In the last article we looked at how I installed a fear of heights into John by accident. In this article we will look at the dangers of developing self-confidence and how it almost killed John.
If you have not already read the last article it is worth have a scan through it before reading this one as this is a continuation. You can click through and have a read of it here.
Confronting the Fear
In the last instalment we talked about how John took up rock climbing a little later in life in an effort to get over the fear that I had accidentally installed. Whilst this eventually worked for him it also almost killed him. This is a typical mistake many people make when dealing with confidence issues and in John’s case he almost died as a result.
One common thing that happens with people when they feel like there is something keeping them stuck is that they will build up a bunch of emotion behind it. As time goes on and the pressure builds they eventually hit a tipping point where they suddenly have enough motivation to do something about it.
This is what happened to John. In his late teens he had got increasingly frustrated with his fear of heights and one day he just decided he was going to do something about it and enrolled in a rock climbing class.
Confronting your fears and just getting on with it is not a pleasant way of dealing with stuff but it can be a valid strategy. The way it worked with John is that he just screwed up his courage, told himself he could do it and went off climbing those walls you get in sports centres. He just constantly kept in his mind that he was on a safety line, there were safety mats and he couldn’t hurt himself.
Gradual Exposure to Fearful Circumstances
For some people gradual exposure to their fear is a way of getting over it. For John though whilst he was developing the confidence to climb he wasn’t actually getting rid of the fear. He could tell this was the case because he hated climbing and had to force himself to go.
Anyway after a few sessions in the gym John decided to book a weekend hill walking and scrambling with a few of his new climbing buddies. The ended up traversing a ledge that according to John was narrow enough to have to hold onto the side of a rock face. The other side of the ledge was an almost vertical drop of several hundred feet.
John described it as a relatively easy thing to get across, didn’t require any specific climbing skills or gear. He said it was just part of a general hiking and scrabbling thing and they were not on any kind of climb. The only issue with it was the fact that one edge looked over a step drop.
The Mechanics of a Stuck State
John says he got part the way across and then just froze. He couldn’t go any further forward and nor could he retreat.
What that suggests to me is that he has screwed up his courage to such a point that he can start the task. But as he went further on the fear of the consequences was getting greater and greater. So much so that eventually it froze him in place.
The Trouble with Stuck States
One problem that happens a lot with people that are stuck in a position is that it takes a lot to shift them. Think about how John must have been feeling. Movement in either direction feels like a risk because it increases the chance of falling. Not moving is just as bad because, if we take the extreme view, eventually he will tire and fall off anyway. But usually people stuck through fear tend to focus on the short term gains rather than the long term consequences.
Take this the right way, it is always useful to be mindful of the situation and any danger you might face. In fact the whole idea of fear is your body letting you know that you are putting yourself in danger and preparing for the eventuality. But getting stuck is obviously not a useful position to end up in.
Building a Propulsion System
Luckily the people John went with were all experienced climbers and hikers and had met the situation before. What John told me is that they made the idea of continuing to be the safer option. They tied him off on to some pitons that they hammered into the rock face so if he fell he would be held on a rope. Then they were encouraging him as well as giving him advice on where to put his feet and hands and guiding him every step of the way.
The other thing John told me that they did was make the idea of staying put more frightening than the idea of moving. They explained about the longer he stayed the more tired he will be and more risk of things like cramp and getting cold. Just falling or being blown off the edge was a possibility. They also told him if they didn’t get moving in the next ten minutes they would have to leave him otherwise they would all be in danger from an oncoming storm. This was all completely untrue but John wasn’t to know.
Anyway the combination of making the stuck stay more uncomfortable and the idea of moving easier eventually got John to make the rest of the way along the ledge and back to safety.
Again that is classic NLP thinking and for all the NLP Jargon Junkies out there this a version of a propulsion system. The trouble with stuck states is that you often need to build a large amount of momentum to get moving again.
An Alternative Possibility
Here is how I would imagine the situation working if instead of John having to use his courage to overcome his fear he had just let go of the fear in the first place. John could have just looked at the situation and assessed the risk against the rewards and alternatives. And then just decided whether he would cross.
This is a common place problem but obviously not always as dramatic as this. Think about those times in your life where you have felt stuck or have seen other people in a stuck state. And as you think about those situations ask yourself what negative emotions were running.
This is the key reason I prefer to deal with negative emotions rather than just build confidence. If there are no negative emotions involved you are more likely to just do the things you want without stress, strain or having to force yourself. And there is far less chance of getting stuck. The confidence booster explores this concept in depth and gives you step by step techniques to let go of negative emotions. Click through and find out more about it here: