Here’s a 22 year chart of the VIX Volatility Index. I used VIX yesterday to make a decision about a short trade, but I have reasonable expectations (hence, Dec 2014 puts and not anything more dangerous, ha).
Yes, there are sharp spikes, but longer term, it bottoms out in rounded vallies.
Below is a chart of S&P 500 Index for the same period.
Overlay of the two charts: