Renegotiating Fears

10 Jan

For the record I am claustrophobic and my claustrophobia has gotten worse in the last few years. I’ve dwelt a little too much on what could happen to a person if he or she got stuck in an elevator or trapped underground in a tunnel. So when visiting the Gateway Arch in St. Louis this weekend, I realized I was confronted with my fear of confinement head-on. If I wanted to go up to the top of the arch, I was going to have to endure a four minute ride in a tiny cramped car that jutted about making clicking sounds while navigating up the structure. I turned to my traveling companion and said, “The only way I’m going to make it up without having a panic attack is if I close my eyes and can hold your hand the entire way. Seriously. I will wig out otherwise.” So as we settled into our car, I closed my eyes, took his hand and let him talk to the other people in the car. Anytime someone started to comment on how cramped the car was, I asked them to please change the subject.

I nestled closer into my companion and listened to him rattle on with the strangers about where they were from and heard their response that they were in town for a wedding. They had never been to St. Louis nor visited the arch. Click. Click. Click. The car adjusted itself into a new position. I breathed. And continued to listen to them talk. Before I knew it we reached the landing and disembarked. We repeated the same procedure on the three minute descent down.

What I realized is that I had renegotiated with my fear. I had found a way to see what felt like a potential trap into an experience of being soothed and comforted. By the time we made it back to solid ground, I had begun to conceptualize the cable-tram as a ride at Disneyland. By changing my approach and focusing on the non-fear as opposed to the fear, my experience was radically different than what it could have been. And because of the support, I was able to transcend and transform panic.

I doubt the visionaries who created the arch obsessed on how the thing could collapse. Instead I bet they fantasized about the potential glory of their architectural feat. Here’s to reaching towards the sky while maintaining a steel structure of support.

One Response to “Renegotiating Fears”

  1. Blair Glaser (@BlairGlaser) January 10, 2012 at 3:04 pm #

    Great piece. Great work. Great metaphor. I love it!

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