(Emotions) and Feelings
Fear is a powerful
emotion and can be a big limitation for climbers, yogis and
Damasio is one of the world’s experts on the neurophysiology
of emotions. He describes emotions as automatic, unconscious
and biologically determined. An emotion refers to internal
changes in body state (chemical, visceral, muscular) and the
accompanying changes in the nervous system, caused by external
stimuli. Emotion is an unconscious arousal system that alerts
us to potential dangers and opportunities. For example, when
we feel fear, our mouths become dry, our hearts begin to race
and our muscles contract. Feelings are differentiated from
emotions, according to Damasio, occuring after we have become
aware in our brain of such physical changes. It is the mental
process. Only then do we experience the feeling of fear. Emotions
strongly influence our thoughts, words, and Kriya (actions).
Often we are unaware of this process.
also says that the brain regions that account for emotions
are the amygdala at the center of the triggering event, and
the hypothalamus which is at the center of the execution.
is the shape and size of an almond. The
amygdala is strongly involved with emotion and the fight-or-flight
response. When we feel
fear, or even
think of things to make us anxious or scared, more blood flows
to the amygdala!
may or may not be conscious of our emotions. The amygdala
stores fear memories. If a similar event occurs that has been
stored the same neurochemicals can be released. Our amygdala
can be prone to error. It may see danger when there is none.
There is roughly a quarter of a second gap between the time
an event occurs and the time it takes the amygdala to react.
It is possible that a skilled meditator may be able to intervene
before a fight or flight response takes over, and perhaps
even redirect it into more constructive or positive feelings.
Research by Paul
Ekman, suggests that mindfulness and meditation can tame
natural fear of falling is a major challenge to climbing,
balances and inversions. We often imagine what might happen,
instead of just being in the moment, adding fuel to the fear.
The beliefs and fears one has about a situation are often
totally different from the actual outcome. Being aware and
mindful of these beliefs and questioning them can begin to
take some of their power away. One way of feeling fear is
a physical sensations, such as butterflies in the stomach,
or muscle tension. If we hold these sensations with awareness
they can begin to unravel and dissolve. To be free from fear
we have to become familiar with it, begin to work with it
and understand it. We can learn to accept the situation and
trust the process. The simple act of trust can replace fear.
It can be a huge waste of time and energy worrying about what
might happen and a source of unhappiness. “Instead of
saying, 'It's terrible, I'm anxious; I must quickly find some
thought to relieve the anxiety', I now say 'Anxiety is perfectly
normal and is to be expected in this situation'...........
It's an opportunity to learn, yes. And this is a reversal
in most of our culture.” David Bohm
rather we acknowledge that things which we think we ought
to get rid of are actually the clue to what we need to learn.
But it's necessary to stay with these thoughts or emotions
despite the difficulties to learn what is really going on.”
as my legs began to circle around overhead, the thought flashed
through my mind that this was perhaps a bad idea. If I hurt
myself, no one would be there to help me. Suddenly I froze
in mid-air. The next thing I knew, I was lying on my upper
back and neck on the mat. I wasn’t hurt, but this experience
taught me not to let fear interrupt my concentration once
I was committed to action. That element of gym philosophy
would, in time, translate into an important part of climbing
philosophy for me." Lynn Hill, Climbing Free
"But my momentum had stalled. Fear had set in. Sewing
machine leg was building up at the ball of my foot. My forearms
were bloating and aching as blood swelled up in the veins.
I had to think fast. The options presented themselves. I could
reach out quickly and wrap two of my fingers through the steel
eye of the bolt and hang from one finger. But no, that would
be as digit friendly as grabbing a knife……..Option
2 then became clear: I had to calm my nerves and keep going
past the bolt to a more secure place to stand. From there
I could easily clip the bolt. I took a couple of deep breaths
and climbed on. My gambit worked, and a second later I was
clipping a carabiner to the bolt, feeling a tingle of new
energy running through my body." Lynn Hill, Climbing
does the concept of "no fear" mean to you?
Nancy: Everyone has fear. It's the way you channel your fear—whether
you let it control you or you channel it—whether it's
real fear or made up fear. Are you in an avalanche zone? Or
is it part of your imagination? Fear keeps you alive.
Fear is normal, it's a part of life. For me, it can be very
important because if you look down in a serious situation,
you want to know where you're going to land, or put in another
piece of protection or downclimb. Fear is a good indicator.
Sometimes you might feel fear that is unreasonable and you
have to say, 'Okay, I'm okay' and keep going. It's a red flag
and I can either focus and get past that situation or I can
Kathleen Gasperini, Mountain Zone Correspondent