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Getting over fear of exposure

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Getting over fear of exposure

Postby martynda » Wed Jan 14, 2009 9:49 am

I've always had a fear of exposure, so I can't walk right up near a ledge (because I'm afraid I'll go over) or go up a steep snow field (because I'm afraid I'll tip backwards). I know in my head that I have good enough balance that this really won't happen, but my body tell me otherwise to where I tense up and start losing balance in these situations. I'm not really afraid of heights for the sake of being up high, so I'm fine on airplanes, enclosed buildings, 14ers with no exposure, etc, but exposure basically paralyzes me. I've been working on this since moving to CO in September and have found myself getting better, but this still prevents me from climbing many of the things that I'd really like to climb.

Does anyone have any experience and\or in getting over fear of exposure?

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Re: Getting over fear of exposure

Postby smitty » Wed Jan 14, 2009 10:14 am

Maybe you could have someone take you rockclimbing (who knows what they're doing). After a good day of rock climbing, these 14er trails would probably feel tame.

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Re: Getting over fear of exposure

Postby Kovar » Wed Jan 14, 2009 10:15 am

My advice would be to push yourself outside of your comfort zone, but don't bite off too much more than you can chew. The fear of heights is a natural reaction within your body. You need to learn to turn that fear around on itself - the fear itself is a good thing, but don't let it paralyze you; rather, turn that into a heightened sense of awareness regarding your surroundings. My fear of heights was the opposite of yours. I felt great up high out in a natural environment, but put me on the highest floors of a high rise and I turned into mush. Pushing myself outside of the box in order to deal with those surroundings is the only way I have become more comfortable within them.

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Re: Getting over fear of exposure

Postby hotrod » Wed Jan 14, 2009 10:41 am

I'm not afraid of heights per se either. I can go up high ladders, be in airplanes, even climb around my roof cleaning gutters and trimming branches, etc. But exposure on a 14er makes me uncomfortable, mainly because I'm the sort of person who always considers the worst possible scenario before I do something. In the case of 14ers and exposure, that would be death. I envision myself rolling down, bouncing off of rocks, or worse yet freefalling. Therefore, in those situations, I can feel my heart pounding and I don't dare look down. Is that paranoia?
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Re: Getting over fear of exposure

Postby Iguru » Wed Jan 14, 2009 10:51 am

ClimbingVicariously wrote:Pushing myself outside of the box in order to deal with those surroundings is the only way I have become more comfortable within them.


I agree. Exposing yourself to exposure will, in time, make you more comfortable exposing yourself to exposure :)
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Re: Getting over fear of exposure

Postby Bodhi » Wed Jan 14, 2009 10:59 am

Martynda,

My girlfriend is ubersensitive to exposure. I took her on a few hikes with very moderate exposure and then progressed over the year. The last time we went out she wanted to stop and turn around because of the fear of slipping. We took a break and then I slowly guided her up the trail and kept telling her that her entire world at that moment was only the step she was taking at that moment....not the 100's of feet below her, not the summit, not anything....just that step. I was trying to get her to focus on the present instead of the possible. It worked very well for her. Usually, descending terrifies her, but focusing on one step at a time really helped. Engaging her mind on a single step and repeating it many, many times diluted the fear she had.

So, I guess my advice (if you can call it that) would be to go gain some confidence one hike at a time. Go with other confident, experienced, patient climbers and gradually allow yourself to try something more advanced like others have mentioned. Try to focus your mind on the ground beneath your feet and then planning where your next step is going to be placed. Engage yourself fully in the moment and you'll forget about the future.
Peace is every step. ~Thich Nhat Hanh

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Re: Getting over fear of exposure

Postby Kovar » Wed Jan 14, 2009 11:06 am

hotrod wrote:I envision myself rolling down, bouncing off of rocks, or worse yet freefalling.

When hiking with in exposed spots with my wife, she always says she wonders what would happen if she "happened" to slip. I know she doesn't have a death wish, but it's always intriguing to me that she always brings it up.

Iguru wrote:Exposing yourself to exposure will, in time, make you more comfortable exposing yourself to exposure :)

Well put.

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Re: Getting over fear of exposure

Postby martynda » Wed Jan 14, 2009 11:15 am

hotrod wrote: I envision myself rolling down, bouncing off of rocks, or worse yet freefalling. Therefore, in those situations, I can feel my heart pounding and I don't dare look down. Is that paranoia?


This is actually my exact thought process. Of course by that same logic, you would never get in a car, fly in an airplane, etc.

