I believe fear was designed as nature’s way to force people to acknowledge and respect danger. That was all well and good centuries ago, maybe even just one century ago. However, in today’s world, it often gets in the way. It produces reactions that simply are not how we should react. For example, have you ever been in a car accident? What reaction did fear produce in you? Let me see if I can guess. Either, you froze, you braced yourself for impact, you slammed the brakes to the floor, you spun the steering wheel as far as it could go, you covered you face with your arms or hands, or a combination of any of those. Is that the best thing you could have done in the situation? If you froze, that’s bad. You did nothing to avoid or lessen the impact. The same applies to bracing yourself or covering your face. If you slammed the breaks to the floor, that’s bad. Pumping the breaks would have slowed you much faster. If you spun the wheel all the way, that’s bad. You probably went into a spin or at least a skid. If you slammed the breaks and spun the wheel, you definitely went into a spin. Wouldn’t it have made much more sense to have turned the wheel a little, or pumped the breaks or a compromise between the two? Could you have avoided or lessened the impact? My point is this, as long as you acknowledge and respect danger, you should overcome all fears in your life. It does more harm than good. If you do not have fear in your life, you will find yourself enjoying life much more. You will also find that you go further, and do more, which will make you enjoy life even more. That will make you go further and do more. It’s a vicious, but good, cycle. This does not only apply to extreme activities such as skydiving. This affects your whole life. Throughout your homelife and your career, you will be in situations where fear can really slow or stop your progress. Why let it? Why not decide you aren’t going to allow fear to run your life? All you need to do is make a conscious decision. As long as you acknowledge and respect danger, there is no need for fear.
I always thought skydiving would be fun, but I was also always scared to death of heights. So, I never pursued skydiving. I just thought it was something I was not capable of doing. However, after I had decided to eliminate fear from my life, I realized that skydiving was now possible. So, after returning to Mass, after a tour of duty in Alabama (Air Force, and no I didn’t fly a plane), I decided it was time to confront my biggest fear.
As the plane was taking off for my first skydive, I was nervous. The higher we got, the more nervous I got. Then they opened the door. I could see people leaving the plane. Every time someone jumped, I could feel the plane adjust to its new weight. I got real nervous. Then, I saw the view from the door. I could see the threshold a few feet below my head (I was bent over), and the ground over two and a half miles below. That is absolutely the most terrifying scene I have ever witnessed. My body froze. However, as soon as my body froze I remembered my decision not to allow fear in my life. My brain shut down the fear and I walked to the door. I got into position and jumped without any hesitation. That was the greatest moment in my life to date. Nothing will ever compare to overcoming that fear.
If you are interested in how people have overcome fear, I have included a couple of pages about overcoming fear.
From: Hank Sohn
Date: Tuesday, November 19, 1996 2:01 AM
While I respect that everyone’s psyches are different, it is important to know that most skydivers do not overcome or eliminate fear as you would leave people to believe. After extensive sessions with fellow jumpers, I think it is more appropriate to say that we stop letting fear dictate our decisions and learn to enjoy it. The jumps you will remember are the scary ones (For me: watching a canopy open below me with visions of wrap in my head, AAD early fire on a student rig and two open canopies, night jump, etc.) A number of my friends were seriously hurt in a plane crash in VA this weekend. I am terrified to jump. That fear is there. And just as the decision to jump again after each of my other harrowing experiences led to an incredible, exhilirating jump, so will this.
We still know fear but it is a companion that reminds us we are alive not a snake whose bite paralyzes us. My first jumpmaster said,”I won’t take anybody up whose not a little scared, because those are the ones who are crazy, cocky or stupid, and those are the ones that end up dead.” Even jumpers with 1000’s still know fear; the ones who forget it do things like bail out to video a jump with no gear on (true story).
To: Hank Sohn
Subject: Re: Fear
Date: Wednesday, November 20, 1996 10:33 AM
I am sorry to hear about your friends in VA.
I will modify my site to more clearly indicate that my pages about fear describe my own feelings, not those of all skydivers. I am curious though, what led you to believe I was trying to speak for all skydivers? I specifically titled that section “My Feelings On Fear”. I don’t understand where you got that idea.
I guess I did not describe what I meant by “acknowledge and respect danger” well enough. I don’t think you understand what I mean. I strongly believe that someone who does not fear skydiving and does not acknowledge or respect the danger involved will end up dead. That is the person who will dive without a rig! However, I believe that someone who acknowledges and respects the danger in skydiving has a much better chance of surviving without injury than someone who fears the danger. Fear tends cause instinctive responses. Eventually any person will come across a situation that requires something other than instinct. If they fear the danger, they will most likely get hurt or killed. Just as someone who fears the danger, the person who acknowledges and respects fear works on safety procedures before and during the jump. However, they do not panic or rely on instinct when faced with a situation for which they didn’t prepare. Instead, they are still calm and able to think it through.
I think it’s disappointing that humans still feel the need for fear. I include myself in that statement! Everyone everywhere feels the pull of fear. However, I believe we do not need fear to survive. I believe fear no longer produces the responses that will save our lives in a dangerous situation. Today there are too many situations where instinct will produce a counterproductive action. I believe it is far more important for us to acknowledge and respect danger, by constantly working on and improving our safety procedures, and remaining calm and coherent during dangerous situations.
In an attempt to clarify my stance on fear, and the fact that I am not trying to speak for all skydivers, I would like to include your original email and this reply on my web site. Do you have any objections?
To: Hank Sohn
Subject: Fw: Fear
Date: Wed, 20 Nov 1996 10:43:00 -0500
One more thing I forgot to mention in my reply. On one of my jumps, I suffered slider lock, and my chute didn’t open. However, even though I wasn’t scared, I acted properly. As my chute finally opened, I watched the guy video taping my dive continue to fall. His chute didn’t open until he was 700 feet from the ground. As you can imagine, that was pretty scary. I thought I was going to watch him hit! However, that is not my most memorable dive. My most memorable dive was a sunset solo that went perfectly smoothly. The exit was good, the view was awesome, the maneuvers went smoothly, the chute ride was calm, the landing was soft. Nothing went wrong, nothing scary happened. However, it was beautiful and peaceful. That is what I consider memorable.