Overcoming fear. There's a lot written about that. I have a book called Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway. The trouble with feeling the fear on a via ferrata or rock climb or bungee jump is that it can simply immobilise you if you allow yourself to really experience it.
After hiking to the base of the via ferrata (‘iron way’ – climbing with assistance from cables, rungs, ladders etc) at the Joch Pass in Switzerland I now face an extended though slight overhang, partway up. Now, it must be said that, when rock climbing, the best place from which to fall is an overhang – no scraping skin and bones and teeth down rocks.
Falling any place on a via ferrata is not good. The cord is not as elastic as a rock climbing rope and the metal rungs salivate with a hungry, body-piercing leer. I know what is said about via ferrata falls: You’ll survive but a helicopter will have to carry you out. Apparently the force wreaks havoc on your body.
With images, possibly incongruent with the risk I face, running amok through my head, I cling quivering at the bottom of the overhang. My husband senses something amiss. “Can you do it?”
I think, “That's a dumb question. If I could have, I would have. The fact that I am dithering, means I can’t.”
On the other hand, I have to do it so I suppose the answer is, yes I can.
The words I can give my mind a solid platform to step onto, in contrast to the whispering mushiness of “What if I can't hold on when I clip?” (Never mind that there are two carabiners with only one unclipped at a time.) “What if my arms or hands or any other body part, actually involved or not, cannot hold on?”
The I can hovers. And if it applies in the future that surely means it applies now.
So I can do it now.
Ah, but what if it applies only from a fixed point in the future? That means (relief) I don’t have to do it now. I can just wait until I morph into that fearless or brave via ferrataer. Soon I will arrive at that point. There is comfort and relief in that. I am hurtling across each second towards being the person who can.
It’s just a matter of waiting.
But if I soon will be that person, then she must already be in me. So I can access her now. (Do I have to? I prefer waiting.) In fact, I already am that person.
Meanwhile, out of my head, my husband, displaying one of the many reasons I married him, switches from loving-husband-having-fun-with-his-wife to loving-husband-with-wife-in-extremis PLUS reassuring-and-soothing-coach-assessing-the-situation-in-a-millisecond.
“You’ll power through.”
And back to my quaking body. Power?
“You always have in the past.”
Oh. Well...That’s true.
I am enveloped by myself, the person who can do this.
Each of us can choose at any time to step into the self who can, whether that’s a previous version of ourselves or a future one.
And so, I do. I feel the only-slightly-diminished fear and do it anyway.