The Nature Fix: How do I overcome a paralyzing fear?

The Nature Fix

The quest to share your partner's passion, even when it terrifies you

Dear Out There,

I have a question about fear and water.

About two summers ago, I went whitewater rafting on the Poudre River with my husband and a friend, in a small raft called the Mini-Me. I'd been rafting quite a few times, but never in this small a boat, on the Poudre. I've fallen out of bigger boats on desert rivers and done fine. I've even pulled people back into the boat, who have fallen out in the Poudre. But up until that day, I had never fallen into the Poudre.

We were having a good time, and then our boat hit a rock, and my friend and I toppled into the river. My partner stayed in the boat. I was shocked by the cold river and how terrified I was. I felt paralyzed, even though I used to be a life guard and rescue people. It was so different than other rivers I had fallen into.

My friend and I got back into the boat, and my husband soon started yelling paddle commands at us, because we were coming up on another Class IV rapid. After thinking, "Gee, I'm glad we fell out of the boat; that will never happen again," we fell out again. This time I couldn't see my friend, and I was afraid something had happened to her. But in the end, we were on either side of a cliff where we'd gotten ashore. 

I haven't rafted since then. Rafting is really important to my partner - so important it was in his wedding vows. I'm wondering if you have any tips for me on overcoming a scary water experience like this. I want to raft again, and we do have a rafting trip planned for later this summer, on a bigger desert river. But I would like to go on the nearby Poudre again, and have some strategies for being brave.

Thanks for any advice you can give me.

— Over My Head

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I wanted to love the things that he loved, because I loved him.
— Becky Jensen, Advice Columnist

One thing that helps is to remember that the fear I have isn’t always proportional to the danger that I’m actually in.
— Angus Chen, Advice Columnist