I always used to think I was not very good at overcoming my fears. Yet after some careful thinking, I realised it wasn’t that I was poor at overcoming fear itself, it was that I was poor at overcoming a fear which was of imagined high importance to me personally. It seemed to me that jumping out of a plane with a parachute, caused a large amount of apprehension and in some ways a fear, but the thrill of jumping out of a plane overrode the fear and made it seem unimportant. So in my mind this was an imagined fear of little to no importance, so easy to overcome.
As I have now thought about this further I can add another scenario. I recently went down a Lead Mine with a group of friends, about a month ago.
Whilst standing in a tunnel of the man-made part of the mine, waiting to enter the mine properly, the guide was talking telling us do’s and don’ts, the usual stuff. My anxiety and claustrophobic fear was rising like mercury in a thermometer. I did not want to be in that tunnel surrounded by people, standing in a foot of water, I wanted to get out. But my thrill seeking side did not, it could not wait to get inside, but unlike the plane it was not winning the battle. What made me calm down and be able to control my anxiety, and reclaim my composure was logic. I reasoned that this mine was safe as houses, since the guides came down here every week. I thought of it as a ride at a theme park, terrifying but also very safe, as soon as my mind logically formed this belief, I was fine.
We walked through the narrowing tunnel into the mine itself, shorn out of solid rock it gave me an incredible buzz, I was scared stiff and fearless at the same time. When we reached one of the narrow sections of the mine, so narrow you had to shuffle through your face spiting dust from the gravel and small rocks, covering the floor. If anyone overweight had been in there they would have not got through, but it felt great. We then went through an even tighter crack in the bedrock, memories of the film “The Descent” sprang into my mind. The gap was so tight my arse cheeks were touching the ceiling, as I slowly shuffled through first, inch by inch.
The guide then told us that in one group, a man trying to get through ‘The Hobbits Revenge’, I think the tiny crack was called, started to panic and tried to rip all his clothes off, refusing to move. These are the types of reasons why I like to either be first or at least near the front. Then we were taken to a small room sized opening, and we all had to switch our lamps off, it was pitch dark, you could hear nothing, you could see nothing, it was an eerie sensation, like being suffocated in black paint or inside a dark, sound proofed, room, or worse still, alone in the deepest void in space, where no light has ever reached. The guide lit a candle, it was sinister light. He told us that this tiny candle was all the miners had to see with, as they worked their long shifts. He then snuffed it out once more and we sat in silence. I hated that part, it was spooky, and made you feel like you were stuck in limbo, between two worlds. Eventually I was relieved when he said we could put the lamp’s back on, and we headed towards a part of the mine the guide called Neptune’s playground. I reasoned this was the moment we got wet, and I hoped whatever Neptune’s playground was, it was worth the plunge.
We reached a small hollow and below I could see the water, it was so clear, it looked so pure. The guide jumped in and the water went up to his neck, I was horrified. Not thinking I jumped into the water, holy shit, it was cold, bloody freezing, my head was just above the waterline and I had my arms in the air, as we started along a passageway. The passageway was just above my head, and as I bobbed along I did not care, I could hardly get my breath, the water was so cold. Finally after about 50 metres, we entered Neptune’s playground, what a disappointment it was just another room sized opening, just this one was nearly full of water. It was so cold, my balls had migrated north, and I was wishing I had not been at the front of the queue to get into this bloody water. I have to be at or near the front, especially in small cramped spaces as I mentioned earlier. There is no way I would’ve wanted to be behind a bloke, screaming his head off, refusing to move, and trying to take his clothes off, in a space no larger then the width of your body. Especially if you are in the same tight crack in the bedrock and someone is right behind you and it is impossible to turn around, no way, José.
Finally we left Neptune’s playground, drenched through, trudging wellies full of water, freezing cold, yet exhilarated, and as we all left the mine, you could feel a sense of, “we did it” attitude. But the true thrill hit happened later, when you felt a strong buzz, like you were high on drugs; there is no feeling like it. And the more we talked about the whole experience, the better it became in my mind. And then I realised a weird thing, it was that imagining the experience was far, far more terrifying than the actual experience itself. And I really hope I can learn a valuable lesson from it, about my important fears and anxieties, and how to overcome them.