24 – Day 5 – Conquer Your Fears

What are your secret Fears?

This is a difficult question for many people. Because often, even acknowledging a fear is as good as setting it off. We often bury our fears around and behind so many barriers so as not to ever have to face them.

In reading the article that began this journey, the Conquering Your Fears task seemed more like another “Just Do It!” kind of thing. They picture rock climbers suspended in the air in hammocks – for fear of certain death should they roll our of bed on the “Wrong Side.” What better way to illustrate things that that are fears to conquer then looking at something that makes me cringe and my stomach tie up in knots.

Extreme Selfies

An example that we see blowing up the internet over the past few years is extreme Selfies. These are pictures of people in dangerous (usually super high and impossible) locations, taken with selfie sticks from a high angle.

To me they seemed like the next generation of planking photos (people taking pictures posed prone and stiff as a board). These were often in weird or ironic locations like in front of a sign or at the entrance to a building. I think that a few of them were taken in places like the edge of a building or on the cliff in front of the Grand Canyon.

After seeing so many of them, business owners and many others started banning the practice of plank pictures. I tended to think it was because they were so embarrassing.

But any search on the word “Extreme Selfies” will get you a plethora of gut wrenching pictures.

Fear is Not a Factor

The idea of facing your fears has become a theme in many reality TV shows. Consider Survivor – where contestants are placed on an island and forced to brave the elements and challenging tasks to become the sole survivor. Each season there is at least one contestant that has joined just to say that they have faced their fears.

Another show, Fear Factor, gets directly to our point. What scary things might you face in order to win money. And then you can watch the people have to eat disgusting things, handle snakes and bugs, perform tasks at heights or at fast speeds. Call the winners the ones with the least fears or the most nerve or just lucky.

We watch these shows for so many reasons. Maybe we want to see them fail. That way you can say you aren’t so bad, since someone else was more scared than you might be. Or you can cheer the winners for conquering those fears.

While I admit to enjoying these contests, I also remember that its just a show. Should someone actually be in danger of falling 200 feet face first and dying, that would be something. For any horror fans, you might want to pick up the book The Running Man. It was made into a terrible movie with Arnold Schwarzenegger. It almost perfectly predicted where Reality TV could go in a dystopian future. Where people agree to try to win life changing amounts of money. But the cost mught be that they cut off their hand, are permanently maimed or something horrible like that. Reality TV today does not go that far. But depending much people’s value of life falls, who knows where we might end up.

And What About Real Life Fears

When I first though about this, I thought of my own irrational fears. Snakes for one. Hate them. Or tight enclosed places. NO NO NO!

But I think even worse than any of these are the real life horrors. There are those of us who lost people close to them at an early age. My Dad dies when I was 25. Many of my own fears surround the loss of people close to me suddenly now. I worry about my health and that I do not fall into the traps that killed him.

Even worse, consider life threatening diseases. I remember when I was in 2nd grade, a girl a few years older than I was contracted Cancer. It was leukemia. I knew about her through a friend on my street who knew her. But I saw it more first hand as her sister was in my class.   As she fought the disease, we would see her at school. And then we wouldn’t. We heard word when she passed, and no one was prepared for how to handle it.

This was the 70’s. Cancer wasn’t mainstream news, though it was obviously all over the place. We did not have councilors or safe spaces. I remember that was a fear I held onto for years. The fear of getting cancer. Or of someone I knew getting cancer.

Add this real life experience to people who experience trauma, death of a parent, death of a family member, loss of a pet.

I often wonder at slasher movies. Not only is the death happening through the movie. But think of the aftermath that they do not show. Consider how often cop dramas show the main characters shooting guns and killing people. Then how often do you see those characters curled up in a ball in the corner of a closet dealing with the trauma.

Trauma and Fear Happen

So whether it is facing extreme fears, or the horrors of daily life, what we are talking about is how you face these fears and how you deal with them.

The point of this challenge is to actively confront extreme conditions. Look them in the face without batting an eye. Or maybe you do bat an eye and then figure out how to get past it. What are the things going through your mind. Are they stopping you and holding you back? Or are they saving you from doing something that could get you killed?

I think about how often I stood in the brink of Stoneman Bridge in Yosemite, deciding whether or not to jump off. It was only a short drop – maybe 20-25 feet. The water deep enough – though maybe only 50 degrees if we were lucky. Done it a bunch of times. But standing there, the old fears return. You face them, and then take the step.