Published: June 28, 2016
It's pretty common that first-time tandem skydivers come to the dropzone with a goal in mind: to finally conquer their fear of heights. These brave souls figure that making that jump is going to blow that nagging nervousness out of the water, once and for all. Seems logical, right?
The thing is: it won't...but it will actually do much more for you.
Here are three things you need to know about your fear of heights in the context of skydiving. They're going to surprise you!
1. You Didn't Develop Your Fear Of Heights. You Were Born With It.
Unless you are a biological anomaly, you're afraid of heights. That's for a very good reason.
While most fears are indeed learned--like spiders, or clowns, or haggis--we as humans have at least a couple of fears that come standard. These are built into our brains from the very start to protect us. One of these is--you guessed it--the fear of heights or acrophobia.
Check out this classic study, done many years ago. In the study, a baby was placed on one of two tables, set up a few feet from each other, with a big piece of clear plexiglass covering the gap. The plexiglass was thick and wide enough to easily allow the baby to crawl from opaque table to opaque table. Guess what? They didn't. Almost every baby was, like, NOPE.
Why? Because a baby doesn't know what plexiglass is, and it looked like an attempted crawl-across would result in a fall. Kittens wouldn't cross it, either. But ducklings? No problem. (Takeaway: wings seem to help a lot with the whole acrophobia thing.)
2. Your Fear Of Heights Doesn't Really Come Into Play On A Skydive.
From the exit altitude, the world below you doesn't look like it does from the edge of a cliff or a bridge or a building. It looks a lot like a map, actually--because the triggering sense of depth is removed. Fear of heights doesn't really engage in the airplane; the stimulation comes instead from the new environment; the new sounds; the new sensations.
3. This Isn't Really About Your Fear Of Heights, Anyway.
Afraid of heights? You're not alone. A very large proportion of skydivers (and BASE jumpers, too!) are technically very actively "afraid of heights"--and they don't mind. Why? Because every time they make a jump, they're improving confidence, creating a healthier perspective on obstacles in life and sharing landmark moments with close friends.
Doesn't that sound better than just being a little less specifically afraid?
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» Michelle W.