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FIGHTING FEAR WITH FEAR

Tales of Triumph and Tragedy, A Stuntwoman’s Perspective on Facing Fears,

By Hollywood Stuntwoman and Olympic Gold Medalist, Dana Hee

(Book Overview)


“I still recall that day on the set of the Natassja Kinski film, “Bella Mafia,” as if it were yesterday. It was the day I did my first car hit in my career as a Hollywood Stuntwoman. I remember standing on the paved road in my yellow sundress and strap sandals with the sun warming my back, and glinting off the metallic silver bumper of the car rapidly closing in on me. It approached much faster than what I had envisioned it would. There was a moment of extreme panic and fear, and I felt like bolting from its path. Then, the fear was replaced by the sudden rush of adrenaline that surged like a locomotive through my body. Steeling myself to focus on what had to happen next, I bent my knees in anticipation of the slight thrust upwards I would make on contact. As the bumper caught me and lifted me into the air, the ‘whack’ of my body slamming against the hood resonated in my ears for a moment before being swallowed by an intense silence, as I was spit up and over the top of the car. There was a surprising and disorienting sense of peace as I spun through the air, catching glimpses of blue, then brown…before landing with a resounding thud on the side of the road.”

You know, you’ve got to wonder about the Mario Andretti’s of this world! And, likewise, all of the skydiving, bull riding, bungee jumping extreme-adrenaline freaks!! Why do they do what they do? Why would anyone purposely put themselves in harms way? I wonder if it’s for the same reason I’ve been doing just that for the last sixteen years.

From competing in full-contact fighting in the Olympic Games, to performing dangerous and debilitating stunts for Hollywood films, I’ve had moments where I’ve thought that I must be insane. What compels me to place myself in front of an oncoming car, or allow someone to jerk me thirty feet through the air and slam me into the nose of an airplane? Hmmm…. perhaps it’s because I’ve wanted to forget about the painful scars of my childhood…the years of life in an orphanage, with alcoholic, suicidal, abusive family members, on the streets, in halfway houses, a government shelter, and a foster home. Maybe it’s been an effort to strip myself of my negative self-image, and cloak myself in the resulting praise and admiration of my peers. What I do know, without a doubt, is that I have been driven by the need to face my fears head on.

I guess if I had come into the world feet first, I wouldn’t have felt so compelled to challenge my fate, as I would’ve been able to hit the ground running. As it was, my rocky start in life did nothing to ensure that I would be able to hold my head high in society. Indeed, I was handicapped with a huge lack of self-esteem and confidence. Luckily for me though, I was too hardheaded to accept defeat with humility and grace. So after years of struggling against the force of the whirlpool trying to pull me down, I forced my head up out of the water, and struck out swimming.

You know, it’s amazing what one can accomplish with a spark of hope and a lot of determination. When I finally took hold of my life I was actually able to make my dreams of Olympics and Hollywood come true. I guess it’s a tribute to the strength and courage of mankind that someone like myself was able to rise from the ashes, and hover in the clouds. Then again, maybe it has nothing to do with strength or courage.

Personally, I feel my successes in life have much more to do with fear…fear that I’m not good enough, fear of pain and humiliation, fear of the unknown, and most of all, fear of failure. For me, it was fortunate that I finally recognized that, ‘that’ was what was holding me back in life. It is equally fortunate that I felt a burning need to change that. The fact that I chose to face and conquer my fears is commendable. The fact that I chose to face fear with more fear, is nuts! Or is it?

From stair falls, to car hits, that sense of satisfaction and accomplishment that I get when I face fear, and pull off a death-defying stunt makes me feel good about myself. It reinforces the fact that it is possible to put my fears aside, if only for a time, and accomplish what I set out to do. It’s a very empowering feeling! And it’s a recipe for success I’ve used many times now.

I wonder…. perhaps that is what drives the Mario Andretti’s of this world, this fear factor, and the need to face it…perhaps not. All I know, is that when the paramedics are rushing me to the hospital after yet another near-death encounter, and are shaking their heads saying, “Why in the world would anyone do such crazy work!” I smile to myself, because I know the answer to that question. Call me crazy if you want, but I have learned to fight fear, with fear. Instead of cowing away from the challenges and trials of life, I meet them head on, or upside down, or in front of a car. I now know that the only thing worse than failure is being too afraid to even try. Now, when someone asks me to jump, I say, “how high?”