I have been rock climbing in a gym and that didn't bother me in the least bit because I knew I was tied in and wouldn't fall and hurt myself. I have found myself getting better with exposure slowly and I guess this will just take time and will be a while until I try the knife edge on Capitol :shock:

My girlfriend and I have an interesting time hiking/climbing because she isn't afraid of exposure at all and hops over rocks and dropoffs like they're not even there but I have much better endurance and can go a lot faster on the trails where there is no exposure.

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Re: Getting over fear of exposure

Postby peakmind » Wed Jan 14, 2009 11:54 am

I grew up in florida climbing trees without the least bit of fear of heights. The first time I got 50 feet off the ground rockclimbing (late 20's), I was in a panic.

It pissed me off so badly that I kept up the climbing just because I was afraid of it. Whenever I would have that feeling of "oh my god, I'm going to die" come over me, I would stop and look down. Of course, looking down made the feeling worse, but the literal "facing" of the fear forced the feeling to go away after a few seconds rather than allowing it to linger. After about a year, I didn't get panicked or suffer from much irrational fear.

The only irrational fear I still have is when rappelling in free space (not touching rock), for example, rappelling from The Maiden in the Boulder Flatirons. I calm my mind by double checking my harness and the anchor, and concentrating on the rappelling technique to force out the thoughts of falling.

Of course I am still afraid of dying. That rational fear help me to stay safe.

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Re: Getting over fear of exposure

Postby lazy climber » Wed Jan 14, 2009 12:50 pm

This is a hard one as everybody has their own experiences and advice which may only work for them. Fear is a funny thing, it can help you or in bad cases get you killed. The first time I went scuba diving I had to sit in water about 2 feet deep (my whole upper body was out of the water) with all my scuba stuff on, breath through the regulator while Iconvinced myself I could breathe underwater. That took about 10 minutes and I was OK after that.

Exposure is another thing... there has been lots of different advice and how you overcome your fear will depend mostly on you and how you choose to deal with it.

My only advice is to be careful as you work through this, do not push too fast, you could think you are doing well and get out on a steep slope with exposure and freeze up or think you need to sit down and both of those responses could get you killed.

Lots of hiking, exposure to steeper slopes as you progress and maybe some rock climbing/rope work will boost your confidence and skill levels. We all still have moments of fear at times but experience usually gets you through them without adverse affects.

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Re: Getting over fear of exposure

Postby gurlyclimber » Wed Jan 14, 2009 1:21 pm

While you're in a situation that induces panic you should first try to remove all negative thought. Stop thinking about falling. Think about the beauty around you or how interesting the texture of the rock feels or the sun on your face or even the cool rain on your neck. Think about why you are in the mountains (because you love them). Avoid caffeine before you climb if you are prone to feeling anxious on exposed routes. Focus on your breathing. Here is a good breathing exercise you can try: http://www.chinese-holistic-health-exercises.com/anxiety-breathing-techniques.html You may not be able to sit down due to the location you are at on the mountain or climb. At the very least, stabalize yourself, relax and focus on that breath. It helps. This may sound hookey to some of you. I've been dealing with different levels of anxiety my whole life. Positive thought a long with relaxation and breathing techniques have helped me to overcome so much in the mountains and on the rock! You may never overcome your fear completely but there are many techniques out there that can and will help you relax, which will in turn enable you to push through your challenge with a clear head. Good luck!
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Re: Getting over fear of exposure

Postby Bodhi » Wed Jan 14, 2009 1:27 pm

gurlyclimber wrote:While you're in a situation that induces panic you should first try to remove all negative thought. Stop thinking about falling. Think about the beauty around you or how interesting the texture of the rock feels or the sun on your face or even the cool rain on your neck. Think about why you are in the mountains (because you love them). Avoid caffeine before you climb if you are prone to feeling anxious on exposed routes. Focus on your breathing. Here is a good breathing exercise you can try: http://www.chinese-holistic-health-exercises.com/anxiety-breathing-techniques.html You may not be able to sit down due to the location you are at on the mountain or climb. At the very least, stabalize yourself, relax and focus on that breath. It helps. This may sound hookey to some of you. I've been dealing with different levels of anxiety my whole life. Positive thought a long with relaxation and breathing techniques have helped me to overcome so much in the mountains and on the rock! You may never overcome your fear completely but there are many techniques out there that can and will help you relax, which will in turn enable you to push through your challenge with a clear head. Good luck!


Gurlyclimber,

I meditate frequently and use a variation of that technique...and yes, it works well for me. Not only for anxiety (which I've suffered from in the past), but other negative emotions like anger, etc. I think the key here is a change in focus. My girlfriend was able to refocus her mind on the task at hand instead of any possible outcome. I believe very strongly that the most simple and available way of refocusing or getting in the moment (being present, being "in the now," etc.) is to focus on your breathing.

If it's hookey, then so am I.
Peace is every step. ~Thich Nhat Hanh

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