A Mental Experiment

We put such limits on ourselves. We have these beliefs or preconceived notions that tend to control and stifle us in certain situations. I have a need to see. I do not like it when it is pitch black. I do not like being in a room with no windows. I do not like elevators. This can feel like a panic attack and sometimes manifests in the feeling of claustrophobia. This feeling is intensified when coupled with motion sickness.

I believe we all feel certain things and have anxieties as a result of childhood or past experiences. We have a stamp on our subconscious that is there until we address it. My fear of not being able to see, I believe, is a result of two tragic things that occurred in my childhood:

1) My big brother (God I love him) thought it would be funny to zip me up in a sleeping bag and have me beg to be released. I know I wasn’t in there very long, but by the time he unzipped the bag I was a total sweaty, tearful, hyperventilating wreck.

2) When we were teenagers my sister Maria and I became trapped in an elevator. It wasn’t a long time before we were rescued, but it felt like an eternity. Thoughts of spending the night in that department store elevator and not being able to breathe were very real in those moments.

So, given these two instances, it seems rational that I do not like to be trapped in tight places and that I loathe not being able to see the outside world. But, aren’t these fears just in my mind? There are plenty of people who do not share these fears of mine. Likewise, I do not have fears that many other people do.

With this question in mind, I decided to do an experiment. I was hopping on a short one hour flight from Phoenix to Orange County. When I got on the plane, all the window seats were taken, and all the window blinds were closed because it was smoking-hot outside. The flight crew was trying to keep the plane cool, but for me, this meant that the all-too-familiar-panic began to creep in. My experiment was to not let the fact that I could not see outside the plane make me feel crazy.

I took my self-made challenge seriously, and I tried to remain calm: I closed my eyes and visualized what I would normally be seeing out the window. I pretended I was blind. I distracted my mind with a book. Each of these tactics worked for a short period. I had to keep switching it up and kept trying to convince myself I was ok. The taxi down to the runway was more difficult than flying in the air, because of the motion sickness I was experiencing. I will have to admit that I cheated a bit: the woman across the aisle who was sitting in the window seat opened her window blind just a hair. I did crane my neck to sneak a peak in that direction every once in a while.

Conclusion: My fear is real and I still like to see the sky. I faced my fear that day and came out the other end a little bit stronger and more confident. I think the next time I am on a plane with no window seats available or in an elevator I will be calmer because I made it to Orange County unscathed! My fear became a little less powerful that day. If I want to rid myself of this feeling I will need to do some deeper work…or…maybe I will just accept the fact that I need a window seat!

What is your fear? Are you willing to face it?

Take Action: This week and moving forward, let’s face one of our fears. Let’s realize the source of this fear and try to meet it head on. If you cheat and somewhat fail, as I did, then let’s accept our fear and learn to manage it and live with it without guilt or shame.

Β Because Together is Better,


  1. I love how you recognized and faced your fear. Isn’t it great knowing that we can power over what holds us back? Thanks for sharing.

    • Thank you Rebecca! I think the best part is that I took that first step. Next time I fly it will be a little bit easier…-Deanna

  2. Deanna, I admire your self challenge! It may seem like a small step of courage, but it is courage, nonetheless! πŸ™‚ Even though you had a moment of feeling like you NEEDED to look out of that lady’s window, the best part is knowing that you made it that far without a window seat, so maybe next time you’ll enjoy an entire flight without ANY window peeking! Because now you KNOW you can do it! πŸ™‚
    Ps. That elevator thing!? My WORSE fear! πŸ™

    • Thank you El Michelle. I agree with you that now I KNOW I can do it. Little steps lead to bigger steps. Thank you for your wise words! -Deanna

  3. Deanna ~ I’m a big fan of tackling big things in small bites. I don’t think you cheated at all — I think you were “almost 100%” I like the fact that we can practice these skills on specific, ‘tangible’ fears and perhaps use them with problems that are less concrete but equally challenging.

    • Andrea, your words are so wise and encouraging. Thank you so very much for that, I really appreciate your view. I think this is a big thing and I am taking small bites, as you say. Next time it will be easier for sure! -Deanna

  4. Another great post, Deanna! I have a vivid memory of a fireman rolling me up in a rug to demonstrate to my first grade class (way back in the day) what to do if a person catches fire inside a house. By the time he unrolled me, I thought I was going to pass out from shock! That came back to haunt me when I had to have an MRI done and I was in this imaging tube for 30 minutes. I cheated too… I took a valium! Whatever it takes to get past the fear, right? πŸ™‚

    • Sheila, being rolled up in a rug would send me into a panic so fast! I have often heard of people needing to do an MRI, and my palms begin to sweat just thinking about it. I think the Valium was a great idea! πŸ™‚ -Deanna

  5. Deanna, I love light, not a fan of the dark like you. I get motion sickness on boats and the back seat of cars – okay on planes but need an aisle seat – being fearful of heights! Sitting by the window feels like I am falling off a cliff. My husband will walk up to a cliff edge and stand there, sit down with legs dangling over and it makes my stomach do flip flops!! My greatest achievement would be to skydive…maybe one day!!!

