The Fear of Falling

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Wile E Coyote Going Over a CliffI’ve spent a lot of time thinking about my fears lately. For me, one of my biggest is the fear of falling. Some of my worst nightmares involve either actively falling or those final terrifying seconds just before I slip off the edge of some precipice into a yawning abyss.

*shudders*

 

When I stop and think about it during my (safer) waking hours, the scary part about falling isn’t really the fall itself; it’s the expectation of what’s waiting at the bottom of that drop that gives me the shivers.

While I was mulling that thought over last week, I remembered something I’d learned years ago about walking, of all things.  But it made me stop everything I was doing right then and give it my full attention.

Walking is nothing more than controlled falling.

I know it might sound a little crazy at first, but it’s true. If you’re not convinced, try this little experiment. Stand up, right where you are with both feet firmly on the floor. Now, WITHOUT leaning forward, raise one foot out in front of you like you’re about to take a step.

What happened?

Probably nothing.  Most likely (unless your balance is a bit off), you’re simply standing there with one foot in the air. (You look silly by the way, but I’m not laughing. I promise. *ahem*) Okay, assuming you’re still standing on one foot, go ahead and give into gravity and let yourself fall forward onto your extended foot.

See? You’ve just taken step. Do it again and you’re walking. But you can’t do either one without falling first.  So, if walking is actually falling, why aren’t those of us who are afraid of falling also afraid of walking? It all goes back to that word: control.

We’ve learned to control the fall.

We learn to walk before we’re old enough to let our fear of falling down keep us from trying. Eventually, through practice and experience, we learn to change our expectation about what’s really waiting for us at the bottom of that (albeit short) drop following each step. Because we learned to control the fall, we know what’s waiting at the bottom is just another place to set our foot so we can take our next step. It’s only in the act of letting go and allowing ourselves to fall  that we’re able to stop falling and actually walk. If we don’t risk the fall, we can keep ourselves safe, but the cost is that we’ll have to stay where we are.  Without risk, we’ll never go anywhere.

Period.

It’s only by deliberately risking the fall:
That anything can change.
That anything will change.
That everything will change.

So what about you? Are any of your fears holding you back? Is there something you want to do (something need to do) but you’re too afraid to try?

Do yourself a favor. . .

Trust yourself. Let go of your fear. Risk the fall. Welcome the experience and learn from it. Then, take control.  You know how.

Remember, you’ve only been doing it all your life.

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NOTE:
Please embrace your fears responsibly. The practice of learning to overcome fears through experience should not be applied using actual, life-threatening fears which are outside of your control such as severe weather, natural disasters or the zombie apocalypse.

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15 Responses to The Fear of Falling

  1. Alina says:

    I think I’m going to have to go for overcoming my zombie apocalypse fear, just so I can test out my “dandelions as survival-rations” theory. ;D

    What a great post John! Got me thinking. But you’d *better* not have been laughing at me while I was standing in one foot…

    • Thanks, Alina! That’s one fear I wouldn’t want to have a lot of practice with. Even so, now you’ve got me wondering if zombies might be willing to eat dandelions instead of brains . . . Hmm.

  2. Liza Kane says:

    “It’s only in the act of letting go and allowing ourselves to fall that we’re able to stop falling and actually walk. If we don’t risk the fall, we can keep ourselves safe, but the cost is that we’ll have to stay where we are. Without risk, we’ll never go anywhere.”

    Love this post! Even though I struggle every day to overcome the “I sucks” I learn SO MUCH about myself and my writing process with every word I manage to scribble on to a page.

  3. Michele Shaw says:

    Such an awesome post! What a spectacular way to look at this. I’m not afraid to walk, so why am I afraid in many other aspects of my life? I really do need to let go and take that plunge more often. I get so nervous when my work is out for a read, but the worst that can happen is for someone to say it sucks. Really. That’s it. Thanks for this! Great inspiration!

  4. "Walking is nothing more than controlled falling." The Fear of Falling http://t.co/GX4PIRYG via @JReaHedrick

  5. "Walking is nothing more than controlled falling." The Fear of Falling http://t.co/GX4PIRYG via @JReaHedrick

  6. Such a great post, John! “@JReaHedrick: @TracyClark_TLC I hope this helps. :) http://t.co/SRJ1dLSR”

  7. Laura says:

    WONDERFUL post. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Pingback: Field Trip Friday: March 30, 2012 | YA Highway

  9. I’ve been reading several other emails this past week about controlling one’s fears and learning how to use them to one’s advantage. And yours was a perfect, humorous way to top them off! I try to remind myself of the “no guts, no glory” advice when faced with my fears. Sometimes that wins out; other times, the fear still wins out.

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