I don’t know if anyone else experiences this, but I imagine that at least one other person on Earth that may possibly read my blog may, so I’ll write about it…extensively, perhaps. I call it “Climber’s Block”. Much like “Writer’s Block”, it’s an inability to express your motivation and/or ideas through your medium of choice. For me, it’s rock climbing. Now, since I’m also a blogger, writer’s block has been a concern of mine, although I hardly ever run into it, really. Climber’s block is a different story. Allow me to elaborate…
Climber’s block. I’ll be sitting on the bench, climbing shoes on, chalk bag open, hands chalked up (sometimes not, yet), everything else put away, water bottle next to my chalk bag, and staring blankly at the wall. For moments, which turn into minutes, which turn into half-hours, which turn into, well, you get the idea. I want to climb! I’m there to climb! So why can’t I climb?! What keeps me from climbing?! What is going on??? There is some overwhelming inhibition squashing my passion in life and all I can do is sit there and stare at the wall? Oh, no. I don’t think so. I’m not giving in to that. I refuse to. Once I’m on the wall, I’m climbing and I’m in a whole different plane of reality. Really, though, what are the nuts and bolts of this phenomenon, this behavior, of climber’s block that causes that space between the edge of the padded floor and the climbing wall to remain uncrossed – an unconscious taboo?
Let’s break climber’s block down. First, we know there is a desire to climb, or you wouldn’t have made it as far as you have – sitting at the gym, staring at the wall with your climbing shoes on and chalk at least ready, if not already on your hands. You’ve got all the gear you need. So we have motivation, too, as evidenced by this whole state of being to this point. An inhibition (at least one) is stifling our motivation and preventing the behavior of getting on that wall, though. That inhibition is causing the space between the edge of the floor padding and the climbing wall to be a No Man’s Land. What is it about that space? Why is it so difficult to cross that seemingly great chasm?
A look at our inhibitions is in order here. Something is keeping us from getting on that wall, and it’s not physical, so it must be something in our minds. Rationally, there is no reason that you can’t cross that space and get on that wall to climb. There just isn’t. Only in the case of there being a major casualty who is bleeding out and breathing their dying breath right in front of you that you would have to step over in order to get to the climbing wall would this be the case. Let’s hope that never happens. Okay, so we’ve established that it’s not a rational thought, for starters. I would venture to say it’s an emotion-driven inhibition as we move through the spectrum of mental processes. The first emotion that comes to mind is fear.
Fear? Fear of what? Well, that depends what point of the process of climbing you’re moving through at the moment. If you’re already on the wall and focusing on the next hold, being in the present moment, your major fear is going to be of falling (deny it if you must, but it’s hardwired in and it’s truly your most immediate concern). We’re not on the wall, though. Fear of some sort is keeping us benched for our entire game. Fears. Let’s think of some. Crowds. An audience putting you “on stage”, in a manner of speaking. This can be even worse if someone you know, respect, and wish to respect you is watching because you feel the need to impress them somehow. The same performance anxiety situation occurs when someone you envy, do not respect, and may even hate is watching. You want to show them up, especially if they’re smug about their achievements. Failure enters your mind – another fear. Falling. Embarrassment. Heights. Injury. Death. Praise. What, you say? Fear of praise? Yes, if you don’t think you’re worthy, or you’re an extremely humble or shy person, praise can be a fear of yours because it leads to attention, which leads to expectation. Expectation is a fear that most of us know very well and probably have not thought about. We have no idea that we even harbor it in the backs of our minds all the time. That may very well be the key to solving our problem right there.
Expectations. Wonderful things if you’re goal-oriented, right? Maybe, maybe not. Watch children climb. They climb without inhibition, without fear. Reckless abandon describes their climbing style quite well. They have no expectations – they’re just there to have fun!!! And they have fun!!! Parents or other children are often suggesting goals for them to reach – expectations – and some kids pay attention to these. Others don’t. We, as adults, have to be very careful that, in the process of goal-setting and mastering our discipline of choice, that we don’t rule out fun in climbing. We get too serious, too paranoid, too worried about what other people think. I don’t think you can truly master climbing unless you can still have fun and experience pure joy or relief while doing it. Expectations are a big part of that. Whether they be yours or someone else’s for you, you have to let go of the expectations – these imaginary inhibitions – in order to climb in the present moment and really experience climbing to the fullest!
So, we’re still sitting on that bench, ready to go, but unable to move. Frozen. What expectations do you have of yourself for this session? For this particular problem? For your performance on that crux move? Close your eyes. Imagine yourself walking toward the climbing wall – walking straight to the start holds of that problem and putting your hands and feet on the start holds. Now imagine yourself climbing. Not trying to get to the top. Just one hold at a time, imagine yourself climbing the wall. One hold at a time. Without expectation. You know that you enjoy climbing and you may start feeling that, so go ahead and take those positive emotions of fun and enjoyment and run with them. Now open your eyes and do it. Just go. Go!!!
I truly believe that these things are at the root of climber’s block. If you, like me, find yourself in this state of frozen inaction, try visualizing yourself doing it, then just do it! You have to DO it!!! Climbing is about doing!!! No expectations – just happiness!!! CLIMB!!! Right now is all that counts!!! KEEP CLIMBING!!! Just one hold at a time…