Jun 7, 2012

Can one conquer a fear of heights?

I first realized that I had a fear of heights when moving from Cape Town to Toronto and living on the fourth floor of an apartment. I found that I could not go near the edge to look over the balcony. This was only four floors, but I still had a reaction. It was when I changed jobs and worked as a paralegal on the fifteenth floor that I really became anxious. I found that one afternoon while my boss was in court and I was cleaning up the paper work in his office which was near to the window, I felt my legs go weak. It was a strong pull, so strong that I wanted to fling myself through the window and give in to the force of gravity. I would only grow calm the farther away I was from the window.

For a few weeks I would not take instruction from him near the window and always stood near the door, or when I had no choice to work at the desk, would not look in his direction and the vast expanse of sky behind him. The sheer steel and glass of the surrounding buildings and the office made me dizzy. A few weeks later I quit my job.

A mountain climbing experience in Mecca
It was in my travels to Mecca, however, that I had a frightening experience. Part of the hajj sightseeing was climbing Mount Nur to the top of the mountain where the holy prophet had received the first revelation from the Angel Jibril (Gabriel) and women and men clambered up the steep mountain. I knew I could not do it but forced myself to go as far as I could and if that meant I would not see the cave where the prophet spent a lot of his time and where he received the first revelation, I just could not do anything about it.

I started to climb. I was a quarter way up the mountain holding onto rocks and feeling tremendous fear. If the older women could climb up, why couldn’t I? I turned around. It was the biggest mistake I made. I felt weakness all over and tensed with fear as I saw the distance I would fall if I did not do something. I either had to go up or down and I felt completely stuck and glued to the rock. It took tremendous courage to will myself to stop this business of being afraid and just do it one step at a time. I made it to the ground and vowed never to try such a stunt again.

Tips to conquer your fear

• There are usually underlying reasons for your fear. Speak to a specialist who deals with agoraphobia and determine what those reasons are. Probably there are many factors involved, for instance, something to do with heights that happened during your childhood.

• If you want to pursue your need to conquer this fear, take it slowly and visit a friend who has a balcony on the second or third floor and practice going to the edge. There is no hurry to do this. It might take weeks or months, but do it gradually. The thing is to go higher and higher up in the elevator to an office or apartment on the 20th and then the 25th floor. There are many things you can do at home to test the fear factor. Always have a friend along to support you.


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