By now, unless you live under a rock, you have likely seen the Will Smith skydiving video that went viral. As much as I hate to say it, his video was spot on, at least for me. Conquering your fear and stepping out of that door is the first step in one's journey to flight. But managing your fear long term is an absolute requirement for earning your wings in any sort of way that ends with you being a licensed skydiver.
So what is fear? And how can we better understand it so we can better understand how to manage it and use it in order to keep safe but have fun while skydiving?
Well for starters you need to understand fear is not just an emotion but rather a biochemical response to perceived danger. It is something our body has been conditioned to create as a part of our human evolution. To be candid without fear the human species would not have made it this far so it is with fears help that humanity has survived.
Fear can cause your heart rate to increase, your body to start sweating, and your adrenaline glands to start pumping. For some of us this causes a negative reaction psychologically and for others, it creates a positive reaction. Either which way it is our body telling us to be careful and we should be listening.
By listening, I mean you should know how to manage the danger and make things more safe-ish. For example, I am still suffering from fear of the door being open at low altitudes. To be candid, 33 jumps in the door monster below 5k feet scares the shit out of me. FUCK YOU DOOR MONSTER!!!!! A more seasoned jumper has given me some tools to help me manage through that fear and that tool is called rationale -- go figure.
I mean, the reality is what the heck am I really afraid of? I have a parachute on. My goal is to exit the plane. If I fall out at I should immediately pull my emergency handle. If I do it will be a-ok. Even if I didn't do that I get stable instantly so even without emergency procedures I would likely be ok.
You see the sport of parachuting is designed by default to keep you safe(ish). However, there is an unfortunate thing that happens as you begin to conquer your fear -- acclimation. The more you do it, the less your body will be triggered to create the fear reaction. This is where some of us in the sport get into trouble. Our perception of perceived danger gets skewed. As you advance in your skydiving career and as I advance in my own it is paramount that we remember what we are doing is dangerous. As we get more and more experienced our tolerance for danger increases and we need to never forget our safety measure. We must always maintain a rational mindset as we push our skills. If not we will put ourselves in non-safeish scenarios and add to the cyclical fear machine for others if we get hurt or killed.
Fear, I have learned, is natural and the greatest tool to keep you rational. Embrace your fear as you approach skydiving and advance in your career but never forget to maintain your rational brain. The sport, if you follow protocol & instruction, is a generally safe sport. If you haven't gone and are too afraid to, you should consider the fact that rationally speaking the most dangerous thing about going skydiving is the drive to the drop zone (if you follow protocol).
Ultimately fear is what helps us get that adrenaline rush. By embracing your fear you are providing yourself the opportunity for that rush. Rationality is what keeps us safe and ensures we respect what we are doing and never lose that oh so critical perception of danger. What you learn is as you embrace rationality and conquer your fears you begin to grow as a human. Will Smith said on the other side of fear is freedom. Really what is on the other side of fear? Will Smith might say freedom, but I say it is something else. It is emotional power and rational knowledge and through those things, one can free themselves from the perceptions that limit us as humans.
*information sourced from https://www.verywell.com/the-psychology-of-fear-2671696