The Best Way to Fall

Once in awhile I’m still asked how I fell through the bridge – details and all. I can’t remember the minutiae because angels saw to it that I blacked out. All I know is that I fell through head-and-handlebars first, in all probability landing hard on my left side and back. So there’s a pretty good chance that an un-choreographed (and not too dainty) somersault was involved. Maybe I looked like a falling fairy…

In the early pages of Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma, Peter A. Levine writes about a threatened impala realizing that it is doomed to die at the hands of a stalking cheetah, and instinctively [enters] an altered state of consciousness shared by all mammals when death appears imminent. Shortly after, Levine writes: Physiologists call this altered state the “immobility” or “freezing” response.

It’s entirely possible that my body sensed impending doom and responded by shutting down. I don’t know if my limbs went stiff or limp. I have no idea if I screamed or kept silent. Occasionally, I find myself replaying the scene, wondering what became of my mind and body as I sailed through the air; what spirit shook me awake.

An article I read a few months ago rekindled my curiosity… and offered an uncanny suggestion, at least with regards to the fall itself:

Since psychotics and drunks probably had more relaxed muscle tonus than would a normal person exquisitely aware that they were about to have an awful impact, we can only ponder and infer the possible significance of relaxed muscle tonus on impact tolerance. I suggest therefore that if you suddenly find yourself falling from a very great height, you may find it helpful to just relax. (Slips, Trips, Missteps and Their Consequences, 2007; Gary M. Bakken et al.)

Just maybe, I was astonishingly, immaculately, miraculously relaxed.

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