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"A Conversation with Fear" - impressions?

bounceswoosh

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#1
As many of you may know, when it comes to skiing and apprehension, this book by Mermer Blakeslee is often recommended. It's billed as using skiing as a metaphor that can be applied to other parts of our lives, as well.

I just read it with hope of getting some insight into my mountain biking - I've been tentative ever since an injury in the early spring of 2014; an injury that physically kept me from riding for months, and has kept me mentally challenged in riding ever since.

For those of you who read it - did you find that you got a lot out of it? What did you get?

I found that the book was so grounded in skiing, and I so familiar with skiing, that it was hard to pull myself out of the skiing examples and reframe them for other activities.

The major message I got from the book is that you can't rush things - that I am, at least in large part, a Robert, ignoring my discomfort and pushing through anyway because I'm afraid that if I wait to process my emotions, I might not be able to do whatever it is at all. Then stiffening up because while I'm pushing through my mental fear, my body still isn't on board. That my insistence on riding my mountain bike on the Picture Rock trail and the subsequent emotions, feelings of despair and failure, were pretty predictable, and also that my decision to ride the extremely mellow and short Springbrook loop was the better choice, a way of slowly dipping my toes back in the water. I forget the term she uses - Narrowing the scope?

What I did not find is a miracle cure to my fear. I guess that should have been obvious before I even bought the book. I found some good ideas - I never would have considered the idea of deliberately going back to something more mellow after pushing myself on something hard. No, see, if I'm successful on something scary, I have to go right to the next big scary thing! But I could identify with Blakeslee hiding under her blankets after several days of being pushed to her emotional limits by high-consequence skiing in avalanche terrain.

Mostly, I got the feeling she would be a really great ski instructor, which is maybe beside the point for the book, although it no doubt helps her build clientele ;-)

Have you read the book? What did you learn? How have you applied it?
 

MissySki

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#2
I have it on my ever growing "to be read" list on my kindle.. I need to get to it eventually. Looking forward to hearing other's impressions in the meantime. :smile:
 
#3
I want to read this book and its in my queue. I have a tendency to freeze when I get to the top of a trail, especially if there's any kind of a lip. I am usually fine getting down the trail but have a few moments at the top where I have a little moment. I think this book could help me.
 

sibhusky

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#4
It didn't tell me anything I didn't already know. I know it's heresy to say this, but it didn't help me at all. However, I'm pretty old, and I like to think that age results in a lot of wisdom based on experience. So, maybe someone younger would get more out of it. But after all the hype I was disappointed.
 

Olesya Chornoguz

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#6
My issue is the opposite as your's @bounceswoosh - I have hard time convincing myself that I can ski more challenging terrain even if the snow is good and I am pretty sure I got the skills for it. I guess I'm Jane, according to Mermer's book. :smile: I freeze up instead of rushing forward at times. I also really liked the approach recommended in the book by building up to more challenging terrain by starting on something easier - that worked very well for me. I even like to start out/warm up on a green out West or easy blue in the East and that can set good tone for the whole ski day. I feel good after skiing that easy trail first thing and then can tackle increasingly more challenging terrain with more confidence. I also do easier trails after doing something very challenging. I think I was doing that even before reading the book though, well maybe the building up for difficult terrain too. But reading the book made me think about it and understand why I was doing it. Also after reading the book I had a more positive view of my fear and learned to talk to myself and self-soothe a bit better when I am freaked out on the slope, not curse myself, but be nice to myself. This has happened a few times when everyone skied forward and I was stuck on the difficult section and scared or a few times when I was skiing alone. The part about being nice to yourself is applicable to other situations in life.
 
