I am terrified of heights. So much so, in fact, that even the thought of flying results in a lingering dread that haunts me-albeit in a very small way (like a ghost of a gnat).This fear of heights also applies to things like mountains and buildings.
When I’ve been in skyscrapers, I always felt rather uncomfortable-as if, at any moment, the floors would vanish beneath me and I would be given a rather quick trip to the basement.
I have no idea why I have this fear-I’ve never had a really bad fall and I’ve never been in a plane crash. Often it seems that fears are just there. Since most people do get afraid when actually falling, perhaps it is just some over active set of neurons that get rather fired up about this matter.
Naturally, some people find this fear rather amusing and like to see how I’ll react to such situations. The very best of the lot was done by my ex-wife (this is not, I assure you, why she is my ex). We were visiting a park in Maine and she wanted to visit the top of the mountain. So, we were driving up the mountain road and, as always, I fell asleep in the car. Seeing this, she pulled right up the guard rail and awoke me by pushing my face into the window-so it seemed that I was about to fall off the side of the mountain. I’m reasonably sure that only years of running kept my heart from failing. But, it was pretty funny.
Since I know I have this fear, I make it a point to always sit by the window on flights and stare out the window during take offs and landings. I also clean the gutters of my house and climb things when the opportunity presents itself. This is because I believe that my actions are under my control and not under the control of my irrational fear. So, I do what I need to do and simply endure that senseless feeling of terror.
I find this very interesting in terms of what it indicates about the mind. Specifically, it raises intriguing questions about choice and the interaction between the rational and the irrational aspects of the mind. Of course, I like to believe that my will is such that it can act freely in the face of such things as fear. This is something of a classic view of the mind and the freedom of the will.
However, the current view of the mind tends towards a materialist view and the idea that the mind is merely the functions of the nervous system. If this is true, then this so called will is merely one set of functions taking precedence over another set of functions. Regardless, I still fear to fly…but do it anyway. No, I don’t drink when I’m flying. 🙂