Friday, June 1, 2012

Dealing With Fear - DC Gets Unscared!

A few weeks ago I posted on the "DC Challenge" dc-challenge-skill-session-in-progress and now here is the "he did it" post to celebrate!

What started out as a skill session ended up as more of a multi-disciplinary journey where we employed several approaches to get to the end goal. First I tried the "gung ho" approach, which involved the boot camp yelling, total immersion into the deep end method - which failed. It turns out we were dealing with more than just a skill session, we were dealing with fear (of heights in this case). Fear, as they said in the book "Dune", is the mind killer. It didn't matter what I said, fear was blocking DC from being able to overcome this obstacle.

So it was time to break out the psychology 101 stuff. We went  with two key approaches that I thought would work; systematic desensitisation, and mindfulness. For systematic desensitisation we scaled back the climbing to more achievable tasks that built confidence, and then progressed to literally "higher" levels. That took care of skill development and helped get the mind used to dealing with heights such as with the tree climbing session we did in the dark, on wet, slippery branches.

Negative self talk generates a downward spiral of performance inhibiting fear, and the best medicine for that is mindfulness. DC was ready for this, he got himself into a bit of meditation practice, and I emphasised focusing on the task at hand, as opposed to listening to the chattering monkeys in your head. (Such as; I can't do this, I am not strong enough, I need a rope, it's too far from the wall, I am too short, whatever...)

Then this week it was time to beat the fear, and knock the bugger off. We started with a light warm up to prepare - here is DC coming down from a warm up climb...dark and cold!

DC in the early morning up a tree in the dark, getting ready to face his fear.
From there we headed on to the cliff side where the climbing challenge was. We hiked with no talking, just to get a bit of moving meditation in before the climb. The first attempt showed the progress he had made; no negative self talk, just focus. There was a sticking point still, but this was OK now because the fear had been pushed back and DC could relax and "work it out". Which he did. Bloody brilliant! 

Here's his second go at it, silent and fast; good stuff. It took about 1 minute compared to nearly 45 minutes of fear previously.



Now we can get on with doing more stuff! Other challenges to come; a long high jump, some awkward climbing, getting a heavy rock overhead, and maybe catch a rabbit by hand!..then string it all together for another Bear Grylls "Man vs Wild" session!