Psychology Science

Rock climber Alex Honnold demonstrates how to dance with fear

The amygdala is the prehistoric part of our brain responsible for controlling fear and pleasure. It tells us when to flee from a dangerous situation such as when we see a lion in the jungle; it also encourages us to seek more of something whether that be social media likes or sex.

But legendary solo rock climber Alex Honnold may be immune to fear. That was the hypothesis until he allowed scientists to take an MRI of his brain to measure his fear levels.

It turns out that Honnold is predisposed to fear just like everybody else, but he has been so accustomed to facing worse case scenarios through visualization and experience, he is not only used to it; he knows what to do when he climbs into perilous situations. He is a so-called a “super sensation seeker,” one that puts fear in its place before it even makes him second guess himself.

“If you don’t have any fear to begin with, there’s a lot less to control.”

It reminded me of a little bit of Michael Jordan; he used to practice so hard that the games were often easier. Furthermore, it is the preparation — both physical and mental — that set up success and make some achievers appear godly.

If you want a brain like Honnold’s, you need be willing to dance with fear again and again. By moving toward your fear, you train your amygdala to be less reactive so you can just execute.

“You may not have the traits of a super sensation seeker, or be able to quench your amygdala on command, but with conscious effort and gradual, repeated exposure to what you fear, any one of us might muster courage that we didn’t know we had.”

Would you think twice?

Share on:

By Wells Baum

Wells Baum is a daily blogger who writes about Life & Arts. He's also the author of and four books.