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"A Conversation with Fear" - impressions?

altagirl

Moderator
Staff member
#21
I haven't read it either, though the topic interests me. I guess personally, I'm not really looking for a way to conquer fear anymore (i.e. force my way through it. ). I know I've had episodes of irrational fears. Getting back to skiing after a knee surgery there was always a phase where I felt like I was made of glass and I couldn't risk falling, but once I got past that first uneventful fall, that would go away. Once I knew the process, it got easier. And I found certain tricks to push myself along.

BUT, to me, the more interesting thing is why I want(ed) to push myself so hard in the first place. Realizing that I'd been through some serious injuries in an effort to feed my ego made me re-evaluate. And now I approach things quite differently. I still do things that get my adrenaline going on occasion, but only if it genuinely looks fun. I try to remove the "should" motivation. That means some days I start on a black run, other days I never leave mellow groomers and I refuse to feel guilty about not pushing myself. I accept that just because I could do it yesterday doesn't mean I can today or tomorrow.
Yeah, that's probably not the fastest way to progress, but I'm not looking for progression at any cost anymore. And I'm a LOT more at peace. And because I'm more relaxed, sometimes I feel like I improve unexpectedly.
This is not a criticism of people who enjoy driving themselves to improve, because I was there for a lot of years. Just an alternative, I guess. I still have some go for it moments, but took away the obligation part. I was as afraid of letting myself/others down or looking bad as of getting hurt. (Probably more! ) Recognizing what I'm actually afraid of gave me the option to address things in isolation. If I'm only afraid of the actual obstacle in from of me, it's easier to make a rational decision about what to do, which could be yes, no, or train some more on a smaller variation and come back to it, or take the easiest line down. Or recognizing that some things don't even look like fun to do, they just look fun for my ego to brag about later. Which is fine, but I make more conscious decisions now and am not afraid to say no.
 

Robyn

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#22
I haven't read the book but I do battle some fears related to skiing. Usually they involve dropping off things or extremely steep stuff. That's one benefit to skiing with the likes of Pinto. Even if I'm looking down a slope that has my stomach in my throat, I almost always just force myself to do it because I don't want to get left behind. And I'm fine. I've never not been fine (or at least had relatively minor injuries like a sprained ankle). In those times that I haven't done it, usually it's because I'm having one of those off days.
 

bounceswoosh

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#23
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!
I wish I naturally felt this way - that an off day is just an off day, doesn't say anything about my worth or how my future skiing will go, etc. But it's something I'm only gradually learning and trying. My M.O. is more "This isn't working - double down, ski harder, stop being such a cry baby!" For me, a book that tells me it's okay, even more productive, to do things a different way is valuable.

One of the "ahah" things in the book, which perhaps you two already knew and which certainly she presented as frequently gendered, was the comment that women often didn't grow up doing lots of sports, so they don't have a lot of experience, but also for some reason think that the process should be easier. Sometimes smacking a person in the face with the obvious is exactly what that person needs ... like, "Hey, who told you this would be easy to learn?"

After reading this book, I went back today and rode a mellow mountain biking trail, and I definitely believe that the concepts in the book helped me - if only to identify what had previously been vague feelings with actual words and terms. Once I could do that, I could address the thoughts behind the feelings, instead of just knowing that I felt apprehensive or whatever.
 

pinto

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#24
I wish I naturally felt this way - that an off day is just an off day, doesn't say anything about my worth or how my future skiing will go, etc. But it's something I'm only gradually learning and trying. My M.O. is more "This isn't working - double down, ski harder, stop being such a cry baby!" For me, a book that tells me it's okay, even more productive, to do things a different way is valuable.

One of the "ahah" things in the book, which perhaps you two already knew and which certainly she presented as frequently gendered, was the comment that women often didn't grow up doing lots of sports, so they don't have a lot of experience, but also for some reason think that the process should be easier. Sometimes smacking a person in the face with the obvious is exactly what that person needs ... like, "Hey, who told you this would be easy to learn?"


