Parachutes and Needles: How identifying and overcoming our fears can help us truly come alive
Last year, some friends and I huddled together for a final picture before we boarded an aircraft. We planned to take a plunge into the air, thousands of feet above the surface of the earth. Why? I wondered, myself. Later, I asked my friends why they did it.
Paul responded, “I went skydiving for the thrill.”
Joni said, “I chose to skydive because it was on my bucket list—to really feel the freedom of falling, but still be alive at the end. To really do something different in my life. To spice it up.”
So, we have our reasons—strange or unearthly as they may be. We also have our own ways of dealing with and overcoming fear. I watched with great interest as Paul calmly entered the aircraft. He moved as though he was making his way into a buffet. He talked and laughed. He was actually enjoying the whole experience. Joni, on the other hand, looked as though she was seeing demons. Her skin color turned white. She was as stiff as a statue as she postured herself in front of the door.
I’ve also witnessed such differences in my patients when receiving injections. For some, uncovering the needle was like introducing them to their final doom. Cries, screams, I’ve even seen grown men crawling up the wall in an effort to get away from the needle. Still, others simply sit quietly, without even a flinch. I remember one gentleman requesting me to not inject any anesthetic before suturing his hand. He simply said, “Ah, I don’t need that. I’ve learned to block it out.” And he did! I sutured multiple lacerations without him moving an inch. It baffled me.
When I questioned Paul and Joni further about their individual experiences with skydiving, Paul stated, “Don’t get me wrong—when I thought about what I was doing—jumping from an airplane—I thought I was crazy. But, I realized that, statistically, you have more risk every time you get in your car than jumping from an airplane with a parachute, a good instructor, and team. Trusting the equipment and the knowledgeable team put my mind at ease, and helped me overcome the fear.”
Joni exclaimed, “I had to overcome and trust that the company and the guy I was jumping with would bring me back safe.”
I must admit, when the man strapped to my back slid us off the edge of a perfectly good aircraft into the open sky, I screamed like a baby. I was scared, thrilled, and excited all at the same time. And, well, I will admit it… I think a little urine ran down my pant leg.
I am not certain everyone needs the experience of jumping out of an airplane or skipping anesthesia when getting stitched up; however, I am certain that each of us have certain fears to overcome if we want to enjoy an experience of a lifetime. Identifying and overcoming our fears helps us to truly come alive.
Perhaps Thich Nhat Hanh said it best, “Fear keeps us focused on the past or worried about the future. If we can acknowledge our fear, we can realize that right now we are okay. Right now, today we are still alive, and our bodies are working marvelously. Our eyes can still see the beautiful sky. Our ears can still hear the voices of our loved ones.”
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