When you sit in a spaceship hurtling around the Earth at 17,500 miles per hour, you learn something about managing risk—and panic. As I listened to this interview with a famous astronaut, I thought, “That’s exactly the strategy Dr. Goat and I need for planning a terror-free vacation!”
It worked! I’ll tell you more about that in a future post. Because I think this is a great global strategy for ADHD-challenged adults and their partners. For now, here’s a little more about this accomplished astronaut and how he preps mentally for orbit.
Oh, you might already know Canadian Chris Hadfield from his YouTube version of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” with almost 32 million views so far.
About Commander Chris Hadfield:
In space, Commander Hadfield has:
- Flown three space missions
- Conducted two space walks
- Spent a total of six months in space (Hadfield says: “Getting to space took only 8 minutes and 42 seconds. Give or take a few thousand days of training.”)
Earthbound in Houston, he’s served as the chief of International Space Station operations and chief CAPCOM commander (that’s the person who communicates from mission control with astronauts in orbit).
He’s written a very engaging book, An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth: What Going to Space Taught Me About Ingenuity, Determination, and Being Prepared for Anything. “This memoir is part fascinating view, part Boy Scout manual,” wrote The New York Times.
You can listen to Hadfield’s interview with “Fresh Air’s” Terry Gross (October 30, 2013), read some of the transcript, and also read an excerpt of the book here: Astronaut Chris Hadfield Brings Lessons From Space Down To Earth
On Coping With Moments of Fear and Panic in Space
Hadfield: Half of the risk of a six-month flight is in the first nine minutes, so as a crew, how do you stay focused? How do you not get paralyzed by the fear of it?
The way we do it is to break down: What are the risks? And a nice way to keep reminding yourself is: What’s the next thing that’s going to kill me? And it might be five seconds away, it might be an inadvertent engine shutdown, or it might be staging of the solid rockets coming off. …
One of the exercises that you basically put yourself through in preparing—or that NASA puts you through in preparing—to be an astronaut is what you describe as what’s the next thing that will kill me because there are so many things that can go wrong and be life-threatening in space. Give us a sense of what that what’s the next thing that will kill me training process is like.
We don’t just live with that, though. The thing that is really useful, I think out of all of this, is we dig into it so deeply and we look at, “OK, so this might kill us, this is something that would normally panic us, let’s get ready, let’s think about it.” And we go into every excruciating detail of why that might affect what we’re doing and what we can do to resolve it and have a plan, and be comfortable with it.
On Neutralizing Fear
GROSS: And you say in order to make this work, you have to neutralize fear.
HADFIELD: Yeah, but, I mean, it’s not like astronauts are braver than other people. We’re just, you know, meticulously prepared.
We dissect what it is that is going to scare us and what it is that is a threat to us, and then we practice over and over again so that the natural, irrational fear is neutralized. [Hint from Gina: This was my mantra in developing actual exercises for my husband and I, in preparing for a …eek!…joint vacation to a foreign country.]
And your first reaction is not just to scream and flee with your hands waving over your head, but in fact, to go hey, we thought about this, and I know that this is dangerous, but there are six things that I could do right now, all of which will help make things better.
And it’s worth remembering, too, there’s no problem so bad that you can’t make it worse also.
How do you manage fear and panic?
Do you find this astronaut’s perspective interesting or helpful?