Life is a balancing act between safety and danger, between edging close to the steep drop and maintaining a foothold on firm ground. We hold our hands out towards the fire to get warm, but not too close to be burned. The boundary between the two – danger and safety seems to fizzle and pop, giving that rush of adrenalin and sense of being alive. It is the same on a stormy day when we are drawn to watch nature in awe as it drives with energy at the coastline; to watch as the waves tower high above and come inland to rush and thrash against buildings, roads and pavements. It is that temptation to get as close as possible to that throbbing energy but avoiding the heavy and of freezing whipping water if it gets you.
The beach today
Mental health seems to me to be about where we sit within the ‘fizzle zone’ – how close to that surging wave can we get to share the excitement and wonder of life, without getting a ton of cold water being dumped on top of us (and believe me it is heavy, and cold and knocks you off your feet with contempt!)?
Did you know?
Who seeks the thrill of nature at its most beastly? Researchers at the University of Missouri’s School of Natural Resources surveyed people who sign up for tornado chasing with five different tour companies in Tornado Alley and found that:
- 62 percent are male
- 63 percent were single.
- The mean age was almost 42.
We know that chasing is a hobby that is hard to shake. Not all these tourists are newbies: 53 percent had previous chasing experience and fewer than half of those had done so with a tour company, yet over 30 percent of those with chasing experience had seen a tornado before. 68 percent said they would be willing to spend money on another chase tour.
In a Master’s thesis based on the study, Shuangyu Xu builds psychological profiles of people based on “sensation-seeking” scales of behavior that might identify motivations for chasing tornadoes (asking questions about, for example, predilections for strange foods, comfort with people who are different, and predilection for restlessness). Previous studies had used similar psychological tools to investigate mountaineering, sky diving, white water rafting, and other high risk recreation. The storm chasing tourists scored very moderately on these tests for sensation-seeking behavior.
[H]ang-glider pilots (Wagner & Houlihan, 1994), mountain climbers (Cronin, 1991), skiers, rock climbers, white water kayakers, and stunt flyers (Slanger & Rudestam, 1997) displayed high levels of sensation seeking across all dimensions. These results may suggest that recreational storm chasers are different from other risk recreation activity participants, especially because their personalities seem to be more drawn to new experiences rather than the risks involved.
The tourists professed to sign up to be near nature, to witness natural power and beauty, and to learn about tornadoes. They were not generally doing it to impress people or do something extraordinary, and only moderately interested in the thrill, danger, or risks. (https://blog.ametsoc.org/2010/09/16/recreational-tornado-chasing-the-psychology-of-risk/)
A reflective moment
There is certainly an allure to the power and grandeur of nature especially when it is at its full height of intensity – and at its most dangerous! But we all have our own definition of danger and risk, the ‘fizzing zone’ is different for everyone. What is your ‘fizzing zone’? Would you be one of the tourists signing up to go tornado chasing across the USA, or would you be watching the storm from the safety of your living room? There is no wrong or right answer, just a chance to find out a bit more about ourselves.
I wonder as well when you last stepped into your ‘fizzing zone’? Are you too used to nestling deep into your comfortable zone, and can’t remember the last time you felt the spray on your nose and lips? Is it time to walk once more among the trees and feel the wind mess up your hair?
Or perhaps we need to take a rest from bubbling and popping along in the fizzing zone for too long? Is it time to lie in the daisies on a sunny day and breathe deeply and relax? Time to step back from the edge, warm our hands from a distance and watch the storm pass us by, rather than spins us into a tangle?
A delicate dance in and out of the fizzing zone is ideal, how can we achieve that?
The sound of the beach
This morning I can hear the sea along time before I get close to the beach. It’s static growl fills the whole air as it rumbles back and forth along the shore. A truly immersive sound that wraps around you. Try sinking into this swish and swash of rattling pebbles and lurching water sound, and feel rinsed and fresh before continuing with your day.
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