Feeling Giddy


I think of giddiness as a generally positive feeling. Giddy is when you receive a promotion you didn’t think you would get, or when two characters in your favorite TV show finally get together after you’ve been rooting for them for eight consecutive seasons. Giddy is finishing a very good book or finding your cellphone after you thought you lost it. It can be release after building anticipation or the jolt of an unexpected surprise. Giddy is when you find out the person you are drawn to is drawn to you too.

But giddiness is also a helpless kind of elation. A bodily response outside of your control, like a yawn or a shiver. Giddy is driving over a hill, the involuntary tingle that shoots through your gut right as you go over the hump. Giddy is being tickled in all your soft spots.

Scientists say the evolutionary reason for being ticklish is to build your defenses in nonthreatening situations. It makes you clamp your arms down by your sides and curl up tight so that neither the pads of your feet, nor your armpits, nor your belly are exposed. Giddiness is false danger, recreational fear. It is the 130 foot drop in the Tower of Terror at Disney World, the feeling of falling off a 13 story building without meeting with concrete and pain, then God or nothingness. But a real fall would elicit the same dizzying exhilaration, the same electrifying thrill. Giddy is pleasure before unbearable pain.

But as forceful as it is, it is also ephemeral. Like lightning flashing bright across the sky, making images in your eyes and disappearing before its booming cry can reach your ears. There and gone again in a split second. Like pizza at a party. Or a hug goodbye. Disappearing quickly, never enough. Giddy is fleeting, then missing.

So when we feel giddy after something good happens, are our bodies trying to tell us something? Is it preparing us for danger, for loss? Is it warning us of a coming storm?