I first noticed it when I was at my favorite beach north of Beirut.
I had jumped that cliff many times. Squealing, holding hands with a girlfriend. Smiling, eyes and body squinched shut into a cannonball, trying to impress a boy. Making a star shape, mid-air for the ‘gram at sunset.
That’s why when my heart dropped as I looked down from the cliff edge, I was a little surprised. What had changed? Can one develop a fear of heights spontaneously? The only new development, honestly, was that I’d just turned thirty. The cliff had never been that high, anyway.
You can do this, I egged myself on. You don’t want to be one of those women who won’t swim in cold water or get on rollercoasters.
I stood at the edge again. This time, my knees actually knocked together! A first. Whoa. I decided to listen to my body. I walked back down to the seashore, crestfallen. I was soon distracted by friends and our delicious lunch of fresh fish, but my mind came back to it again and again.
Do we develop new anxieties and phobias as we age? Does life paralyze us as we grow?
We all remember the driving anxiety that Kim Kardashian developed once she had kids (and if you don’t keep up the Kardashians, I congratulate you and I’m sure your brain cells thank you). There are even reports of postpartum OCD and germaphobia that hit new mothers with a vengeance. It makes sense that your Mama Bear instinct would kick right in and protect your cubs at all costs. But could my biological clock be similarly responsible for my spontaneous acrophobia?
A little poking around on the internet…and BAM! I was right 😎 Not only was growing up making me more afraid of heights…it was actually making the very cliff appear higher than it actually was. The reason being that “perceiving something as being taller than it actually is can reduce your risk for dangerous falls, increasing the likelihood that you’ll live to thus reproduce.”
And I learned the fancy term for this…EVOLVED NAVIGATION THEORY.
The theory is backed up by legit scientific research and funny sentences such as, “Falling injuries likely influenced reproductive fitness in all environments in which humans evolved.” So, the next time you’re at the beach choosing a chaise lounge instead of chasing thrills, you can just say,