Embrace Thy Fears - How Extreme Sports Affect You

“All we have to fear is ‘Fear’ itself.”
Sunita Chauhan riding her waves high during Ganga Kayak festivals ©Inspire Crew

The words of Michel DE Montaigne, philosopher of the French Renaissance significantly addressed a learnt behaviour that gradually empowers over the conscious mind. To fear or not to fear is not a conscious decision to make, and humans are often in denial to address the intense emotion felt. Extreme Sports athletes are time and again associated with terms like ‘adrenaline junkie’, ‘reckless behaviour’, ‘life-taking risks’, ‘selfish lifestyle’, ‘unstable minds’, etc. While these do make up a good argument for the usual crowd to stay within the safe boundaries and make peace with their fears curtailing them, seldom do they realise that the extreme and adventure sports being a drug, rather has psychological benefits. Plenty of research articles have been published for decades often describing the relationship between extreme sports and their participants in a negative note. Investigations (Hunt 1996) have stated that the willing participation of one is rather an ‘unconscious impulse associated with self-destructive needs and wishes’ and their ‘inappropriate love for pain’.

Rinzing Doma Bhutia, says my fear of heights disappeared like a mist when the positive gesture gave me more potential to do what I do. ©Inspire Crew

Dr. Eric Brymer and Dr. Robert Schweitzer conducted a study for their article posted in 2013 (Extreme sports are good for your health: A phenomenological understanding of fear and anxiety in extreme sport), to learn more closely about the relationship between the experience and fear of an extreme sports participant. The interviews were conducted with 15 extreme sports athletes individually across 6 different disciplines, ensuring unbiased mindsets were recorded to study in details, the approach and experience of participants for their respective discipline of extreme sports. Each had their own take on fear and why they found it necessary to keep doing what they do. Some mentioned they never get over the fear, but the willingness to face the fear despite the risks has always helped them to transcend to a newer self. Some mentioned that once someone does enough of what he/she is doing, the mind just learns out of experience how to pull him/her out of any difficult and fear triggering situations. ‘Fear stimulates the survival instincts. Fear keeps you alive. Fear prompts you to not stand at the edge of a cliff. Fear is a healthy emotion’. If fear keeps you alive, then why push yourself into extreme situations that will possibly result in death? To embrace and overcome fear, you need clarity of thought to bring your mind under control; the conscious effort to dominate the subconscious. Participating in something so extreme demands calm and focus. The practice of acknowledging this fear and then training the body, mind and soul to sync together helps them identify an indescribable confidence.

One of the B.A.S.E. jumpers described her passion for the extreme sport as the “ultimate metaphor for jumping into life rather than standing on the edge quivering.” She explains her intimate connection with nature is like ‘a leaf in the wind’. Her general take on the topic was since she overcomes her fears with every jump, other fears in life look insignificant. Extreme Sports has resulted in enhancing one’s personal growth, self-knowledge, identity development and creating a sense of fulfilment within oneself. The psychological well-being amongst extreme sports athletes is much healthier than the crowd playing it safe. Post the article in 2013, a book ‘Phenomenology and the Extreme Sports Experience’ with detailed research by Dr. Eric Brymer and Dr. Robert Schweitzer on understanding the motivation to participate in Extreme Sports, was published in 2017. Extreme Sports athletes understand that not every situation can be brought under their control, the future is unknown and vague, but so is the destiny of a simple and safe life. Most athletes leap into such dangerous action to only be in greater understanding with themselves. Inspire Crew’s take from this research - Discover life while discovering yourself.


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