The fear of heights is completely paralyzing and comes over you like a warm blanket, covering you with an overwhelming sensation you can do little about. What are you supposed to be thinking or telling yourself to convince yourself you are not going to perish in a frightening and uncontrollable way? How do you deal with the fact that it is your shaky, frightened attitude and fear that is actually putting you in the face of the danger you are trying to avoid?
I'm not talking about the fear of being in high places either -- this is the same fear that makes you lock your bike's brakes before a steep section of a trail in the forest where you just have to do nothing but roll, or makes your palms sweaty on the yoke and your voice shake on the radio when you're coming in to land at an unfamiliar airport.
There is a new rig worker at the flying trapeze class I'm taking on Wednesdays. He is a burning-man type with crazy tights and long hair and we chatted on the platform between swings. I asked how he got into trapeze and he said he is a rock climber and had set up rigs for his friends doing circus arts at festivals.
"So you're not afraid of heights at all then?" I asked. "I am!" he answered, "I just trust my equipment. And I trust myself"
I thought about that as I was swinging, and also on my way back home, and then again this morning. I think he found the mantra to the fear of heights.