Fear of Heights – Taking the Leap

By Jeremy Villanueva

Having a fear of heights (or anything!) can be terrifying. Regardless of your particular fear or anxiety, we all have similar experiences to some extent. In my life it has been heights in particular.

For example, if I were standing on a tall and narrow walk-bridge, or even just standing inside a tall building, my heart would start to pound, I would breathe faster, my stomach would sink into itself, my fingers would tingle, my body would freeze, and my mind would race and tell me to get the heck out of here. Do any of these experiences sound familiar?

At first I thought my experience was typical, but I realised that not everyone shared the same responses as me! I was told that my feelings would eventually disappear, but they simply didn’t go away. While I still froze with a pounding heart, other people seemed to be just fine standing on balconies, leaning over edges, or just being anywhere on high ground.

To be honest, I didn’t worry about it too much because I was happy to keep clear from heights if it meant that I wouldn’t experience those unwanted feelings in my body.

However, by avoiding heights, I started to miss out on things that I thought would be fun. For example, I enjoy being active and outdoors, but I avoided things like hiking, rock climbing or other high-exposed activities. Even more so, it meant that I missed out on spending fun times with friends or family.

I don’t remember the exact moment, but one day I decided to try to expose myself to heights, if it meant that my feelings would go away. It was a slow process, but eventually I started to go on a few hikes and climbs, but I still had those unwanted feelings. Good grief!

After 10 years of actively trying to get rid of my fear of heights, I realised that perhaps I can’t necessarily get rid of my fear, but just maybe I could learn to be at ease with it. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) skills to help us do just that.

What I started to do is learn to make more room for these unwanted feelings (even though they’re still there), and still do the things that are important to me. ACT skills have taught me how to manage my fear more effectively, so I’m nowhere near as restricted as I once was a short few years ago.

In fact, just last year, I was able to do something on my bucket list that’s caused me anxiety for a while – bungee jumping!

Remember those feelings that I mentioned earlier?

They were still there from the day I booked my bungee jump to the moment I was standing on the edge of that bridge. My heart pounded, I breathed faster, my stomach sunk into itself, my fingers tingled, my body would freeze, and my mind raced and tried to convince me not to jump…

But I still took the leap, and it was amazing! I’ve always wanted to tick bungee jumping off my list, and I didn’t let my fear take that away.

If you have a fear of heights (or anything!) or you want to learn more about ACT, and quickly learn effective ACT skills please feel free to call us on 07 3193 1072.

If you want to take the leap, I’ll be more than happy to help you on your journey.

Jeremy Villanueva

Jeremy Villanueva

Jeremy Villanueva

Psychologist

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