What I Learnt About Fear From Throwing People Off A Building

I didn’t really throw them, they jumped. It’s 192 metres (630ft) to the ground from the jumping platform on Auckland’s Skytower where Skyjump operates. They were attached to a wire which allowed them to travel to the ground in a matter of seconds. During my time working there I was based at the top making sure they were properly hooked up before they jumped.

All of the people we dealt with were scared.
Some were only a little bit scared. Some were totally freaking out. Everyone experienced fear – mixed in with fun. Although for some the fun was more in telling the story afterwards!

Observing how people behave when they are afraid is a very interesting experience. I’ve watched a fit, healthy, confident grown man chicken out of jumping at the last minute. The next person after him was his 12 year old daughter who jumped off without a problem, and loved it.

From what I saw there are two kinds of fear:

The rational fear?
If a person is standing on a small platform 192 metres off the ground and their senses aren’t telling them to be careful – then that would be a serious oversight in the evolution of the human being. This isn’t really fear, it’s more like common sense. If I asked you if you would jump out of a plane without a parachute, you wouldn’t. Not because you are afraid – but because you’re not stupid.

The other kind of fear.
Real fear is more of an irrational thing. It overrides the ability for a person to make logical decisions. It distorts their thinking and fools them. People who come to jump understand, at an intellectual level, that the equipment is safe. They know that no one has died jumping off. They have confidence in the staff. Yet they cannot jump. Logically they can see that they should, but they cannot make themselves go through with it.

These people have allowed their fear to control them to such an extent that they are powerless against it.

“Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood.” – Marie Curie

The average person experiences fear, but does it anyway.
They may hesitate and dither about a bit, but they get there eventually. They are able to choose whether to jump or whether to allow this fear to override their decision making. They chose to jump – and they love it.

It doesn’t actually matter if you can’t jump off a building.
The fear of jumping off a building is a very extreme one. It’s not an everyday occurrence. People don’t normally have to jump off buildings when they go to work. If you can’t do it – so what?! Most people will never have to jump off a building in their lives.

Fear can be subtle and insidious.
Most of the time fear isn’t so obvious though. It is the fear of asking someone out on a date. The fear of speaking up about something at work. The fear of asking a stupid question and looking silly. The fear of standing up for yourself. These fears are far more limiting than the fear of jumping off a building.

Why? Because these are part of everyday life and we have to face them all the time. Everyone has to deal with problems at work. Everyone who wants a relationship has to take the risk of rejection by asking someone out. If you can’t brave these risks in life then you aren’t going to get far. These fears are going to really limit your life. They are going to imprison you. They are going to dictate the quality of your life. It is these kinds of fears that you really need to watch out for. And they can be tricky to spot. Sometimes people don’t even realise they fear something. They make excuses and even kid themselves.

Fear can be overcome.
Some people really don’t think they will be able to jump. But with a bit of reassurance and a chance to get their head around it they do. I’ve seen people in tears they’re so scared who eventually manage to pull themselves together enough to jump off. And they’ve been extremely proud of themselves when they’ve done so. The joy of having looked their fears straight in the eye and faced up to them is a really empowering experience.

This last point is the thing I hope you take from this post. Fear can be overcome. It is not an invincible force that you are powerless against. It is something that is very much within your ability to control.

On a personal note I have never had any problem jumping off the Skytower. One thing I am scared of though is the idea of having a Tarantula spider crawl up my arm. I know that at some zoos you can actually go and experience this. As much as I don’t like the sound of it I do intend to give it a try just for the hell of it, so if you know anywhere in New Zealand where you can do this then let me know (I’m regretting having said this already!).

Image: Wikipedia

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