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Fear of Heights

I stared at the hundreds of steps going almost straight up to the peak of Padar Island. We were on a sunrise hike to one of the most beautiful views in East Indonesia and I was shaking with fear of heights.

Padar Island is one of the stops on the Rafida Adventure liveaboard which sails off of Labuan Bajo, Flores. Ever since a good friend Oka Setiawan decided to try his luck in the leisure boating business, I have been wanting to go visit and try it out. I originally was going to go with Oky, but obviously, he didn’t make it. Then the pandemic came about, and Rafida could not sail for almost a year.

Sailing Trip

When it was finally able to sail again, Cung, me, and several other friends were invited to go on the sailing trip to try out the services of the crew. It was such a lovely time, and my first time to Flores made me see why so many people liked to go there. It’s so different from West Java, with its own culture, language, and climate.

This beautiful climate allowed for dry islands to rise out of the oceans, sprinkling the waters with small to relatively high hills. From on top of the hill, you could see the ocean, the beach, and the other islands.

The view was indeed spectacular, but I really could not enjoy it as much as the others did. They took shots in what seemed to me to be dangerous spots, but were actually quite safe, I suppose. I took a picture instead of leaning on a rock. That was the best I could do-I didn’t want my feet to give out on me.

Much later, after seeing all the photos, I did have a slight regret. Where had this fear of heights come from? I couldn’t quite place it. It’s so interesting because most people are more afraid of diving. They are afraid of the ocean, of the deep blue, or of sharks. I love deep diving, and I love seeing sharks!

I think of all the enjoyment I would be able to have I wasn’t afraid of heights. For such a lover of nature, I feel I owe it to myself to slowly learn how to conquer that fear.

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How These 2 Fundamentals of Scuba Diving Helped Me Deal with Fear

I began scuba diving in 2016, thanks to a dear friend who is a Dive Master. Like everyone else, I was a bit afraid before going down into the deep ocean. However, after proper training, I was sold for more and wanted to be a better diver. Doing more diving helped me navigate life also. Especially when dealing with fear, the two basic rules of scuba diving taught me important lessons.

1. First rule: keep breathing.

Whatever happens, under the water we must (MUST!) keep breathing. We sometimes don’t realize that when we become afraid, stressed, or panicked, our breathing becomes erratic. In diving, control of breathing is essential to maintaining buoyancy (balance) underwater. And of course its a very minor fact that you do need the air… This training taught me to be extra aware of my breathing when I am feeling threatened.

2. Second rule: stay calm.

It’s easy to become panicked when afraid, but panicking underwater will create more danger for yourself and for your buddy (dive partner). The first rule of breathing helps to keep the second rule of staying calm. When you are calmer, then you can assess the situation including the fear you are feeling, and decide if it’s illogical, overreaction, or if it is indeed a real threat.

Once you have identified that it is a real threat, then what is the plan? What will you do about it?

If your fear is a serious threat, then to do nothing is unwise. If its something you can deal with later without too much risk in the meanwhile, then perhaps it is better to deal with it later. This gives you time to see how the situation unfolds. If you realize that you were overreacting or being hijacked by your amygdala, then see if you can continue and carry on with more care and awareness. Later, you can review the situation and see how to prevent that fear from blowing up and controlling or limiting your actions.

For a deep breathing tutorial to help you stay calm, visit this post.

How do you deal with your fear? Let me know in the comments!