Facing My Fear – the Fear of Falling

falling - being lowered

The fear of falling is a natural and innate fear built in and varies to different extremes for everyone. Our brain kicks in the instinctual survival mode to keep us alive.

I do know that I am totally fearful of falling especially when I think about it. The more I think about falling the more I am afraid of it. The height is a big factor for the fear of falling. All the negative thoughts popped into my mind and made me feel only worse.

When I first started rock climbing, bouldering was out of the question. I definitely wanted to do only climbing with a rope attached. I enjoyed rock climbing very much so the justification that came through my head was that at least I would be caught by a rope so I was ok with top-roping.

Bouldering was six to eight feet high and it was too scary to fall or jump down from the top without a rope. The “what ifs” kicked in. “what if I break my legs?” “what if I hurt myself?” and so on…

Climbing with the rope and harness was safe. However, there were times when I did not have a partner to climb with and the only option was bouldering. I watched the kids climb and jump with no fear. They made it seem so easy. Maybe I could give it a try.

That was the start of my bouldering adventure. I started out with a rating of v0, the easiest possible route for bouldering. I found v0 was quite easy then I started climbing v1. Still shy with the bouldering, I would often climb to the top and then climb back down instead of jumping down which was much easier and direct. Climbing back down sometimes is more challenging. However, I didn’t want to take the risk of falling. I finally came to realize that the more I tried to prevent falling the harder and the tenser I became. It didn’t serve me well.

I finally gave in one day and accidentally jumped down from the top of an easy route. To my surprise, it was not as bad as I envisioned it to be. I survived and nothing was broken. My mind created the jump much worse than it really was. The height was not even that high and in my mind, the ground below was so far far away.

The mind is an amazing part of being. If I think I am afraid of falling then I am afraid of falling. If I think I am a good rock climber and so I am. What I think is what I am. If that is the case then why not think of a reasonable belief that serves me well?

I created three mental exercises when I climb:

  1. Breathe – take a long and deep breath in and slowly release it while I climb
  2. Look ahead – look up, sideways, or in the direction where I want to move next. Rarely do I look down. The primary time that I look down is when I am at the top of the climb and the belayer is lowering me down.
  3. Clear my mind – focus on only where my next move is. If I have to fall, let go and relax.
work out the mind
work out the mind

For me not only does rock climbing help build my muscles, but it also helps work the mind.

Now I am expanding my own climbing adventure from top-roping to bouldering, to leading, and to outdoor climbing. I am beginning to enjoy bouldering more and more. Bouldering definitely builds strength for the upper body and the hand grips while top-roping develops stamina and techniques. Leading is a combination of bouldering and top roping with the combined benefits. Top-roping is still my favorite because it is the safest.

If you enjoy reading this article, you may find my article “How to Overcome Fear of Falling – Seven Tips for Beginning Climbers” helpful as well.

I love to hear your thoughts about your fears or what is your favorite: bouldering, top-roping, or leading?

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