Michael Eiting has struggled with acrophobia, or the fear of heights, since childhood. As a kid, climbing trees was out of the question. When he learned to drive, crossing bridges was deeply unsettling. A move to Boulder was less than ideal for a few reasons – including all of the peaks and valleys that came with it. But in Summer 2018, Michael went skydiving. And he LOVED it.
But let’s back up a little …
Being afraid of heights is nothing new. It’s so common and longstanding, in fact, that the ancient Greeks gave it a name – acron means peak, summit or edge, and phobos means fear.
Turns out that humans (all mammals, actually) come pre-packaged with the fear as a survival tool. A rational level keeps you from falling out of windows and getting too close to the literal edge. The feeling of butterflies in your stomach, sudden sweating and involuntary swearing, these are built-in alarm bells that keep you safe. For thrill-seekers, intentionally triggering these tripwires manifests the best-ever high and they constantly seek out the next elevated adventure – roller coasters, snowboarding and, yes, skydiving.
The irrational version of the fear, though, can be paralyzing, keeping people (more often women than men) from doing what most would consider no-big-deal. This is the version our Michael has carried with him throughout his life. Just talking about his fear of heights causes Michael’s brain to go into fight-or-flight mode, instantly causing him to sweat and feel anxious. Extreme fear of heights can be learned through trauma or, some suggest, it may be hereditary; fortunately, this is not Michael’s story. It’s also known to increase with age; fortunately, this is also not Michael’s story. At age 37, he feels like his fear is subsiding little by little.
THE TIME IS NOW
Having earned a degree in Psychology, Michael understands the potential benefits of immersion therapy and had been (half-) joking for years that he wanted to skydive to put his fear to rest. Four of his friends decided his procrastination had gone on long enough and booked a day of skydiving at Wisconsin Skydiving Center for the five of them. Though another skydiving dropzone was closer to their hometown, they decided on WSC after being duly impressed by the DZ’s reputation and hundreds (upon hundreds) of positive reviews.