    • Debra, that is so interesting that our fears are the same but quite the opposite! You prefer an aisle seat because the feeling of falling off a cliff, and I prefer a window seat so I can see the sky and ground. Such interesting perspectives, thank you for sharing! Skydiving would be so out of my comfort zone…I hope you do it! -Deanna

  6. Judging by your fear stories, I think you should stay away from your siblings! πŸ˜‰ It’s difficult to describe my ‘fear’. It’s not a fear of heights because I can be up high. It’s more a fear of ledges, perhaps. And I despise mice/rats/rodents. I don’t find either have a huge impact on my ability to function in the world, so I’m okay with them. (If I stay away from lemmings I should be fine!)

    • Lisa, you just made me laugh, thank you! Yes, I should steer clear of my siblings! πŸ™‚ I think we all should stay away from lemmings! πŸ™‚ -Deanna

  7. I have many fears, but lately I have a new technique for dealing with them. I allow myself to feel the fear, observe my self feeling the fear, take a deep breath and tell myself to let it go as I exhale. So far, its helping.

  8. I am not sure if I actually have one biggest fear. But I know I have daily worries and anxieties. Those I face by doing an emotional housecleaning. I learnt this from Laurel Melling and her Emotional Brain Training tools. You can rewire stress circuits in your brain to joy circuits over time.

  9. Thank You for your honest and brave sharing ! Could not agree more than the acceptance and awareness are the one of best tools to use in our daily life in order to be more clear and choose the life we want to live – even if it means living knowing our deepest fears.

    • Evita, I love what you wrote. Sometimes knowing our deepest fears is the first step to overcoming them. We must accept them. Thank you for being here! -Deanna

  10. I just loved how you proved to your fear that you could beat it by having a victory over it: you didn’t die without being able to see. Thanks for the lesson, looking forward to using this on my own fears πŸ™‚

    • Thank you Marianne, I appreciate your feedback! I love that you will use this in your life to help you conquer your fears! -Deanna

  11. That is I get out of my comfort zone. Thank you for sharing!

  12. Marjory Johnson says:

    I try to not let fear control me, but it’s hard when go through events in our lives we can’t control.

    • You are right Marjory, it is scary to be faced with things which are out of our control. You are a strong person to admit that, thank you! -Deanna

  13. Lisa Hodges says:

    It’s so hard to step out of our comfort box. Great post.

  14. jIm Striegel says:

    I feel the exact way a Phoo. Wonder why that is? In business, I’m fine, but other areas more apprehensive.

  15. Count me in. Heights are my worst nightmare. I love the message. Thank you for sharing!

  16. Jessica says:

    i love the idea of exploring your fears and this is a really thought provoking piece.

  17. You are brave! I always need a window seat:) I am noticing new fears in my thirties..I am afraid of many of the rides at the county fair and amusement parks that I used to love…Maybe this summer I will force myself to go on a ride at the Orange County Fair!

    • That is funny Daniele that you always want the window seat as well. I find that I am more fearful as I get older also…maybe it has to do with our knowledge of being mortal?? Yes, ride those rides and face your fear! -Deanna

  18. My fear is failing and losing everything I have already worked hard to achieve. it is not a crippling fear though

  19. Experience is the key to gaining strength, confidence and swagger. Ignoring your limits and leaving nothing on the table will develop your experience, confidence and love for yourself. Great mental experiment.

  20. I have a fear of spiders:) I HATE them, I will not be holding a tarantula thought to try and overcome it:) I guess it is a fear but I use the sweeper to deal with any little fear that comes along:)

  21. Daddy G says:

    Here’s a story: I have always had a fear of heights. In 2005, I got into the air filtration business and on my very first job, I was forced to climb up a 30′ extension ladder (fully extended) onto a commercial warehouse roof. I was with the 70+ year old owner, the manager and his assistant (who just happened to also be his 5′ 2″, 50 something year old wife!)… Well, she went up that ladder like nobody’s business then everyone looked at me. I learned right then and there that my ego is much stronger than my fear of heights. I went up that ladder after her like it was my (new) job! I still don’t really like heights but now it’s more of a “healthy respect” rather than “fear” of them. I think when it comes to irrational fears, it helps to look at others and say “Hey, they’re no better than I am! If they can do it, I can do it”!

    Now let’s get you in a sleeping bag, on an elevator and kick that fear’s butt!!! ;~}

    • I like that it is a healthy respect instead of a fear…that feels better. I love that you want to trap me in a sleeping bad and lock me in an elevator…now, that is love! -Deanna

  22. I totally agree. I love this quote, too: “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” – Martin Luther King Jr. Use your fear to move you forward.

    • Laurel, that is a wonderful quote! I also like your words, Use your fear to move you forward. So many times we let fear stifle us! -Deanna

  23. I don’t like roller coasters. I used to love them until I started having allergy problems that caused vertigo. A few years ago, I made myself get back on a roller coaster to face the fear. I still don’t like to go on roller coasters but I can do it.

    • Deborah, I love that you say you do not love it, but you can do it. That is where I am with the whole seeing fear. Thank you for your comment! -Deanna

  24. As I’m getting older I am noticing more that I have a fear of heights. It’s funny because when I was younger I would have no problem going on roller coasters and crazy rides. I intend on facing my fears this summer and doing something exciting like parasailing or sky diving, they are definitely on my bucket list. Wish me luck!

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