Making Friends With Fear

First pain, and now fear - aren’t you glad you’re reading such an upbeat blog?!? These are two topics that our culture generally only talks about in one way - with trepidation and distaste, and as things to be avoided. But I’m starting to appreciate the value in recognizing them, rather than pushing them away.

One thing in particular that I’ve noticed recently is how great it feels when I finally realize that fear is the thing holding me back from accomplishing a goal. Not great in the “Oh man, this is so awesome and I hope this happens every day” sort of way. Rather, it’s such a relief to finally let the fear come to the forefront of my mind, where I can sit with it and appreciate what an effect it has on my life.

"Once you label me, you negate me." ~Kierkegaard

For instance, I’ve been working on my hanging skills for quite a while now. My most recent goal is to be able to hang by one arm, which is a precursor for doing the monkey bars without hurting myself. (I can actually already do the monkey bars, but only if I want to give myself a migraine. Because my shoulders haven't been ready for it, my neck muscles compensate and tighten way the heck up as a protective mechanism.) The last time I tried hanging by one arm was a couple of months ago, and I felt quite a bit of discomfort in my shoulders. Since then, it hadn’t even occurred to me to try it again because I really didn’t want to feel that unpleasant sensation again.

Ok, so this little guy isn't actually a primate (it's a red panda) - but it's so stinking cute! Plus, check out that awesome one-legged supported hang!

Ok, so this little guy isn't actually a primate (it's a red panda) - but it's so stinking cute! Plus, check out that awesome one-legged supported hang!

Then the other day, I was at the climbing gym doing some gentle sideways hanging on the vertical post of a pullup bar contraption. It had straps hanging down for your feet, so I figured I’d work on some supported one-arm hangs. I started out with a fair bit of weight on my feet, but gradually took more and more into the shoulder of the hanging arm, until before I knew it my feet were hanging free! I have to say, I was flabbergasted - I honestly didn’t think I would be able to do this, and it was so awesome! Hanging from one arm, it turns out, is a whole different, much more dynamic, ball game than hanging with two arms. Because you’ve only got one point of contact, your body is free to rotate and sway - it definitely made me feel a little more like the primate that I am!

I can also see why fear was holding me back - there’s a lot more stabilization, mobility, and strength required to do a safe one-arm hang, and in the past I’ve thought of my shoulders as too “tight” to do such a thing. This was probably actually very true at one time, but once I started labeling myself and identifying myself this way (see the seemingly random quote above), it was hard to get past the words and listen to my body instead. I’m so glad I decided to say 'hello' to my fear rather than suppressing it, and I can’t wait to see what else I can accomplish when I change the way I view limitations from the past.

One more thing - if you’re new to hanging and/or climbing and want to add them into your repertoire of skills, check out this blog post from Katy Bowman that includes lots of great information, including some helpful videos, on stabilizing the shoulders and safely progressing into hanging, swinging, and climbing. While it's directed at people with hypermobile shoulders, it's useful for everyone!