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How a child's comment cured my fear of heights

This text is a chapter in my soul biography Love's Care. The text about fear of heights and how I cured myself of it. Dear readers, the text is quite long, but if you suffer from a fear of heights, if you have done it for years, which will be many, many hours, then please give the text the few minutes it takes to read it. Maybe the text can change your view on fear of heights and help you get rid of it. /Daniel Mendoza

Fear of heights

You are abroad on holiday and have just stepped into your hotel room located on the seventh floor. The first thing that welcomes you when you step inside is the wonderful view of the sea. Before you've barely dropped your suitcase, you take a few steps out onto the balcony to gaze at an ocean that seems to stretch into infinity and a beach that screams for your bare feet. The first thing you do when you step out onto the balcony is to take in the scent of the sea. The slowly setting sun warms your Scandinavian pale cheeks. It's a sunset and a warmth you've been longing for for months. From the pool area you can hear hotel guests laughing and toasting. You have been looking forward to this moment so much. The pictures you saw on the travel company's website are surpassed by the presence and feeling of reality. You feel a happiness within you that you haven't felt in a long time. In the rush of happiness, you take another step out onto the balcony. That's when reality hits you like a blow to the solar plexus. Before you reach the railing, you start to feel dizzy. You get the feeling that something/someone is pulling you towards the railing. Almost as if the floor, even the building, tilts outward and you begin to slide away from the safety of the room, away from the wall. You begin to have obsessive thoughts that you are going to fall over. Your dizziness increases. You imagine that you will want to climb over the railing yourself. Breathing becomes heavier. You grab the railing but instead of going in it feels like you're stuck. As if you are fighting not to fall. As if an invisible force is holding you down and then trying to push you over.

Can you sense the feeling of being in the above situation? That's exactly how it was for me every time I was on a roof or approaching a railing. It never took many floors up for me to have panic and anxiety. It was as if the law of gravity was pulling me outwards towards a certain fall and death. Perhaps you have your own experiences of heights and fear of heights. What I thought was a fear of heights followed me until I was forty-three years old when one person made me get rid of it. Who was that person? A boy who was then himself nine years old. Soon I will tell you about how "simple" (for me it later felt like that) he helped me and how wrong I had been in what I imagined I had. But first I want to take you back to a big tree and a fall.

A memory

It was the summer of the seventh grade. Me and a group of guys were in a forest and had strung a very long rope between two tall trees. The aim was to build a cable car between the trees. From what I later learned from the police, we had fastened one end of the rope about ten meters up the tree. I don't know how far the distance between the trees was. However, in order to get up to speed, we needed to go a bit further. All children who went had their own equipment. However, do not interpret this as that we have been to a climbing shop and acquired the necessary things in order not to have an accident. The truth is that we had all been diligently creative with what we found in our homes. In other words; the most important thing was to have something to throw around the rope and then it was a matter of holding on for all that life was worth. As far as I remember, there were no adults there.

The first ride with my inventive device went well. I held on tight with both hands, made a bet, flung myself out and then I slid from one tree to the other. It was a few runs later that everything, to use an appropriate expression, went awry. A younger boy came there with his own device he had put together. As a handle he had used a pipe used in gallows. Through it all, he had pulled a slightly thinner rope. He, in turn, had used that to fasten a hook made of slightly coarser steel wire. If you have enough imagination, you may already understand what will happen... The whole thing was doomed to fail.

He asked to test my device and lent me his. I took it, climbed up the tree and once up I hooked, took a bet and threw myself out. That was pretty much all I managed. Because as soon as my weight was put on the pipe it broke, I lost my grip and fell to the ground. Fortunately, part of my fall was stopped by the tree's branches. I hit a few times before finally landing with my body on a large rock. From a height of about ten meters.

All I remember from the seconds after is how I get up but couldn't hardly breathe. Afraid to show others that I was hurt, that I was having trouble breathing, I made a strong effort, gathered myself, and then tried to stagger out of the forest. My legs could hardly carry me. Just before I was out of the woods, I more or less collapsed in front of the feet of other children who were entering. Again I made an effort and stood up trying to get some words out or at least a smile. Then I continued to walk out of the forest. My immense will and equally immense fear of showing myself weak was truly put to the test. I walked past the other kids but my legs didn't take me very far. A few meters later I collapsed. All I remember from that moment is waking up in an ambulance with a man leaning over me. I asked if I was going to die. Got an answer I didn't understand and then I passed out to later wake up in the hospital.

At first the doctors were worried that I had suffered internal bleeding and that they would have to operate on me. To my great relief and theirs, I had not received any. It was all very strange, but that's how it was. However, I could not walk because my legs were paralyzed. They didn't know what caused it, but after a few days in hospital I finally got to go home. A couple of weeks later I was fully recovered. Physically, that is. Mentally, my fear of heights had been born.

Deriving the fear of heights to some moment in life, in order to process it in my own way, was the method I chose to use. When I had climbed high into a tree and thrown myself out, I imagined that I was not afraid before. My fear must have arisen more in that moment than in any other before. The thing is that around that period of my life I liked to climb. Buildings, trees, big rocks or whatever, only I could climb up. A favorite pastime in winter was to spend a few hours shoveling snow and building a small snow hill near the house, then from the roof to be able to do somersaults down (equivalent to one and one storey) and land on it. I was something of a climbing monkey. And partly still is, even though age has taken its toll. As I write this, I wonder how it would feel if I saw my sons doing the same things. Delight mixed with horror, I suppose.

The truth about how I dealt with my fear of heights over the years is this: I did nothing about it. What happened in the woods in my early teens became something I didn't talk to anyone about. What scars and wounds that event left in me was up to me to deal with. Instead of trying to get rid of the fear that I think arose there and then I learned to hide it by climbing less. I thus did what most of us mortals do. I began to avoid situations where the fear could arise. When my first son was born in 2055, I realized that I needed to rethink and do something about my fear of heights. Slowly but surely, I therefore began to expose myself to different situations. I pushed myself again and again. A little higher, a little longer. I wanted to get rid of my fear of heights because one day I wanted to be able to climb trees with my sons. Because I didn't want my fear to limit them - or me. Unfortunately, I was not very successful with my attempts. I think it's because I didn't put my whole heart into it. I had a lot of other things that for me were more important to process and give focus to.

So how did I get rid of it? What made me one evening in Palma in a hotel room, seven floors up, go out on a balcony and stand by the railing and then climb over it and stand on the other side in order to test if I was free from the fear of heights (yes , evidently I was still somewhat crazy)? The answer: It was something my oldest son said to his little brother.

I was cooking dinner one evening when the youngest son came into the kitchen, the oldest was sitting at the kitchen table doing his homework, and said out loud: "Dad, I think I'm afraid of heights!" He who at that time literally loved being in the air and climbing. His big brother let go of his homework and before I could answer little brother, he said very educationally and respectfully: "Noah, can I ask you something?" Noah turned to him and gave his silent consent: “I'm not saying you're not afraid of heights. But I want to ask you the following: Could it be that you are rather afraid of falling - and not afraid of heights? Do you understand? That it's not the height that scares you, but that you can fall from it.”

Noah looked at his brother, tasted the words, let them land in him, then replied, “Leon, I think you're right! I'm not afraid of heights! I'm really afraid of falling!” With a big smile he turned and went on his way. Leon smiled and continued with his homework as if nothing had happened. I stood silently and watched him. Inside my head, the words were repeated: “Could it be that you are afraid of falling and not afraid of heights? Could it be that you are afraid of falling and not afraid of heights? Could it be that you are afraid of falling and not afraid of heights? …” and then it hit me. That's how it was as far as I was concerned. I wasn't afraid of heights. I was terrified of falling. Because it can hurt like hell to fall. And because there is a risk of losing one's life.

A few weeks later I went to Mallorca alone. The words followed me all the way out to the balcony. I looked down at the asphalt. I felt after. With my son's words still echoing in my head: "Could it be that you are afraid of falling and not afraid of heights?" I was afraid of falling and not of heights. So I (and no, it was not one of the wisest decisions of my life) climbed over. Almost held me even with his teeth but I was free. I wasn't afraid. My hands didn't lock around the railing. I could look down without feeling dizzy.

So if you yourself are afraid of heights, allow my son's question to breathe in you for a moment: Could it be that you are actually afraid of falling and not afraid of heights? Could it be that your body remembers an event that taught you to be afraid of something you are not really afraid of? I'm not saying that it has to be that way, nor that thinking that way is the solution to your fear. But play for a while with the idea that it might be like that. That what you imagine is a fear of heights, what others may have said you have, is actually something completely different. Take a moment to look at your height problem from a different perspective. Challenge that piece first with you. And if you ever go out onto a balcony high up in a house, keep that in mind and remember: As long as you don't do something really foolhardy and life-threatening (like climbing over the railing, for example), you won't fall over. Because maybe it's the case that you're not afraid of heights. Maybe that's what you've always thought, but actually you're afraid of falling. And that, dear reader, is something most of us humans are. It seems to come naturally not to want to fall. Therefore, we have built railings and other protective devices. With care, Daniel Mendoza Don't miss this: Right now you can buy Love's Care for only SEK 99! Click here!

Photo: Pernilla Danielsson, Mallorca

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