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Fear – Strolls Down Memory Lane

“Fear is the mindkiller.”

Climbing taught me that best of all. Clinging to the wall, fingers fully crimped, caught right between one clip and the next. I look down, see the slack of the rope, see my belayer, patiently waiting for me to move up, move on – and I can’t. I can’t breathe. I can’t go back, and I can’t move on.

“What if the next hold is even worse?!” I yell down. “You’ll fall. I’ve got you,” I hear. But what about the ledge, what if I wrap my leg around the rope, and I hit the wall upside-down, head first?

Fear is a teacher.

It sees the world around itself as a threat to protect the creature it is packed inside against. Research has shown repeatedly that fear of pain, discomfort is one of the strongest drivers of short-term learning.

“I can’t climb this!” I yell down, arms burning like fire.

“But you’ve been stuck there for so long now! Just use that strength you’ve been using to cling to the wall to move on, just a little bit!” The next hold seems so far above me. The crimp I’m on hurts, oh it cuts, but it’s here, it’s safe-

Fear is a guide.

It shows us what we care about. Who we want to protect. What matters, and what’s a challenge for us. It shows us the space we’ve got room left to grow into.

My fingers leave the hold. Shaking, I reach up to grab the next hold – it’s bigger than the one I left behind. Switch feet, maybe I can even clip in and rest at the next –

My feet slip.

My belayer lowers me to the ground. It was a simple fall. None of the terrible things I had pictured happening did. “Glad you could move a little further. Next time keep moving and you’ll get the whole route!”


It doesn’t always know better. But in its struggle to keep us safe, it makes us think we’re too small, too weak, not ready yet. Anything to keep us safe. It tells us we should stay uncomfortable in our comfort zone rather than see if there isn’t something that fits better out there.

The question is: are we willing to trust ourselves and the people around us enough to outgrow the place fear is keeping us in?

The world is too big and beautiful a place to let fear take the reign after all.

PS: Memory Lane Zipcode: Picture taken on Song of Ice and Fire (?, if route name remembered correctly) 7b, sector King of Thrones, Leonidio (Greece) 2019. Climbing story has repeated itself multiple times over the years.

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