Get Your Butt on that Roller Coaster, or How to Embrace Fear

by Melissa Karnaze

I’m not a roller coaster person.

I’m usually afraid of heights, I don’t need a “thrill,” and I have a sensitive neck.

But a few months ago I went to Six Flags: Magic Mountain with some family and friends.

I went on some “thrill” rated coasters because I didn’t want to regret a “wasted trip.”

All through the lines, I kept saying to myself how scared I was, and how I might chicken out at the last minute.

This might sound like I merely succumbed to peer pressure — although I wasn’t given any pressure. I put the pressure on myself! I made the decision to go, not really considering how much I didn’t normally get excited for roller coasters.

I was excited because the people I was going with were excited; I wanted to be there with them. Yes, that’s how empathy sometimes works.

Only “brave” people do thrill rides

At the park, a belief of mine slowly eroded.

“I”m not brave enough to go on a scary roller coaster. Other people are. Therefore, they’re braver (and better in that sense) than I am.”

While not totally detrimental, this was a dysfunctional belief because it kept me locked into negative self-judgment: “I’m not the brave kind of person who can go on a scary roller coaster (I’m a wimp).”

All it takes is strapping your butt into the seat

I did pretty well for not being a roller coaster person.

I managed not to chicken out before getting on X2, which is supposedly 5th-dimensional (I think it’s just marketing lingo).

My first thought after getting off X2: “WTF?! Why do people design and make these things?” Shooting flames for no reason. 360° rotating seats for the heck of it. Head-first accelerations for high impact just because.

My second thought after getting off X2: “But that was fun. And wow, that’s all it takes. Just strapping my butt into the seat and all of a sudden I’m a brave roller-coaster goer!”

Tagging along for the ride

It was easy to be brave at Magic Mountain, in that all I had to do was commit to that first step: strapping myself in.

After I made that commitment, the rest was taken care of by the ride itself.

It was a machine that took me through loops, rotated my seat, or shot me forty stories in the air.

The machines did all that. I was just along for the ride.

“Bravery” reconsidered

As the day neared and end, I reflected on how my belief formerly limited the ways in which I viewed myself and my fear of heights.

Yes, I’m still afraid to be way up high. But I’m also capable of being up high and making it back okay. And despite my fear, I can strap into Superman: Escape from Krypton and thoroughly enjoy it.

And all those people I used to look up to? As if they were “braver” and somehow “better” than I?

It was all in my head. The belief in itself was making me “less brave,” or unwilling to go on a roller coaster because I believed I couldn’t do it.

Courage is easier than you think

My story doesn’t only apply to coasters or thrill rides.

It has to do with your life too.

There are certain things that you are right now afraid of. Maybe it’s confronting someone, admitting how you feel, or doing something for yourself that needs to be done. I don’t know what it is. You do.

But I do know that it’s not as scary as you think. That you’re psyching yourself out at least in some way. Just like I did, when it came to standing in line for X2.

Do you know that all it takes is that very first step?

That’s it. All you have to do is take one step. Into your fear. That is, doing what you’re afraid of even though you’re feeling scared.

Granted, make sure that you’re only doing something that you genuinely want to do or believe will benefit you in some way. I’m not recommending that you go on a big scary roller coaster for the sake of it.

I’m talking about those things that you deep down you know you want to do, but think you can’t handle — because you are afraid.

Strap yourself in

Once you commit to that first step, you’ve strapped yourself into the metaphorical roller coaster.

That is, you’ve started a chain of events that you merely have to respond to. (Responding to a chain of events is typically easier than generating a chain of events).

In most cases, doing the actual thing you are scared of is not really that hard. And in many cases, it’s easy.

You just think it’s hard because you don’t give yourself enough credit. Like I didn’t give myself enough credit all those years for “being a wimp.”

Fear doesn’t have to be a stop sign

Believe it or not, you can simultaneously fear doing something — and still do it. The two are by no means mutually inclusive.

You won’t get the importance of this until you learn by practice.

And feeling the fear, yes, can certainly help. (It helps you figure out what you need to do.)

So strap yourself in. Make the commitment.

Just like riding a 5th-dimensional roller coaster, it might actually be fun.

Your thoughts?

Do you want to learn more about how to get in touch with your emotions in a way that makes you more effective in life? Then check out the free 10-part e-class, Your Life is Your Construct, which gives you practical tips on how to work with and learn from your negative emotions.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Willy October 1, 2011 at 9:46 am


Ok, so something in the article bothered me but was afraid (one reason is how I know how you are so good at juicing negative blog comments which I will take personally and could make me feel worse) of bringing it up to you. I am still afraid but after a restless night’s sleep, a final appraisal of my thoughts I’ve come to the conclusion it would be best to go ahead and post a comment on the blog.

This article makes a lot of sense so it is not the general content I am having an issue with. What bothers (angers) me is the use of what is tantamount to an expletive and allowing the flitering in of comments containing the same in your online publications.

I get it and perhaps it is sometimes necessary and to express our sentiments accordingly as are doing so mindfully? So I am not saying what’s right or wrong. And perhaps there is no need to have or feel a line needs to drawn as long as we are being mindful. It is your blog after all. I just don’t believe that mindfulness of emotions gives us license to do whatever we want.

Melissa Karnaze October 1, 2011 at 11:28 am

Hi Willy,

Thanks for expressing your concern. Yes, I do allow for curse words to be published in comments, and have used them previous articles as well.

To clarify the title of this article, I was not intending to say “ass” in place of “butt.” I said what I meant — that going on a roller coaster only requires that you strap your *butt* into the seat. It’s that straightforward, as most roller coasters are seated.

“I get it and perhaps it is sometimes necessary and to express our sentiments accordingly as are doing so mindfully? So I am not saying what’s right or wrong.”

Here’s a thought. If you really don’t think that the use of curse words to express oneself is universally wrong (or something else “bad”), then this article and other comments wouldn’t have bothered you, right? Because something did bother you, maybe it’s worth exploring why exactly that is?

“I just don’t believe that mindfulness of emotions gives us license to do whatever we want.”

Mindfulness of emotions doesn’t give us license for anything.

Whenever I publish an article or comment that contains expletives, it’s a choice. Censoring mere curse words on this blog is not my personal style, for reasons that go beyond those written about here.

Feel free to email me if you’d like to discuss this further.

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