I think we’ve all heard about this tactic to help conquer your fears – it involves facing what you’re afraid of head on, and hoping you don’t pass out in the meantime. Whether it’s spiders, snakes, or heights most people will tell you how “it’s not that bad.” No matter how much you fear something, no one can make you confront it if you are not willing.
I’m scared of poisonous snakes, crocodiles, and sometimes the dark (especially after a scary movie). But what I want to talk about today is a fear and avoidance of truly being frightened. I want to distinguish this from the fright I get from watching scary movies: I willing bring that terror onto my self, I welcome it. And I know that the movie is not real. I’m talking about fright that occurs from events in the real world.
Let me tell you a little story to clarify what I mean about a fear and avoidance of truly being frightened.
A few years ago, during winter break, I went to Mountain Creek up in Vernon Township, NJ to ski; it was a ladies promotional day and we received a discount on the rental gear. I had never gone skiing before — my parents preferred to stay indoors rather than outdoors when there was snow on the ground. I believe this was also my cousin’s first time skiing, or she hadn’t gone in years. Either way, we agreed that it was a good idea to sign up for a ski lesson and learn the basics over a few hours. We got accustomed to walking with the skis on our feet, went down a really tiny snow covered mound, and practiced moving our skis into the position necessary to stop or slow down. After practicing our newly cultivated skills on this barely-even-an-incline-slope, my cousin and I, feeling confident, headed over to the ski lift to try out the big girl bunny hill.
As we went up, the nerves hit me. Compared to the ant hill that we had just spent a few hours on, this bunny hill that we were about to tackle was more like a mountain. It took me a few moments to actually go down the hill after getting to the top, and as soon as I started sliding down the slope, I immediately regretted my decision. Gravity was affecting me a lot more than I had anticipated and I was flying — or at least it felt like I was. Wind whipping my face, zipping past young children who making their way down the hill, I was panicking. Honestly. I tried moving my skis as one does when they want to stop, but that didn’t work. Scared that I was going to take out some poor, unsuspecting child due to my inability to ski, I purposely leaned to one side and made myself fall and stop moving. I did this a few times until I was about 2/3 down the slope. I wondered whether going down that tiny mound a few more times would have prepared me more… probably not.
Anyways, I’m 2/3 down the hill and I tell myself I’m going to make it to the bottom without making myself fall. I stand up and go… aaaaaand then I want to stop. I am going much faster than I wanted, the stop method still wasn’t working, and there was a crowd of people gathered at the bottom of the hill that I was sure I’d strike out. It was during this last stretch of skiing that I got truly frightened and experienced the emotion in a way I had never before. I didn’t think that I was going to die, but I thought I was seriously going to injure myself and others. I was completely out of my element, recklessly out of control, and I didn’t like the feeling. I didn’t feel free, but confined.
Seasoned skiers may read this have no idea what I am talking about. But whatever I felt that day has kept me away from the slopes ever since. A lot of my friends enjoy skiing and want me to go along, but I can’t. They’ll say, “Oh that was just one time, just try it again. It’ll be better.” Perhaps, but maybe not. I’m not too willing to find out.
I fear the feeling I got when I went skiing for the first time. I want to avoid experiencing that same fright and terror for the time being. Maybe in the future I’ll have the desire to give skiing another shot, but until then, I am perfectly content staying indoors, with my blankets and hot chocolate.