There I was kitted up with safety gear and connected to our Tree Top Adventure at Yarramundi, NSW (near Sydney), trying to take the first step…I’m not sure why it had never occurred to me that our adventure would involve heights, you’d think the name of this adventure park would have given it away, however not once did it cross my mind and I found myself literally frozen to the spot.
I couldn’t move, the communication from my brain to my legs was blocked with negative chatter which was causing me neurological stress, stopping me from not being able to gather my thoughts.
If you have ever experienced immobilising fear then you will understand how your heart rate increases, your body temperate rises, you can’t think straight and your legs become jelly with no strength to move, feeling like you are stuck to the spot.
So there I was experiencing all of these symptoms, with my beautiful eight year old off and away making her way through the course. Firstly I tried to coax her to come back, suggesting we go do the easy kids option, yet she couldn’t hear me (or wasn’t listening) . Then I discovered, due to the way the safety gear works, once your hooked on to the wire the only way to get off (apart from finishing the course) is to call for the supervisor to unlock you…and in that moment there was no supervisor in sight…so there seemed to be only one way to deal with my fear and that was to face it head on and move forward.
The power of our mind is a truly marvellous thing and reminds me of a time when at the dentist. Due to an abscess I required a tooth extraction, the thought of the pain involved with this procedure was so overwhelming for me that the dentist’s only option was to do the work with me “zoned” me out. I was given a drug that relaxed me to such a deep level that I had no conscious awareness of what was happening.
A few weeks later I was back to have my teeth cleaned and the dentist commented how he couldn’t understand how I could have my teeth cleaned without any support (to zone me out). I told him “oh that’s easy, in my mind having my teeth cleaned doesn’t hurt”.
What an epiphany that laid within that response, the key words being “in my mind”.
Whilst our bodies may respond physically, the fear of a situation (or (most) people, places or things) begins in our mind and we make whatever we are telling ourself so real that our body responds to support our thoughts.
As I stood high up above the ground on that wire, with limited choices, I acknowledged my fear and decided that being a positive role model for my daughter was more important. In that moment I realised that what I was telling myself was not real, it really was False Evidence Appearing Real. So I took one step and then another, and then another AND it was exhilarating.
The brain has a natural tendency to seek out negatives, inherited from our cavemen ancestors whom such thinking and being “on guard” was critical to their survival, however their amgydala response reactions which imprinted, are still inherent within us.
The emotional part of our brain is the amygdala, which regulates our fight or fight response. It monitors situations and determines what our response should be and is often engaged even before our neocortex (rational brain) has awareness of what is happening.
In order to change this we need to re-train the amygdala and put in practice ways to calm the amygdala and engage the neocortex. Here are some ideas that you can work with to achieve this:
With mindfulness and intention focus on deep breathing. Breathing in through your nose, counting to ten, so your ribcage rises as you expand your chest. Now breathe out slowly through your mouth or nose if more comfortable.
This techniques gives your neocortex time to catch up with the amygdala and therefore give you a rational option for response, yet too it increase the oxygen in your body stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system and promoting a calm state.
Change your focus to something you can appreciate or see as a positive about the situation, as it is difficult for the brain to experience two emotions at the same time.
If you can do this in the moment, even better, however afterwards is fine. Consider your response and what the trigger was that prompted your response, because when we know the trigger then we can consider what a more appropriate response is to it and how you would like to act in future.
To embed the new response you can use NLP Swish response or even a simple visualisation of yourself acting in the new way to the trigger.
- Creative Activities
Any creative activity such as imagination, meditation, visualisation, art, cooking, dance, singing stimulates the frontal lobes of the brain where the neocortex is located, making it easier to remain focussed and be in charge of our your reactions.
- Regulating Fear
This is one of my favourite bits of advice, to do something you find fearful (which is safe and within reason) on a regular basis. When we do this we train our brain that it is OK to feel fear and to not be disabled by it. We are also practising courageousness and creating new neurological connections.
Lastly I have found not only personally yet also with clients Kinesiology to be a wonderful modality which aids a person to bypass their conscious mind and re-align their neocortex (as well as energy centres) so they can more easily move towards what they want.
In the immortal words of Susan Jeffers “Feel the fear and do it anyway”.