Have I ever wanted to do a bungee jump?
Oh, my God. No… no… no, no, no. No. No. No, I haven’t.
Well, once when I was younger I caught myself daring to imagine doing one after seeing it on television. I quickly suppressed those thoughts and sat on them for years.
I mean, the prospect of leaping off a building in a ritual of quasi-suicide was terrifying. And as soon as I knew that fear owned me in that context, I may as well have mentally signed off that doing a horrible bungee jump was inevitable!
My personal belief is that if you don’t face your fear, your fear will own you, and nothing that you’re scared of could ever be worse than that.
Bottom line: If I can’t do something, then I must give it a try.
Guinness states that the Macau Tower is currently the world’s highest bungee jump (764 feet). I figured if I was going to bungee I may as well set the bar high.
Cashing in on some good fortune (watch this video for a sure-fire strategy on how to be lucky) I hustled a free business ticket to Macau, China’s clammy answer to Las Vegas.
As the bus crammed with Chinese took me to the tower, the thought of jumping off it and then plummeting to the ground at terminal velocity filled me with a predictable unease. After all, I had never done such a thing before and had no experience to draw upon on.
Bungee jumping suddenly looked dangerous!
You cannot make sense of any experience in life unless you have a context to put it in.
For example, if I say “I’m a hypnotist” I have a lifetime of experiences that allows my mind to make sense of what the role is to me: helping people through the use of trance.
However, other people may interpret the notion of a hypnotist from a completely different perspective. They may see a hypnotist as a mysterious agent with Svengali-like powers because they have different reference points that tell how them to make sense of that role.
Consequently, the referential experiences, or reference points, that you collect in life help you to make sense of reality by controlling how you interpret it.
Reference points can be acquired through primary experiences (living through the moment yourself); or by secondary experiences (learning about the moment through books, the media and other people).
Humans have a need to believe other people’s reference points because it allows us to make sense of the world as quickly as possible. For the most part, this serves us well.
For example, although I have never owned a shotgun, I know it’s a good idea not to point one at somebody in case it accidentally discharges. I have seen that reference point played out in films and books.
Consequently, you have to trust the source of your secondary reference points and question them often.
Likewise, if a cannibalistic zombie was attacking me then maybe firing the gun at them would be a good idea. Again, I have seen this played out in (some awesome) films and books.
Hence the context of your experiences in shaping our perception of the world. A hypnotist may be mobbed as a heretic in front of a group of Christian fundamentalists, or seen as a bringer of relief if they worked in a phobia clinic.
First-hand reference points allow us to make sense of reality in the strongest possible way because they’re:
2.) Emotionally charged
I had no reference points for my bungee jump: I only had experience of jumping off tall trees and a crazy parachute jump, but never in the context I was about to encounter (a tall building, held by elastic with the ground in immediate sight).
Consequently, I was going into the unknown, and was scared.
When the future is unknown you will fear the unknown. If we can only imagine negative outcomes, we will also trigger the feeling of fear. It’s part of the human condition.
Happily though, when you can predict the future positively, the feeling of fear disappears. Now, you don’t have to be a psychic to predict the future: you do it all the time by looking at your past reference experiences and make some assumptions.
For example, if all your reference points related to talking to strangers have been positive then you will use this experience to assume that the next stranger you talk to will also lead to a positive outcome: and that’s what you’ll probably get.
On the day of the jump, I arrived at the tower and called the elevator down. The feeling of ever-present dread in my stomach grew as the elevator fired up the tower like a missile. This instantly caused the busy traffic below to shrink into dots.
Rather than let my mind create a new reference point, laden with negative emotion over the context of heights, I dealt with the moment by keeping my attention in the present moment.
When you think about it, the feeling of fear can only really exist in the future. Right here right now in the present moment, you’re safe and well. It’s the thought that we can’t handle the fate we’re about to meet that cripples us.
Ironically, the reality is that we tend to surrender to whatever situation is presented to us. We simply deal with it on a moment by moment basis.
Focus on turning off your internal chatter (you know, that voice in your head). It is remarkably effective at causing your focus to dwell on future events rather than simply enjoying the moment of time you are currently living through.
When I stopped talking to myself, the feeling of fear before the jump began to disappear. I made no judgments about what was happening to me but rather chose to focus on the moment on a second-by-second basis.
This technique was very effective: I had to wait 20 minutes before the jump whilst workmen repaired the hoists! I watched this potentially unsettling events and made no judgments about it.
Standing on the ledge and feeling the wind on my face I looked down at the city of Macau sprawling below. It was a scene that instantly welded itself into my mind.
The countdown came quicker than expected. “Here we go” said the bungee jump operator (perhaps for the fifteenth time that day) and I felt my entire body shudder.
This was it.
I leaped forward from the security of the tower into the cold embrace of nothingness.
As my body sensed me fall, primordial programming ensured I wailed and swung my arms in a pathetic attempt to grab something. My body also entered a state of shock for a split second.
As the fall continued I felt free from any physical connection to the world. Almost detached from reality. I was surprised by this and, laughing, hollered: “this ain’t so bad!” As I fell, no thought of the bungee rope snapping or the ground racing towards me was a concern.
The moment I surrendered myself to the feeling of fear and letting go of trying to control the situation I felt a feeling of absolute peace. There were no thoughts in my mind, just the experience of what was happening.
As the bungee cord finally slowed my descent there was no sense of relief; I just didn’t care. At that moment, my survival became less important than my enjoyment of the experience. On some level, I realised I wasn’t pumped full of adrenaline in the way I’d expected but was happily calm.
As soon as I leaped off the tower I decided I was going to enjoy myself. At the bottom of the jump, I met and high-fived the guy who helped me out of my harnesses. From there, I caught the elevator back up the tower to greet my friend with a big smile on my face. I made some other people riding the elevator laugh.
As soon as I saw my friend I met another jumper who had leaped before me. We shared our experience and hugged and were both beaming with awesome energy.
I now had a positive reference point associated with bungee jumping, and once they build a higher platform I’d love to jump again!
1.) Taking action that leads to you stepping into your fear immediately causes you to grow as a person. If your life feels like it’s stuck in a mental rut, one of the best things you can do is to try something that scares you.
2.) When you face the fear, you’ll create a reference point in your mind of how you handled yourself. The next time you’re in a similar situation your mind will draw upon this referential experience to guide your emotions. Make sure the reference point that you worked hard to obtain is connected with a feeling of positivity so it becomes a resource, not a future hindrance.
Develop a consistently positive attitude by looking hard for the enjoyable high points you create from your actions. Check out this video for more easy ways to do this.
3.) All fear exists in the future. Keeping the focus of your mind in the present moment is an effective way to keep yourself in control when on the verge of fear. Do this by focusing on the sights, sounds, and feelings of your surroundings so that they overwhelm your focus and effectively replace your inner voice. When this happens it can’t give you a running commentary on the situation you find yourself in.
4.) The moment that you face your fear, you move through a split second of uncertainty and into a point of self-understanding. You can think of this ‘anxiety gateway’ as a sure-fire way to personal growth. Stepping through this gateway is a euphoric feeling, although temporary… only to be replaced by a transformation in yourself that
5.) If you live in fear, you’ll spend a life quietly dying. When you face fear, the only parts of you that will die from the experience are the parts that you no longer need because you have outgrown them. In some respects, facing fear is like giving your self-esteem a spring clean.
Now that you have a clearer idea of how to handle fear, it’s time to start talking to people! But don’t worry, in the next episode from The Vault I’ll share one of the best openers I know for breaking the ice with strangers! Go watch it now!