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bounceswoosh

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#8
My issue is the opposite as your's @bounceswoosh - I have hard time convincing myself that I can ski more challenging terrain even if the snow is good and I am pretty sure I got the skills for it. I freeze up instead of rushing forward at times. I also really liked the approach recommended in the book by building up to more challenging terrain by starting on something easier - that worked very well for me. I even like to start out/warm up on a green out West or easy blue in the East and that can set good tone for the whole ski day. I feel good after skiing that easy trail first thing and then can tackle increasingly more challenging terrain with more confidence. I also do easier trails after doing something very challenging. I think I was doing that even before reading the book though, well maybe the building up for difficult terrain too. But reading the book made me think about it and understand why I was doing it. Also after reading the book I had a more positive view of my fear and learned to talk to myself and self-soothe a bit better when I am freaked out on the slope, not curse myself, but be nice to myself. This has happened a few times when everyone skied forward and I was stuck on the difficult section and scared or a few times when I was skiing alone. The part about being nice to yourself is applicable to other situations in life.
The thing is I'm not even really sure if I'm a rush-forward person or a hold-back person. I think I'm both, depending on the day and the terrain etc etc. I think I'm more of an "of course I can do it!" until the point where I'm committed, at which point there may be a lot of whimpering. Skiing is nice (in a way) because in a lot of cases, once you're there, you're committed, and you don't really have an option. Or maybe that's not nice at all.

I will often warm up on a blue unless conditions warrant otherwise (if there's fresh snow and the upper lifts are running, I will take my first run on a double black bowl because it literally will be completely chopped up by the second run). I got bit by that at A Basin late this season, going straight for the Alleys (steep trees) when there was new snow, and then ending up taking it turn/stop/turn. Which actually wouldn't have bothered me so much, except I was with a couple of stronger skiers and I *HATE* people waiting for me on a fresh snow day.

I hope that as I digest the contents of the book, I can learn to treat my "moments" as a factual experience as opposed to emotionally laden proof of my own inadequacy. In fact, that's usually what I tell people if they look at my quizzically after having waited for me somewhere - "I was just having a moment." But to remove the self-judgment from those moments - ah, wouldn't that be grand! It sounds like you've made some inroads there. I hope to learn to do the same.
 

Olesya Chornoguz

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#9
Skiing is nice (in a way) because in a lot of cases, once you're there, you're committed, and you don't really have an option. Or maybe that's not nice at all.
Well for me it's not as nice, several huge freak out moments for sure. :smile: Most of the time, at least. But I hear on rushing forward some of the times and then holding back other times. We all have different and variable perhaps patterns when it comes to fear. I hear you on heading to nice steep terrain in fresh snow, it makes a lot of sense, especially when one is experienced in powder skiing.
I hope that as I digest the contents of the book, I can learn to treat my "moments" as a factual experience as opposed to emotionally laden proof of my own inadequacy. In fact, that's usually what I tell people if they look at my quizzically after having waited for me somewhere - "I was just having a moment." But to remove the self-judgment from those moments - ah, wouldn't that be grand! It sounds like you've made some inroads there. I hope to learn to do the same.
I know exactly what you mean about "having a moment" and inadequacy feelings, it's an ongoing journey/challenge for me, not just in skiing, but other areas in my life too.
 
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#11
I always like to warm up on an easier run also, it gives me confidence that can set the tone for the day. I also go back and forth between harder and easier runs. I find I ski more aggressively on each when I toggle back and forth. I will try to find this book on audio format so I can listen while I am commuting.
 

heather matthews

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#12
Sounds like an interesting book and what a lovely affimative,supportive thread. I love going back and doing easier stuff after skiing or biking harder things for a while.The mellowness and also trying to ski or ride them really well seems to help lots especially if things have become a little out of shape on the harder stuff.
 

snow addict

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#13
I must admit I didn't enjoy reading this book at all and haven't finished it as I was struggling to relate and lost interest half-way through. The topic is interesting but presentation was not to my taste with stereotypical examples and rather trivial insights. I enjoyed "Inner Skiing" more. Explores the same topic while being a better read. Anyway, nothing wrong with having fear, but it has to be a rational one. Rational fear is being on a exposed traverse and knowing that falling is not an option, irrational one is thinking that you will definitely fall. Rational fear helps to pull yourself together and keep moving safely. It mobilizes whereas irrational fear paralyzes, gets you nowhere and makes your situation more dangerous. Rushing things is never good, but on the other hand if we stick to our comfort zone we'll never improve. Every double-blacks skier has miles of blue slopes behind the belt, but you can't miraculously become a black skier by sticking to blues. I have been discouraged now from starting day with the easy slopes - there is a short blue slope right from the top that takes to the lift that takes to hard terrain, so one run on this one is guaranteed, but to make it more interesting I try to get down it without turning. But it can be a good/useful tactics for some time, until the comfort zone expands. Once the comfort zone is wider this tactics is less and less useful. Normally if you ski often including the early season, you get enough warm-up during the days when harder terrain is not available due to lack of snow and get your ski legs back. Once your ski legs are back they are not going to disappear between two weekends :smile:
 
