Risk & Fear in the Alpine
Walking along a spine of rock, with no rope, slowly developing the sinking sensation that my own sneeze may send me tumbling. I breathe, I keep several points of contact, and in reality multiple climbers could reasonably fit where I'm standing. Still, a pit of fear builds in my mind and body, forcing me to stop where I stand.
I've found lately that fear has become the biggest barrier between my pursuits and where I'd most like them to take me. My gear is right, my partners are strong, and my planning is air tight, but in some of the moments I've dreamt about, I begin to shiver as my brain and body work in unison to drown my senses with fear. It's not a given, and at times the fear is exactly what makes me love a climb the most. Other times, though, it keeps me from chasing the opportunities I know I'm capable of chasing.
We all face fear, but everyone I talk to has a different mindset or skillset that they use to work with and overcome it. I've been told to breath...1,2,3 exhale...still the world can shrink around me, forcing panic. Others have told me to recite a mantra or motto to remind myself of what I can do. There isn't a right answer necessarily, but I'm curious what you do to handle fear.
I find fear to be a rather vulnerable subject. It's a window into a part of ourselves that feels fairly uncontrolled. We all respond differently. We all need more or less of it. I'd love to hear your stories about where fear has come from, and what you've done to utilize or mitigate it. I'm speaking from the context of the alpine, which is my favorite context, but I encourage you to bring up other sources of fear. We all find hard moments in different places, and I'm hoping I can find my own progress while learning about yours!
One of my favorite sayings about Fear is something I learned while in the Marine Corps.
While prepping for our annual gas chamber training, one of the Warrant Officers said, "Fear stands for False Expectations Appear Real"
That one sentence has stuck with me and I tent to use it to calm myself down in sticky situations.4
@TenDigitGrid There's definitely some weight to that one. I love it, and I'll be thinking of that the next time fear is taking control.2
False Expectations Appear Real. I love it-leave it to the Marines!! Semper Fi!1
Fear is primeval. It's an instinct. It's there for a reason - to help protect us.
I know I have felt fear in places on the trail or whilst out and about. It's funny, I have almost 0 fear when I'm on a rope, but when I'm not and there's some vertical exposure involved, it definitely kicks in.
I thinks it's about knowing what to do to help reduce the fear. I don't think you can necessarily overcome whilst you're in it. Instead, mitigate as much of the risk as possible. For me, If I'm standing for instance, I get low and down on to all 4s if needs be. Mitigate it as much as possible.2
7/11: I've heard them called ANTS: Automatic Negative Thoughts. Adrenaline, warns me; frontal cortex, logic moves, even stupidly. There is a REASON we have creepy thoughts: This person, place, or thing is DANGEROUS and can hurt us; our Lizard Brain loudly clangs warnings, our guts roil and our ANS kicks in. Yeah, falling from a high path IS dangerous. However, strong training, fitness, attentive mates, calm procedure, and excellent gear helps us overcome. Still, listen to the warnings: You are human.1