Why We Put Ourselves Through Fear


I strongly dislike taking airplanes, it makes my palms sweat, my stomach flip, and I get anxious at least a week before heading to the airport, but yet, I travel all the time.
Similar to my fear of planes, I’m not exactly a fanatic over roller coasters, but on occasion I put myself through the “thrill” to make memories and to force myself to stop being a whiny baby. I started noticing while in line for the “Shambhala” roller coaster in Port Aventura, Barcelona’s 20 year-old theme park, that I wasn’t the only crazy person who purposely put themselves through fear.
As the line started getting closer to the moment of truth, everyone’s energy would change from “OMG this looks crazy awesome,” in a positive and even frat-boy kind of way, to “get me the hell out of this line, why am I putting myself through this?” It was always at the same point in the line too, just when you see the roller coaster from a vertical angle, and just when you couldn’t cause a scene and exit the line like a woos.
It was almost as if we were all not only asking to be afraid, but we were paying for a ride that could potentially get stuck, break down, or have some life-threatening malfunction, but why? Here are some thoughts on why we put ourselves through fear.

Damon, a self-proclaimed roller-coaster lover, started agreeing with me when I pointed out the changes in everyone’s facial expression. His included. He originally forced me on the ride with his, “Come on Jo, do you want to be that person that backs out?” and as soon as our seats were fastened, he couldn’t even talk out of nervousness; boy was lookin’ like a shriveled up blueberry.
I had to grasp onto some kind of motivational mantra that would get me through the 250 foot, 84 mph ride, so I related the fear of roller coasters to my fear of flights, and before I knew it was putting my hands up in the air during the highest peaks and the lowest lows. And it made sense as to why my scaredy-cat mentality turned into Xena the Warrior the minute we started speeding down the first massive heart-dropping peak; if I was gonna die, at least I’d go out with a bang.
I have a track record for converting fear into fuel. Whenever I get on an airplane, yes, my body physically reacts to the anxiety to the point that I can’t take off without a sweat towel in hand. But as my body shuts down, my mind awakens with profound thoughts that are normally buried in the cozy blanket, popularly known as “my comfort zone.” I’ve recently thought of flights as my “think time” because realizations come out of nowhere when I’m faced with something that I consider to be scary. Am I the only one that gets freaked out by the thought of a metal saucer flying in the air at hundreds of mph’s? But after every landing, my happiness meter goes off the charts and I need more of it; the whole cycle of fear, anxiety, epiphany.
So just like taking flights, riding Shambhala sparked my inner thrill seeker and I was hooked. I needed even bigger, faster and curvier roller coasters. I caught myself yelling the following, word for word, “we bad b!tche$, give me mooooreee, is that all you got???” laughing like a crazy person throughout the ride. Lucky for me, the personalized camera in front of our seats picked up my hysteria that was then broadcast on the largest monitor at the photo pickup center post-ride. Meanwhile, you see Damon’s pale face of panic directly next to me gripping on for his life.
After Shambhala, the *cough phony* roller-coaster lover cracked and told me that as soon as the ride started going, he imagined headlines of local newspapers saying, “Two Travel YouTubers Killed in Europe’s Tallest Roller Coaster.” How comforting. And my question was still the same, “why do you put yourself through that and in turn convince me to do it too?”
And from a 3-minute roller-coaster ride, here are the epiphanies that I came out thinking:

The things that we fear the most usually spark the biggest moments of discovery

In my day-to–day, I’m numb, like most people are, most of the times with BS that’s not even worth numbing your senses over. When I’m sitting in an airplane chair and my nerves are on high alert for any slight bump that might happen while in the air, $hit gets real and I start getting deep with myself and with my purpose. When you put yourself at risk, you start appreciating everything that matters.

The ego loves telling a good horror story

If you’re at a dinner party, I doubt you’ll use your one chance to wow the crowd by talking about how you stayed in on a Friday night with Netflix and a bowl of Chicken Fried Rice. Girl no.
Our egos usually lean towards the subjects having to do with facing immeasurable amount of risk, and somehow you’re still alive to talk about it. We use fear to puff our feathers and seem cooler than we really are. Subconsciously, you feel like a winner when you face fear and live to talk about it, so what better way to celebrate than to brag about it.

Fear is funny to talk about

Psh, I’ll be clownin’ on Damon for years to come after his frozen face of fear and death grip. Just the other day I started cracking up alone thinking about it.

Adrenaline needs to be fed

It’s not as though the fear went away after going on Shambhala, but after the first taste, I craved the most intense scenarios to keep my adrenaline high, that was now awake and very hungry. Call me crazy, but aren’t we all somewhat addicted to fear?

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