#14
Use the forum search function to (possibly) locate the years-old thread, “In The Yikes Zone.” (I haven’t tried to search for it.) This was the title by which the book was formerly known.

It was out of print for years, and copies were hard to come by/expensive.

A member had a hard cover that she offered to pass around, and we had a list - and subsequent discussion. The book, alas, went “astray.” But we had been on a one-week-and mail-it schedule then and talked about the book.
 

BackCountryGirl

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#15
I know this is heresy, but I found the book hard to read; it seemed to go in circles and when I'd finish a chapter, I would have flunked a elementary school reading test, i.e., I couldn't summarize what the key points were.
 

bounceswoosh

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#16
Use the forum search function to (possibly) locate the years-old thread, “In The Yikes Zone.” (I haven’t tried to search for it.) This was the title by which the book was formerly known.

It was out of print for years, and copies were hard to come by/expensive.

A member had a hard cover that she offered to pass around, and we had a list - and subsequent discussion. The book, alas, went “astray.” But we had been on a one-week-and mail-it schedule then and talked about the book.
I found several threads.

This is the one you were describing, I think:
http://www.theskidiva.com/forums/index.php?threads/in-the-yikes-zone.3365/

These two are about the book, but really just discuss the rarity:
http://www.theskidiva.com/forums/index.php?threads/in-the-yikes-zone-book-by-mermer-blakeslee.6871/
http://www.theskidiva.com/forums/index.php?threads/in-the-yikes-zone-book.6435/
 

bounceswoosh

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#17
I must admit I didn't enjoy reading this book at all and haven't finished it as I was struggling to relate and lost interest half-way through. The topic is interesting but presentation was not to my taste with stereotypical examples and rather trivial insights. I enjoyed "Inner Skiing" more. Explores the same topic while being a better read. Anyway, nothing wrong with having fear, but it has to be a rational one. Rational fear is being on a exposed traverse and knowing that falling is not an option, irrational one is thinking that you will definitely fall. Rational fear helps to pull yourself together and keep moving safely. It mobilizes whereas irrational fear paralyzes, gets you nowhere and makes your situation more dangerous. Rushing things is never good, but on the other hand if we stick to our comfort zone we'll never improve. Every double-blacks skier has miles of blue slopes behind the belt, but you can't miraculously become a black skier by sticking to blues. I have been discouraged now from starting day with the easy slopes - there is a short blue slope right from the top that takes to the lift that takes to hard terrain, so one run on this one is guaranteed, but to make it more interesting I try to get down it without turning. But it can be a good/useful tactics for some time, until the comfort zone expands. Once the comfort zone is wider this tactics is less and less useful. Normally if you ski often including the early season, you get enough warm-up during the days when harder terrain is not available due to lack of snow and get your ski legs back. Once your ski legs are back they are not going to disappear between two weekends :smile:
I can understand not finding the book compelling, although some of the insights, while maybe obvious in hindsight, were helpful to me, if only in the "Oooh - I'm not alone in acting this way" kind of way. It is good to see my exact behaviors described without judgment. I feel like your post comes kind of close to dismissing people who do find this book useful. The book never advocated not pushing yourself out of your comfort zone - I don't know where you got that.

