The random witterings of Jonathan Morris, writer.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Don't Look Down

I’m scared of heights. You only have to walk up to me and say ‘Six foot two’ and I’ll be reduced to a gibbering wreck.

No. To be more accurate, I’m scared of drops. In particular, drops which are in very close proximity to me. I find I don’t mind so much if the drops are a safe distance way, such as in another country. It’s the ones which are nearby that worry me.

I don’t think it’s an unreasonable fear. I think the problem is more with the complete accuracy of my fear. I can imagine with precise vividity what would happen to me should I fall over that drop. That bit where the guy falls off the bridge in Saturday Night Fever, that’s my worst nightmare.

Douglas Adams once wrote that the fear is because we are fighting an instinct to leap. Well, I’m certainly very conscious of not wanting to jump. It’s an over-riding concern. But the fear comes from not trusting my legs to undergo an involuntary spasm and launch me over the brink of their own accord - and the more scared I get, the less control over my legs I have. I’m thinking ‘must not step forward, must not step forward,’ but – like being told not to giggle – the very fact that you’re trying not to do something creates a compulsion to do it.

I think the reason I’m scared of heights is because I’m short (“What number is this? 7A!”) so my head is used to being quite close to the ground most of the time. Despite this, I’ve confronted my fear; I’ve been to the Grand Canyon and looked down a mile-deep drop, and been to the top of the Eiffel Tower, the Empire State Building, even the World Trade Centre.

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