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iamthewallress


Oct 27, 2003, 3:20 PM
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Self Talk
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What types of negative talk do you struggle to squelch?

What do you say to yourself now that you try to reprogram you self-talk to be positive?


Over the weekend I found myself strarting out a long body-engulfing tight squeeze chimney with so much anxiety from a combined claustrophobia and fear of ripping my face off if I fell (on TR) that I got dizzy and started to have a hard time breathing. I dogged the pitch, nominally a 5.8, and squeeled like a piggy all the way up it...sharing much of my negative self-talk with my partner. But I could get away with it since the dire consequences that I was imagining were mostly imagined, and he had me on a snug, plumb belay.

The next pitch started out with a 15 foot chimney traverse out a monster roof crack about 400 feet off the deck. It wasn't that hard, but if I slipped, I was going to go for one airy ride. I worried about it the entire time that I was belaying my partner. When my partner (who generally floats 5.9) started to take a really long time at the out-of-view crux (rated 5.9), I started to consider the possibility that this was the last climb that Chuck Pratt ever established at 5.9 before he decided to create 5.10. Having experienced other obscure "Chuck Pratt 5.9" before, I wondered if the route would aslo be traversing up there, leaving me with no safety valve if I couldn't trutch my way through. Eventually my partner called "off belay", and I had to go back to worrying about the airy traverse again. Since there could be no belay assist, I knew that my squeeling wouldn't buy me any help from my partner. I also knew that it wouldn't help me get off the belay. Then I considered that since getting back on the route might involve prussicking, falling really wasn't an option. Luckily, I remembered Teresa Ho's mantra "Strong, Strong, Sticky, Stick" which I started to say out loud along with refrains "I am strong. I know how to climb chimneys" (which is only partially true, but helped me to clear the belay nonetheless), and made my across to the large holds that my parnter had promised. I felt mentally strong after getting across the traverse and did much better on the rest of pitch that was objectively much harder than the previous pitch on which I flailed.

The difference in my performance when I was complaining compared to when I was reaffirming myself was amazing, and I'm going to keep working at the helpful mantras.

It's funny how I feel silly, though, when I say these self-affirming mantras out loud, yet have no sense of embarassment when I complain or cut myself down. Anyone else experience this kind of inequality with respect to how you feel about positive vs. negative self-talk?

[Edit to correct typo "sef" in the title]


calliope


Oct 27, 2003, 3:35 PM
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I do this mostly when I'm bouldering and mainly when I'm close to topping out. It's the point where falling is going to be damn uncomfortable even though I've fallen from these heights before...inside the gym. I am fearless in the gym...possibly even reckless, but outside....wary.

The last time I tried to top out on my current nemesis, I got two moves past the point where I usually freak myself out so much that I have to come down. At about that point, my partner said, "I've never seen you do that so strong."

This was a positive statement, and immediately, something clicked in my brain that started the familiar refrain: "You're too far up for a comfortable fall. There's no way you're going to manage the last move and then you're going to have to downclimb. Ohmigawd, ohmigawd, ohmigawd." It degenerates to intelligible omhigawds just seconds before elvis leg hits and I stop just short of a full blown panic attack.

If I don't think about it, I'm fine. Still haven't figured out how not to think about it, but when I reaffirm positive thoughts, I push through the moves with ease. If I think about where I'm going instead of where I've been, I'm fine.

