I saw the news the other day about an unusual bridge built in Hunan Province, China – a 600-feet-high, 1000-feet-long glass suspension bridge.
While reading about it and looking at the pictures that I brought to share with you tonight, I was thinking: if I were in China right now, would I step on this bridge, or would I be one of those, like that girl on her knees, screaming and not being able to finish her 1000-feet journey?
In that moment, many thoughts crossed my mind. Yes, this is a sturdy and safe construction; nothing will happen while I walk across it… Yes, I am afraid of heights, and 600 feet is awfully high… No, I’ve never stood on glass surface with a lot of air underneath… No, it will not be easy for me to make those first steps on that glass bridge… No, I wouldn’t do that… Wait, why not?
All these thoughts were great examples of my programs, of what I believe about myself and the world around me. And it’s not unique just to me. I would like you to make a quick recall of YOUR thoughts when you first saw these pictures. Did you feel some discomfort and, may be, even fear, or anxiety, just from picturing yourself walking on this bridge?
Where do these feelings come from? After all, this bridge is a sound and safe structure; nothing can happen when we walk on that bridge – it is designed to hold over 800 people at the same time.
Let me share some numbers with you.
Leading behavioral researchers say that as much as 77% of all the mental programs that you and I have today – that is, everything that we think, or say to ourselves or to others – are false, harmful, negative, counterproductive, or work against us.
At the same time, medical researchers have said that as much as 75% of all illnesses are self-induced.
Dr. Shad Helmstetter, the bestselling author, behavioral researcher, leading authority in the field of Self-Talk, who I proudly can call my mentor, has said that, during the first eighteen years of our lives, if we grew up in a relatively positive homes, we were told "No!", or what you could not do, or what would not work, more than 148,000 times.
Those are staggering numbers, aren’t they? Why were we told so many “no’s” and “can’t do’s” in our lives? Why is our almost immediate response, in almost any situation, is to pull back, to step down, to accept that “I can’t do that”?
I invite you to go way-way back in history.
Let’s play caveman or cavewoman. Thousands years ago, early humans were very vulnerable to outside dangers. Imagine that we are walking along, minding our own cave business, may be searching for food, or just enjoying our regular day… when all of the sudden you spot a saber-tooth tiger lurking around the next big rock. You make a decision, in a split second, (and probably the most right at that moment), to run for your life! At that moment, the part of your brain called amygdala activates your fight or flight response. Adrenalin and other neurochemicals and hormones surge through your body as you make split second decisions about standing your ground or getting out of there as fast as you possibly can.
That kind of response is very helpful when a saber-tooth tiger appears in front of you. It helps keep you alive. However, it’s less useful when you’re facing stressful but less life-threatening stimuli in modern-day life. The same fight or flight response that can save your life in an actual emergency, if it gets stuck in the “on” position, can leave you feeling angry, frustrated, depleted and overwhelmed. The fact is that your brain, especially amygdala, does not know that there is no saber-tooth tiger anymore!
That’s why when I picture myself standing on the glass floor with 600 feet of open ear under my feet, and with 1000 feet to reach the solid ground, my amygdala turns on her
guard function to protect me from the saber-toothed tiger… In this case, the tiger is my fear of heights.
Now, I know better, and I can tell my brain not to worry, that I will be safe.
That’s why the glass suspension bridge at the Shiniuzhai Park , Pingjiang County, Hunan Province, China, is already on my list of places to visit when I travel to China next time…
When you catch yourself confronting a ‘saber-toothed tiger’ - having those feelings of fear, or being tempted to say “I can’t”, or “It would not work”, just stop yourself, thank your amygdala for being such a great protector, and make your fearless choice– do it, go for it, make it happen!