i was stoked to read your responses. thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts.
sonia, of course you're right in saying that "climbing is not much different than facing anything in life". if there's one thing climbing has taught me it's to appreciate the challenge of the unknown. i would imagine most climbers are drawn by that aspect as well. climbing can scare the timid out of you and make you better able to cope with problem solving in "the real world". i can relate to the fear of falling that deveoped after having an accident. if your injury was caused by some error in the climbing system (equipment, belayer or you) then it's understandable that you'd lose some faith in that system. i'd be interested to know exactly what happened to cause the accident. dealing with that situation might help you get past what happened and make you a safer climber. i'm sure, to some extent, it already has, but if the accident is also limiting your climbing through irrational fear, and preventing you from risking anything, then there are obviously some bugs yet to work out.
to craig and sonia, i think the comment about an increase in age leading to an increase in fear is unfounded. age doesn't have to increase our wariness about risk taking. it should increase our knowledge of how to better tackle those risks. younger people may seem less inhibited in the risks they take (on lead or elsewhere), but it's important to remember the fine line between courage and foolhardiness. it's easy to be brave when you think you're invincable. it's also easier to hurt or kill yourself. being aware of what's at stake gives you a much better opportunity to deal with the situation and come out of it safely. that does not mean you need to be paralysed by fear. if fear has become more of a factor for you with age, it's important to filter through exactly what scares you. are your fears rational? analyzing any situation to discern the risk is a valuable tool. giving over to fear that springs from your imagination is completely unproductive. worrying is a negative application of the imagination. if you could choose to apply your imagination to problem solving rather than imagining terrible fall scenarios and "what if" situations, imagine how much more efficient you could be as a climber.
craig, your comments were very telling. it seems you've already developed a method for dealing with your fear. the ability to push fear aside and concentrate on the task at hand is extremely useful. just be careful not to disregard the fear altogether (as if that's possible). what i mean is, be sure to examine your fear as it arises. if you're climbing above your last piece and the fear starts to creep in, be aware of it. ask if it's legitimate. is my last piece solid? will i swing? is there anything i will hit if i fall from here? if you can answer these questions objectively, without imagining irrational situations, then you can get back to the task at hand. climbing like a samurai requires that you accept the risk you're moving into. you're aware of what's at stake and you're ready to commit. if you decide the risk is unreasonable and you back down, that's okay too. whatever choice you come to, make sure you commit 100%. either go for it with everything you have or back off with no regrets or guilt. either decision is a commitment.
the friend you mentioned who was experiencing the "brick wall" was illustrating a very common place for a lot of climbers. everytime we step out of our comfort zone, we're effectually expanding it. by risking in steps, we increase that area of comfort. a lot of climbers have their own "brick wall", but they're often at varying levels of risk. you may be afraid of falling above a bolt. maybe you've gotten past that but you're scared of falling on trad. maybe you've gotten used to that, but you'd be terrified to solo anything. the extent to which we risk is not so important as that we engage in risking. without risking, it'd be difficult to learn anything valuable in climbing (or life in general). if you can understand the benifits of risking, you can start to seek out risks and engage them in a whole new way. you can start to learn how you respond to risks, what holds you back, when fear arises, how performance tapers, and how to move past those roadblocks.
ricky. you're comments about the challenge of problem solving being a huge draw to climbing are very familiar to me. it was one of the things i excelled at early on in my climbing. the challenge of finding a way through the impossible held great appeal to me. it's taken me some time to reshape the reward i get from doing so, but that's all part of growth too. rather than let my ego feed off my successes in climbing, or let it become bruised from my failures, i've moved toward merely being receptive to how and what i climb. receptive as opposed to reactive. kicking the rock after taking a fall does little to improve my climbing. examining why i fell, without blame or guilt, will enable me or anyone else to develop real problem solving tools to overcome difficult situations. accepting climbing for what it is and not expecting it to be easy or externally rewarding are key factors in developing a warrior's mindset. what do you get out of climbing a hard route. does it make you a better person or even a better climber?
i am in no way claiming to have mastered fear. not two months ago, i was scared of falling on bolts. sometimes that nervousness still creeps in. but my approach to climbing has drastically changed since taking a year off the sport. both mentally and physically, i'm climbing much stronger and with more focus then i ever have before. all this because i learned to love the risk. to love what i learn from the risk. all this because i began to develop a warrior's approach to climbing. attention. commitment. decisiveness. they're all there for anyone willing to polish the dust off them and give them room to grow.
the way i see it, there are two worlds: the world where nothing is sacred except money, and the other world, where everything is sacred.
Last edited by punchy : 05-27-2006 at 08:56 PM.