Quenching my thirst for fear.


A mere scratch

Yesterday was a big day, Turbo, my best mate, and I headed down to Swanage for a day’s sea cliff climbing and I’d had a hankering for a big dose of fear for a few days now. Why? I’m not sure why, maybe because I’ve not done anything particularly exciting recently. Thinking about it, my desire to do ridiculous things has really dropped in recent times, I believe that is because I’m much happier in life now that I have Dirty Dozen. Running your own business is all consuming but I love it, I’ve never been so engaged or so interested in anything like this before. Before Dirty Dozen I lived for those mad moments where I would do things that I wasn’t entirely sure I’d come out the other side unscathed. Some might say it was attention seeking and part of me would agree but the other part of me doesn’t. I’ve never been big on caring about what people think about me and I want to say that I did those things for me but I do have a big ego and do love the attention so your guess is as good as mine. Either way, a big dose of being terrified was top of the menu.

Interestingly, I thought I’d quenched my thirst for fear a couple of days before when I attempted to slackline (tight rope) 5m high across the garden. I’ve had the slackline for a few years and although I spend very little time on it, if I really focus, I can get from one end to the other (around 12m) without falling off but that’s when it’s a meter off the ground and where falling off isn’t a problem. At 5m up, as you’ve probably guessed, falling off is a problem. Before I go on, I need to point out that I’m not a total idiot, despite what you might think, and I had a harness on which was attached to the slack line. Although a fall wouldn’t result in hitting the deck, it wouldn’t be great as there is very little dynamism in the system which would result in a pretty abrupt stop. For those of you that don’t climb (or know I’m a climber), climbing ropes have a lot of stretch in them to cope with taking falls, this is as much to protect the climber as anything else because a big fall onto a static/non-stretch rope would basically snap you in half. I’ve taken a lot of falls whilst climbing in recent times so I’m pretty comfortable with it but because of the setup I had for this attempt there wasn’t any scope to make the attachment dynamic so I was mindful that a fall would be, well let’s just say, not soft and fluffy.

So how did the slacklining at 5m pan out? Basically, it was a non-starter. As I stood up there, my inner voice raged with doubt, ‘you can’t do this, it’s too dangerous’ and it was right, well it was half right. It wasn’t that dangerous, the fall would be a bit miserable but not that dangerous. However; my doubts were right about was not being able to do it. I just couldn’t let go of the branch and boldly walk out into the abyss as I had planned. As I climbed down, I felt pretty silly and disappointed in myself. Why had I failed so miserably?

The answer was simple; I had stepped far too far outside of my comfort zone. I’m no psychiatrist but for those that know me, you’ll know that I’ve researched phycology in sport and in my own personal life quite a bit and I’m a big subscriber that you only learn when you’re at the edge of your comfort zone. When you are safely in your comfort zone you perform well because you are confident in what you are doing but you are far from your best when you are thrust far outside of the zone. So here’s the deal, in order to grow, you need to expand you comfort zone. How do you do that? Spend time at the edge, it’s that simple. It is the only place where you can learn; if you step too far outside of the comfort zone, you will be too stressed (scared) which can lead to panic and anyone that has pushed hard, and I mean really hard, will know that you do very strange things when in a state of panic; dangerous and irrational things. If you spend time at the edge of your comfort zone you will find is that your comfort zone expands and things that used to scare you, now actually live inside your comfort zone. Take a look at fig 1.1, it shows the 3 areas where you can spend time and you’ll see that you will only learn in one of them, the edge. To help you understand how spending time at the edge helps you expand your comfort zone, take a look at fig 1.2 and you’ll see that the ‘event’, which is something that was scary and that lived at the edge of your comfort zone hasn’t changed but that you’re comfort zone has expanded to include that event and you’ll now find you can not only deal with the event but that you actually start to perform it really well.

Comfort zone Fig 1.1
Fig 1.1

Comfort zone Fig 1.2
Fig 1.2

So, back to the slackline; as I stood 5m above the ground, I was so far outside of my comfort zone that not only was learning impossible but so was action. I couldn’t control the inner dialogue which resulted in no action other than retreat (and for the record, I don’t consider retreat as action). How did I feel? Well other than disappointed I still had that desire for a big dose of fear but as I write this and start to think about writing about the climbing yesterday, I now realise that I didn’t want to be scared, I wanted to be tested and come out the other side stronger. I needed to spend time at the edge, battling my fears and overcoming them. Today I am tired, bruised and with significantly less skin on my knees, I am happy. Climbing is the best way I know how to achieve this and Boulder Ruckle is a smorgasbord of readymade fear, ready for battle. If you think I’m nuts, go out and try spending time at the edge of your comfort circle. I hope you find what you are looking for. You can read about the climb in my next blog.

Thanks for reading.

The Beard

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