Fear of Falling

I’ve never really understood the type of person who would jump out of a perfectly good airplane. It just doesn’t make sense to me. Until very recently, I’d just assumed the entire process was chucking out of an aircraft and hurtling towards the earth at an unhealthy speed. I thought it was just falling. But then I watched a video and realized there’s quite a bit more than that. It’s also about flying.

You see, I learned from a very young age that there’s a difference between the fear of heights (acrophobia) and the fear of falling (basophobia). I have no fear of heights. I am however more than a little terrified of falling. I’m not ashamed of it either. It’s actually more of an instinct than a fear and one that we as humans share with a number of animals. It’s one of the first instincts to kick in. Even babies often react negatively to the potential for and sensation of a fast decent. It’s natural. Falling hurts. From the unpleasant embarrassment of tripping and falling in public to the decidedly more painful and unfortunately sometimes fatal instances of falling from elevated surfaces, we know the consequences. Damaged pride. Broken body parts. Death.

Is it any wonder then that we’re so apprehensive about falling in love? We’ve all seen the possible negative outcomes of that fall. Damaged pride, broken hearts, death… It’s become an almost debilitating fear. The rhetoric has changed. You can hear it in the songs of this era. You can hear it in the conversations amongst your peers. It’s seems like these days, it’s all about who’s lying and being lied to. Cheating and being cheated on have become the norm. There are more stories of people in unhappy relationships than there are of people who are contentedly coupled. Populations are projected to decline. Nations are worried about the percentage of their citizens who are aging without companionship. Studies are being done to determine the long-term effect of being single. The fear of falling, once a natural instinct has become a full-blown phobia, and the effects are disturbing.

We’ve really fucked up relationships. We’re all so busy playing hard-to-get, sowing wild oats and exploring our options, that we’re missing out on the actual benefits of being in a relationship. There are still good, decent people out there who would make good partners. The problem seems to be the fact that the ones who aren’t so good are the ones you’ll find at every party and club. They’re the ones dominating social media. They’re the ones getting all the visibility so they get unlimited opportunity to wreak havoc and do damage and leave trauma in their wake. So, more people are guarded. Afraid to commit, afraid to even try, because everywhere you look, you see the negative effects of the fall…

And so, we’re missing out on the part that’s the most exhilarating. We’re missing out on the flight. Courtship, romance, flowers and first dates, dinner and dancing. Two people actually conversing, getting to know each other, creating a foundation on which to build a relationship that will last. Disagreeing and arguing and resolving the conflict and continuing the relationship because this is the person you want to be with. Instead of disrespecting each other and giving up and walking out because there’s a thousand more people on Facebook or Tinder or whatever. Being open and honest and vulnerable with another person. Being trustworthy enough to deserve that openness and honesty and vulnerability.

And so, the fear of falling has taken away the thrill of flying because no matter how soft the landing can be if the flight is done just right we can’t see past the damage that was experienced by those who fell wrong or fell hard, we can’t get past our own pains and hurts. Maybe those of us who have been damaged need to set a new example. If we want to change the rhetoric, if we want future generations to have healthy relationships, those of us who survived that bad fall need to get up, dust ourselves off, give ourselves time to heal and try again. Try with the knowledge gained from that bad fall. Try with the wisdom that can only be gained from failure. Try with strength that only comes from enduring and overcoming hardship. Try a different approach, a different method, a different strategy, different actions. And maybe next time, we’ll fly…


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