For whatever reason, I think it's acceptible to bad mouth myself on the route or after I bail. I'm trying to just use something simple as a positive reaffirmation instead. Haven't found one that works all the time yet, but I'm working on it.


furbucket


Oct 27, 2003, 3:58 PM
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I pretty much just constantly cuss when I'm on something and I start getting nervous. Topping out on boulders are a major issue for me as well since I have never fallen from the top of a boulder outdoors and I don't want to. If I can keep my mind clear and focused on just climbing the route or problem, I'm fine. A deep breath can help. I've never tried self-affirming positive talk on a route. I do agree that I am not the least bit embarrassed by my cussing (at least while on the route) but would probably be embarrassed giving my self a "pep talk" outloud. I think that has to do with the fact that the cussing and other negative talk is involuntary. "Pep talks" are rarely involuntary so you are much more conscious of what you are saying and who might be listening to you.


jt512


Oct 27, 2003, 4:16 PM
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Long before I'd ever heard of Arno, I figured out that when I'd get in situations above my pro and have trouble figuring out a move and start worrying about falling, I'd say things to myself like "Don't fall." Same thing when I'd get above a crux on a redpoint attempt. I'd say, "Don't blow it now; you're almost to the anchors." I eventually realized that such self-talk was harmful. Not only did it not direct my attention toward doing something useful, it distracted me from it by directing my attention toward falling. It also makes the climbing less fun because it directed my attention toward something I was afraid of, falling, or toward an Ego-driven worry over not sending my project, rather than toward doing something productive.

Now, when I find myself doing that I turn it around and give myself positive instructions, such as "find a right handhold" or questions: "What do I need to do to move upward?" I've been able to puzzle out some tricky sequences this way and saved some on-sights. For instance, "I need to reach that right hand crimp. To reach the right hand crimp, I need a higher right foothold. To get my weight off my right foot to move it, I need to place my left foot here."

I've tried the mantra thing Melissa mentioned too, and it has sometimes been useful, sometimes not. The one time it was useful was when I had realized that I had been overgripping on an airy 5.11d arete I'd been projecting, then my hardest climb ever. I had realized during a very successful visualization session that I could redpoint the route if only I could relax and climb smoother. So, on my next attempt, I chanted "relax, focus, relax, focus..." all the way up the climb. Sure enough, all I had to do to send the route was to relax and focus. The route actually felt easy. I've not had success since then with the "relax, focus" approach. I'm not sure why. Maybe the visualization made the difference.

One other example of self-talk. On one of my projects this past season, Hellraiser, a 10-bolt 12c with a sustained power-endurance crux at the top of the route, there is a deadpoint to a crimp -- a committing move with modest fall potential right in the middle of the crux. The hold had always felt small to me and I would have trouble latching it. I'd never actually looked at the hold from above, but it felt small. One day though I looked down and saw that the hold was much bigger than I had imagined (maybe we'll revisit this example when we talk about objectivity). After that, I'd tell myself, "It's big," just before doing the deadpoint. From then on it, it has always felt big, and I've never had any trouble since then hanging on to it!

-Jay


jt512


Oct 27, 2003, 4:49 PM
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...something clicked in my brain that started the familiar refrain: "You're too far up for a comfortable fall. There's no way you're going to manage the last move and then you're going to have to downclimb. Ohmigawd, ohmigawd, ohmigawd."...

If I don't think about it, I'm fine. Still haven't figured out how not to think about it, but when I reaffirm positive thoughts, I push through the moves with ease. If I think about where I'm going instead of where I've been, I'm fine.

It sounds like you're on the right track. When you notice yourself thinking unhelpful negative thoughts, turn them around and tell yourself to do something specific or ask a question that directs your attention toward problem solving. You can't think about two things at once, so if you're actively probem solving you can't be simultaneously thinking about falling.

-Jay


jt512


Oct 27, 2003, 5:00 PM
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I pretty much just constantly cuss when I'm on something and I start getting nervous.

Why do you cuss? Does it help your climbing or hinder it? Are there other thoughts you could substitute that would be more helpful to your ascent?

In reply to:
I've never tried self-affirming positive talk on a route. I do agree that I am not the least bit embarrassed by my cussing (at least while on the route) but would probably be embarrassed giving my self a "pep talk" outloud. I think that has to do with the fact that the cussing and other negative talk is involuntary. "Pep talks" are rarely involuntary so you are much more conscious of what you are saying and who might be listening to you.

I think we should distinguish between general self-talk and self-talk on the route. General self-talk is how you talk to yourself during your everyday activities, and isn't directly climbing related, though I think it can influence your climbing. The book discusses this.

Self-talk on the route, or problem, I think should be more specific than a "pep talk." I think it is more useful to use self-talk on the route that directs your attention toward the climbing process. It might be move-specific, as when trying to figure out a sequence, or not, such as the "relax, focus" mantra, but whatever it is, it should, I think, direct your attention toward the climbing process. For instance, I think it would generally be more helpful to ask yourself, "What do I need to do to reach the next handhold?" than to say to yourself, "Come on, Angela, you can get that handhold."

-Jay


iamthewallress


Oct 27, 2003, 5:57 PM
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In reply to:
"Pep talks" are rarely involuntary so you are much more conscious of what you are saying and who might be listening to you.

I guess it's my goal to turn the affirmations that seem silly and forced to me now into the involuntary internal monologue. Has anyone achieved this?


iamthewallress


Oct 27, 2003, 6:05 PM
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For instance, I think it would generally be more helpful to ask yourself, "What do I need to do to reach the next handhold?" than to say to yourself, "Come on, Angela, you can get that handhold."

I think that his may be a bit of a difference between the 5.12 sport climb that you were working (near your physical limit) and the 5.7ish chimney traverse that posed little real physical barrier to me, but with 400 feet of air under my @ss and the extremely undesireable outcome of a fall (needing to prussic back to the route), my crux was conquering fear committing to the bottomless gap. The moves weren't really stumper as I was kneebarring across doing the exact same move that I'd done about 300 times on the previous pitch.

Ultimately, I want to be where you are at...getting focused enough and far enough away from irrational fears to just focus on the movement, but I'm still at a point where getting over fear takes some really conscious active effort on my part.

Edit added...Actually, Jay...In thinking about it more post facto even on the relatively straitforward climbing involved in the traverse, the positive mantra out loud did allow me to think that all I had to do to avoid falling was apply more counterpressure if I felt like I was slipping and that it was sure to get me to the stance at the lip. I think that technical focus was subconsciously embedded in the "I know how to climb chimneys" mantra.


furbucket


Oct 27, 2003, 6:07 PM
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Cussing does not help. It's similar to the "ohmigawd" statements that Angela was referring to. I agree, Jay. If I can stay focused on the next move, that helps. I can't think of any thoughts that could replace my cussing that would work. Usually a deep breath (as discussed in the book) can get me on track. My mind needs to be clear and focused on the route.

I dunno... trying to replace my negative thoughts with positive thoughts would just remind me that I'm having negative thoughts! Success is the only way for me to truly replace negative thoughts with positive thoughts.

Outdoor boulder problems are my arch nemesis. Some people I boulder with have the attitude that they aren't going to die from a typical boulder problem fall and that helps them stay calm. But I'm not too keen on having a broken ankle or worse. Once I get to the top of the boulder problem where the best my spotters can do is protect my head, I freak. Has anyone solved this problem with bouldering?

-Holly


dalguard


Oct 28, 2003, 2:51 AM
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At the worst times it seems my self talk disappears or at least I'm not able to hear it on any concious level. If I could hear it perhaps I could change it but I seem to go into a blind panic attack mode where all intelligent thought shuts down.

So far the book is helping with my concious moments - before and after the route mostly - but not doing much for the panic moments.

On the positive side, I used the bit about not permanently labelling yourself with negative statements to make a breakthrough on a road trip last week. Until last week I had never laybacked on lead and if the subject came up I would say "I don't layback on lead" even though I'm not particularly bad at it or anything, just scared.

Last week I got to a spot on a lead where laybacking was the obvious - perhaps only - choice. I started to say the usual but then remembered what the book had taught me and instead I went ahead and did the layback move. By the end of the week I had led my hardest trad route ever - and it was a layback finger crack.

I led it in poor style with a lot of panicking and whining and a full out breakdown when I finally clipped the anchors and was "safe" but it felt like a triumph nontheless. I had come a long way in a few days and all thanks to not saying something.


jt512


Oct 28, 2003, 9:47 AM
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Ultimately, I want to be where you are at...getting focused enough and far enough away from irrational fears to just focus on the movement, but I'm still at a point where getting over fear takes some really conscious active effort on my part.

Consider this possibility: Perhaps we don't get away from thoughts of fear so that we can focus on the moves, but rather that we get away from thoughts of fear by focusing on the moves. Focus on action, on possibilities, on what you can do. You can't simultaneously focus on the moves and focus on being afraid. Does it matter whether the next move is a 5.7 kneebar or a 5.12 lunge? Either way, directing your attention to what you are there to do -- the moves -- takes your attention away from the consequences of falling.

Maybe next time you are in a similar situation, just ask yourself what you have to do next. By doing that, you have, at least for a moment, directed your attention into action and away from fearful thoughts. Now, what would happen if you continued to do that all the way up the route? Isn't that exactly what you are trying to accomplish?

-Jay


jt512


Oct 28, 2003, 10:32 AM
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Cussing does not help. It's similar to the "ohmigawd" statements that Angela was referring to. I agree, Jay. If I can stay focused on the next move, that helps. I can't think of any thoughts that could replace my cussing that would work.

How about this: Next time you find yourself about to swear, stop. Redirect your attention to the next move. Maybe give that a try that on your next boulder problem and let us know what the result is.

In reply to:
Outdoor boulder problems are my arch nemesis. Some people I boulder with have the attitude that they aren't going to die from a typical boulder problem fall and that helps them stay calm. But I'm not too keen on having a broken ankle or worse. Once I get to the top of the boulder problem where the best my spotters can do is protect my head, I freak. Has anyone solved this problem with bouldering?

Is the fear of breaking an ankle real or imaginary? If the risk is real, is it a risk you want to take? If not, what is your motivation for bouldering?

Continue reading the book. There are ideas in the Accepting Responsibility chapter about assessing risks objectively that you may find relevant.

-Jay


katydid


Oct 28, 2003, 12:46 PM
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The most physical route I've followed thus far (Ye Gods & Little Fishes at Seneca) was one of the best climbs I've had, head-game-wise. I did it the day after my first lead, which I think helped, in that I had a lot of focus left over from the day before.

The things that I remember thinking while climbing were "I want this route" and "I can make the next move", sprinkled with an occasional "Where can I find a good foot/hand next?"

While the "I want" statement wasn't necessarily the best one overall (although it did keep me motivated when I was tired), I know the other two had a major effect on my level of performance.

Right now my goal is to work on thinking that way on really exposed routes, which is where I choke, even on toprope.

k.


iamthewallress


Oct 28, 2003, 12:56 PM
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Consider this possibility: Perhaps we don't get away from thoughts of fear so that we can focus on the moves, but rather that we get away from thoughts of fear by focusing on the moves.

It's true. I'm afraid to take lead falls in the gym, so let's use that venue as an example. When I make an honest effort to lead a climb near my limit there, I'm WAY more relaxed than I am on ones on which I have little chance of falling because my mind is focused on the moves.

Unfortunately when I get on multimpitch outside, I find myself at the belay psyching myself out about the next pitch while my partner is either leading off or finishing cleaning. I also find myself in that wordless physical panic state that Dawn described at times. I need to actively talk myself out of that place sometimes in order to turn my focus to the moves. When I do know what the next move should be, however, focusing on it is a good way to help talk myself down from my panic and help shift back towards the pure movement state that I'm aiming for.

The problem is, that once I start panicking, I actually often forget to tell myself that panicking is unhelpful or that I should be trying to focus on moves instead of being scared. In the moment, panicking seems like the most justifiable and even necessary action that I could take. Do any of you have tricks for helping yourself to remember that shaking and squealing when you have it within yourself to do otherwise is NOT how you want to be spending your precious free time?


darin


Oct 28, 2003, 3:13 PM
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[quote="iamthewallress]The problem is, that once I start panicking, I actually often forget to tell myself that panicking is unhelpful or that I should be trying to focus on moves instead of being scared. In the moment, panicking seems like the most justifiable and even necessary action that I could take. Do any of you have tricks for helping yourself to remember that shaking and squealing when you have it within yourself to do otherwise is NOT how you want to be spending your precious free time?
I'm a gym rat, so I'm not totally sure this is applicable to the outdoor thing, but when I start to panic on a route, I take one deep breath, exhale slowly, re-chalk, re-focus and go. that's assuming I'm in a good rest position.. if I'm not in a good place to rest, I'll either downclimb to one or try to scramble to the next one. nervous energy almost always gets me...


lou_dale


Oct 31, 2003, 6:28 PM
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boy howdy have i!!!!!!!!! i'm not good enough, i'm not as good as them or him or her; i'm not tall enough, strong enough, young enough - i'll TRY which usually leads to i CAN'T..........at least for me.

and yes - when you talk negatively - it seems to be well accepted - ohh that's ok, you can get it, or much like that.

(again, this has been my experience)

so i mumble to myself for several reasons - and yes, i DO warn those around me that if you think you hear me talking - i'm just mumbling things to myself - don't pay attention.......if i need you to watch me or slack or whatever - i'll make sure you know the difference.

i learned that when i speak softly to myself in the positive way - i am keeping ego OUT of my head telling me how awful i might be and when you are talking outloud, you are breathing and if you are breathing in and out of your mouth - it helps to keep you in check better than say - breathing in and out of your nose. you can be more consistent for some reason. (again, this is my experience).

afraid of falling? fear is healthy as long as we don't allow it to rule, so what we started doing now when we go and do our sport routes or even trad - or top rope - no matter what - we find something relatively easy and we fall on it......and we take enough falls of various lengths so that we get all that wiggy out of our heads first..........then by removing that, we can get to the business of climbing.

sure has helped us a lot...........we do that first now every time. pick a spot - either an easy sport route or placing some gear in - checking whatever the placement is first as well as the bolts, etc. - and we fall, fall, then fall some more.

once you do that and get that over with - it sure seems to take a load off.

as far as the mantras - seems to work for me and it sure works for all the others that we take with us - most of the world already thinks we are all daft for doing this anyway...........so we're all in good company - with the folks who love what we do.

talk in a mumble, just loud enough to be speaking but not enough to be confusing to your partner...........and i think you will thank you for it.

helps me. JUST A SUGGESTION......my mumbling works for me and what i actually am doing is asking myself questions - again, my experience and what helps me personally.


arnoilgner


Nov 6, 2003, 8:33 PM
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Positive AND negative self-talk distracts attention from the moment. Sure, positive is less debilitating but it is still distracting you from processing yourself through the chaos. Like Jay said, put attention on solving the problem. "What do I need to do?" This is more neutral, allows you to see the situation more clearly, and directs you to find solutions instead of just "getting your through the chaos."
You need to "process" yourself through the chaos, not get through it.


mrme


Jan 2, 2004, 10:40 PM
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i was on a hard lead for me and had a new belyer on a new climb belyer was a wonderfull climbing partner...well before i tried the crux i hung and was really worried and scared of falling so i hung for a secound and remembered my normal climbing partner for all the hard leads i have done with him there then i started to sing and climb i sung i got iron claws like wolverine....i do not like exmen at all though my normal climbing butty was a hugh fan and even named his kid logan after wolverine when i was doing that climb i felt like i could have held anything wonderfull experince. my belyer laughed at me latter i had to laugh to. but the experince was way unusuall i have pondered on why did i say that and when i normally talk or sing it saps energy away why this time was diffrent i am not sure.


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