I disagree that the comfort zone start becomes less useful - I think it's just that you might move up. I don't need to warm up on a blue to be in my comfort zone, but I still don't hit the things that scare me first thing in the morning. I did, one morning, start out on a run called Tom's Baby that is a steep, long double fall line right under the lift with some known areas that typically get scraped down to dirt ("gotcha" places where the pitch is more shallow, so people gravitate in those directions). It was a mistake and left me *slightly* off-kilter mentally for the rest of the day. Bumps are still challenging for me. On the other hand, my ski idol, Jenn Losch, skis the neighboring run, Inferno, every morning on her way to lineup. In fact, that was part of my ego-driven reason to try it - because hey, Jenn skis this area first thing. Never mind the vast difference in our skiing levels. But I'm glad I tried. There will be a day when I'll go straight to that run, and it will be the right choice. As it turns out, though, from our condo we either take two blues to lineup, or we take one of those bump runs ... so I expect I'll be warming up on blues for quite a while.

I also disagree that ski legs can disappear between two weekends - when I'm feeling out of sorts, which is the whole point of the book, I can feel like I've forgotten everything I used to know how to do. Reading this book from the perspective of someone who has had an injury or other trauma is, I suspect, very different from just reading it while everything is great.
 

snow addict

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#18
No, I don't dismiss anyone, I agree tastes in books differ, and I wanted to like the book, I heard about it on Ski Diva before I even joined the forum and it took me some dedicated effort to source it and I was looking forward to reading it. Anyway, the way the information was presented made it difficult for me to digest it, I was too slow reading it and as result at the time my skiing seemed to be progressing faster than I was progressing with the book, which made it somewhat irrelevant. I didn't see any revelations because I always saw fear as a normal part of many potentially risky activities, just as I didn't need the book to tell me there is nothing wrong with feeling out of sorts - even top athletes who do sport for living have "days off" - where their form is off all of a sudden and nothing seems to go right. If I feel out of sorts I find a place on a nice terrace with a glass of wine, enjoy the scenery and think how much better I will be skiing on a different day. Bad ski days happen to everyone and they have their positives too.

Regarding comfort zone - it's useful but it's important to expand it and don't retreat too far inside it every time you get little bit scared. There are of course cases when you must retreat further than normal, but they are special ones. 90% of the time you will be fine staying close to frontiers - makes it easier to start the next adventure because adventure level is some distance from the comfort zone frontier, not just outside it.
 

pinto

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#19
....I also disagree that ski legs can disappear between two weekends - when I'm feeling out of sorts, which is the whole point of the book, I can feel like I've forgotten everything I used to know how to do. Reading this book from the perspective of someone who has had an injury or other trauma is, I suspect, very different from just reading it while everything is great.
But isn't that the point? It's not your legs, it's your head. @snow addict said, "Once your legs are back..." so yeah, I agree that when you are up to speed, the mojo is lost for other reasons -- unless you've been skiing 6 days in a row or something. I've lost mine due to that or another type of physical exhaustion, but that's a little different. Or at least more explicable.

I can't comment to the book, as I haven't read it. For whatever reason, that (the yikes zone, fear, whatever) has never been an issue, but I'm lucky enough to have not been seriously injured skiing. Like @sibhusky, I've been at this a while, and there are just a lot of things you learn by doing, Which, I am sure, is what the book is, as many books are: codification of common sense.
 

pinto

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#20
No, I don't dismiss anyone, I agree tastes in books differ, and I wanted to like the book, I heard about it on Ski Diva before I even joined the forum and it took me some dedicated effort to source it and I was looking forward to reading it. Anyway, the way the information was presented made it difficult for me to digest it, I was too slow reading it and as result at the time my skiing seemed to be progressing faster than I was progressing with the book, which made it somewhat irrelevant. I didn't see any revelations because I always saw fear as a normal part of many potentially risky activities, just as I didn't need the book to tell me there is nothing wrong with feeling out of sorts - even top athletes who do sport for living have "days off" - where their form is off all of a sudden and nothing seems to go right. If I feel out of sorts I find a place on a nice terrace with a glass of wine, enjoy the scenery and think how much better I will be skiing on a different day. Bad ski days happen to everyone and they have their positives too.
....
Exactly! And it's one reason skiing is so nice. If I'm having an off day on the tennis court, I lose and let down not only myself but also possibly my team and partner. If I'm having an off day skiing, I get wine! It's a win-win situation!
 

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