How our Overcoming Fear of Heights course works, and why it’s so successful …
Over the years we have helped thousands of people, to face and to overcome their fear of heights (see the reviews on Google and TripAdvisor). Hopefully if you’re reading this you might be thinking about joining one of our courses. And if you are, to help start the process of curing you of your fear of heights (acrophobia) it would be good to understand what we do and why.
How we read the world
We read the world through our senses. Principally this is what we see, what we hear and what we feel (the kinaesthetic). When we are faced with a stimulus at height for example, we might see an edge with a gaping space beyond it. Maybe also, you’re standing on a rocky uneven slope and you don’t feel in balance or secure.
How we respond to what we see, hear and feel
If you have a fear of heights, then this might be what happens … You experience a heights stimulus, and your brain says “ah – heights! What do we do when we experience heights? Run away!” or “Freeze, sit down and feel crap”. And then … you survive, and so this behaviour becomes reinforced, because it has always kept you alive.
In order to help you, we need to help you to change that response
This is how …
First of all a phobia is an emotional problem and it needs an emotional response. It’s no good trying to reason with yourself: phobias aren’t rational! So our courses start indoors with a therapy session.
The therapy session is about communicating with your subconscious mind. Psychiatrists call the subconscious part of your brain the Parietal. Steve Peters, in his book The Chimp Paradox refers to it simply as the Computer. This is the bit that stores information on what we did last time and what we should do next time.
So we start by talking to this part of the brain, suggesting that maybe there’s another way forward that doesn’t involve having a panic attack… Another way forward where you won’t end up feeling crap about yourself. This is our first phase – working at the subliminal level.
Outdoors we work on creating a new narrative for your brain …
In the past, your experiences have been along the lines of – stimulus, panic, survive … and then repeat.
What we do outdoors with you is a lot more concrete. In essence we use Cognitive Behaviour Therapy to change your narrative. We use the outdoors as a medium through which we can nudge you just enough out of your comfort zone, in order to make progress, and for you to see how you can now be.
Now we give you lots of experiences at height where the new narrative becomes: stimulus, pause, think, decide, act, survive …. and then repeat! Slowly you start to feel that heights become normalised for you, and your acrophobia gradually becomes less of an issue for you.
On the second day we consolidate on this
By the end of just 1 day with us you will have made a seismic shift from where you were, just 9 hours earlier that same day.
On day 2 we consolidate on this progress by giving you more positive experiences at height to bank. We do this by getting you to work in an unfamiliar environment, and by giving you the skills and the tools to overcome simple problems.
This gets you used to using the intelligent part of your brain (the Human) to work through problems associated with height. When we are working intelligently, we are better placed to recognise and interpret the stimuli for what they are, and less likely to panic!
Now you start to bank more, new, positive, (happy?) experiences. Your brain starts to learn a new narrative. It starts to learn that actually, if you allow yourself to pause, when you experience the stimulus, the more intelligent part of your brain is given the time to think things through instead. The Computer then banks these new experiences and thus begins a new, virtuous cycle.
And when you learn this about yourself, you’re then set, and free to start enjoying a new you!
Book a place on one of our Overcome Your Fear of Heights courses here
The Chimp Paradox – Professor Steve Peters
Climb Smarter – De Rebecca Coles (really good reading and not just for climbers!)
UKC.com – Playing With Fear February 2018
The Scientist – January 2018
Esquire Magazine – How to Cure a Fear of Heights March 2017
UKC.com – How to Conquer the Fear of Falling – November 2016
Will Legon (of Will4Adventure.com) works professionally in the outdoors as a mountain leader, rock climbing instructor and mountain bike leader. Since 2006 Will and his team from Will4Adventure have been helping people overcome their acrophobia/fear of heights.