Don’t be held back by a fear of heights
For years as a climber I was held back by my acrophobia, my head panicking pretty much the moment I was about a meter or two above the ground. (To be fair, in those days I was doing it all wrong: my mate basically gave me a rack of gear and said give that route a go). Possibly my fear kept me alive, but even as I learned more about how I should be doing things safely, my cowardly head still kept talking me out of it. I desperately wanted the adventure, but couldn’t actually face the reality!
Over the years I have made it a goal not to let my head ruin my adventures any more. This is what I have learned …
The psychological brain
In Professor Steve Peter’s book, the Chimp Paradox, Peters focuses on three parts of the brain: the limbic, the frontal and the parietal. For the reader he calls these, the chimp, the human and the computer. (He accepts that this is a huge simplification of the psychological mind – but I find it works well for me, the layperson).
The chimp is the emotional part of the brain. It thinks and responds to stimuli faster than the human, and it is the more dominant of the two. The human is the rational, logical part of the brain that can think things through and come to a more objective conclusion for any stimuli or information presented to it. The computer enables us to do things automatically: everyday actions such as how to walk, drive a car or put on your clothes (which Peters describes as auto-pilots). But also the computer banks information on how we have dealt with past situations or stimuli and gives us a reference point for either the chimp or the human to refer to.
How we read the world around us
The stimuli of how we read the world around us come with our senses, and largely these will be visual, audio and/or kinaesthetic. A visual stimulus is what you see, real or imagined. The audio is what you hear, including your inner-voice (telling you not to carry on maybe). It could also be the sound of a howling gale, reminding you that these are serious weather conditions. The kinaesthetic is how we physically relate to the world around us. It might be the awkward slope of the hillside we’re stood upon or the slippery nature of wet shiny rock feeding us information that we’re not in a safe or secure place.
When we are presented with a stimulus, our chimp is the part of the brain that manages this information first. It will need to make a decision as to which part of the brain is best placed to deal with any given stimulus. For example someone you know, waves at you from across the street, the chimp may ask “computer, that’s a friend waving at us, what do we do?” and the computer, on auto-pilot now, is already responding to the stimulus in micro-seconds by making you wave back.
The stimulus, might be something very new however. For example, as you navigate down a path in a foreign, tropical country a large lizard-like creature presents itself. The chimp may then engage in a conversation with the computer and/or the human before it works out a plan. It’s also on the cusp of allowing the amygdala (which is an integral part of the chimp) to take over.