the plug ins. Don't run with sissors. Don't burn the house down. You'll poke an eye out. You'll break your neck. All these little motivational pep talks, its a wonder we even bother to get out of bed anymore!

The really weird thing is how different siblings are groing up. Maybe parents over compensate then adjust? Hopefully parents get better over time right? haha

My brother, who is less than 2 years younger than me, was totally fearless as a kid. Me, I'd often hurt myself being too careful. If given a chance to get down off of something high, I'd slide down, and scrape myself raw in the process. Kevin would just jump and not even slow down to think about it.

Lately, I've been helping Kevin build a porch. I might have mentioned it? Well, we're now putting the roofing on. The "hard" part is done now, all the sheeting is up, so we have lots of solid stuff to stand on. Now we're just putting on the tar paper, and the shingles. Kevin used to do roofing professionally, so he knows all the tricks and which way to put the shingles so the water actually stays out of the inside. Good stuff to pay attention to. I might even be learning a thing or two!

The low side of the roof is maybe 8 feet above the ground. No, its actually less than that, because I can reach things on the roof from the ground. Its a low roof. So there is no serious fear of actually dying from falling off. Maybe hurting a bit, but no serious damage. And yet, going up the ladder and stepping onto the roof, I was still nervous.

Yes, the roof is kind of steep. And if you're not careful, and step on a scrap of a shingle or something, you can slip. But people do this kind of thing all the time. I am wearing my good work boots. I have pretty good traction up there. And even if I do slip, I'll probably walk away from it.

Some fears are helpful, healthy. They keep us from doing stupid things, most of the time. My question for you today, is can "reasoning" overcome fear? Like today, as I was going onto the roof, I knew, logically, that my boots had good traction, that it wasn't very high, and I'd already been up there a few days ago when we put up the plywood. No problem.

But I've always been nervous off the ground. I've never really had a bad fall that I can remember. I've had ladders slide, and I've had times where I kind of had to jump sooner than I wanted to, but I don't think I've ever really hurt myself from being up high. So, where did this fear come from? And maybe more useful, can it be managed or even eliminated?

Experience can be a great teacher. When you have an unfounded, or exagerated fear, and if you focus on the fear, and the bad outcome, fear can be paralyzing. But if you get out there, and be careful, and kind of test yourself, you may find its not so bad after all. Do it successfully enough times, and you will eventually find the confidence you need to relax, and get good at it.

What are some other fears we have... how about public speaking? Oh crap thats a big one isn't it? I have heard that most people would rather go to the dentist than stand up infront of 20 people and talk. (I kind of feel sorry for dentists, personally, that's got to be a tough job, no one likes going to the dentist!)

Funny side story, I'm VERY shy in "real life". I don't have many real friends. Don't tell that to the few thousand people I'm friends with on Facebook and Twitter right? Well, being very introverted and shy, I had to learn ways to kind of break out of my shell. So, imagine me as a wedding photographer. Suddenly I find myself as the person who has to tell everyone where to stand, to smile, (I had to smile too!) If you told most of my customers that I was shy, they probably wouldn't believe you! I still can't believe I did that for 10 years!

Here's a trick I learned. Maybe it will help you too? First off, most people are shy, and have some fears of the unknown. In fact, the loudest, most outspoken people you know may well be over compensating for being shy. Weird right?

When I was "on the job", be it wedding photographer, or security guard, or computer salesperson, I wasn't shy, because I had on my "costume" and I was playing a role, like an actor. I can be funny, be happy, be outgoing, asking people questions, telling stories, leading a conversation, what ever fits the role.

So, why not "be" the same things when I'm not on the job? Have you ever heard the term "Fake it till you feel it"? See, Fear is as much a habit as anything else. If you can take that first step, your fear is reduced. You probably won't fall off the roof the first time you're up there. The first person you say Hi to probably won't slap you and kick you in the shins.

If either of these have happened to you, please do say something in the comments. I don't mind being wrong once in a while!

And hey, if you really are uncomfortable on ladders, or talking to big groups of people, there's no need to force yourself to do it, if its really not your thing. But you might be amazed at how quickly you get used to it, if you give it a chance!

By Carlin Comm posted on 2010-10-21 07:14:05