After reading this book, I went back today and rode a mellow mountain biking trail, and I definitely believe that the concepts in the book helped me - if only to identify what had previously been vague feelings with actual words and terms. Once I could do that, I could address the thoughts behind the feelings, instead of just knowing that I felt apprehensive or whatever.
Yeah, I think that experience gives you the knowledge that, hey, I suck today, but I don't always suck. Last week I was better, and next week I can be better again. That is just how it is in sports (and a lot of other things, too).

The other thing I thought of, with women not growing up playing sports (as much), they definitely don't watch as much. And there is a lot of wisdom (and a lot of banality, yes) dispensed by various coaches, color commentators, play by play guys, whatever. But I actually think if you are listening your whole life to these guys, it's ingrained that you aren't going to rush for 15o yd every game, or block 20 shots, or score a hat trick, or whatever. That's why those achievements are celebrated: they are unusual. So when we do it once, but then expect to do it every time, it's just frustrating.

By the same token, even the greatest athletes in the world sometimes suck. Hall-of-Fame goalies get yanked, Cy Young award winners give up 6 runs in an inning ... it happens. It is probably helpful for us as spectators to see this over and over so that when we are participants, maybe we realize it happens to us too.

And again, it doesn't have to be sports ... what about one-hit wonder bands? or musicianship in general? Performing in any capacity. But skiing is a sport, so of course ... it's a sport.

@altagirl 's post reminded me of something I saw on facebook yesterday ...http://greatist.com/connect/militar...d=10152936694881987&adbpl=fb&adbpr=9815486986
 
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bounceswoosh

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#25
Yeah, I think that experience gives you the knowledge that, hey, I suck today, but I don't always suck. Last week I was better, and next week I can be better again. That is just how it is in sports (and a lot of other things, too).

The other thing I thought of, with women not growing up playing sports (as much), they definitely don't watch as much. And there is a lot of wisdom (and a lot of banality, yes) dispensed by various coaches, color commentators, play by play guys, whatever. But I actually think if you are listening your whole life to these guys, it's ingrained that you aren't going to rush for 15o yd every game, or block 20 shots, or score a hat trick, or whatever. That's why those achievements are celebrated: they are unusual. So when we do it once, but then expect to do it every time, it's just frustrating.

By the same token, even the greatest athletes in the world sometimes suck. Hall-of-Fame goalies get yanked, Cy Young award winners give up 6 runs in an inning ... it happens. It is probably helpful for us as spectators to see this over and over so that when we are participants, maybe we realize it happens to us too.

And again, it doesn't have to be sports ... what about one-hit wonder bands? or musicianship in general? Performing in any capacity. But skiing is a sport, so of course ... it's a sport.

@altagirl 's post reminded me of something I saw on facebook yesterday ...http://greatist.com/connect/militar...d=10152936694881987&adbpl=fb&adbpr=9815486986
You know what's funny is, I did Tae Kwon Do in high school. Actually I got to my second degree black belt during college. We spent countless hours perfecting each kick, or we would do contests to see who could do the most kicks in a given amount of time or while up in the air. So you would think I would have figured it out, but somehow I didn't. I always expect the trajectory to go straight up.

And you're straight-up on target about me not watching sports. After marrying DH, I'm exposed to a lot more, but before that? Not a chance. And my parents never played sports and didn't prioritized being athletic, so I didn't learn from them, either. My dad apparently acted in community theater long ago, but I never got exposed to that.
 

Olesya Chornoguz

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#26
I wish I naturally felt this way - that an off day is just an off day, doesn't say anything about my worth or how my future skiing will go, etc. But it's something I'm only gradually learning and trying. My M.O. is more "This isn't working - double down, ski harder, stop being such a cry baby!" For me, a book that tells me it's okay, even more productive, to do things a different way is valuable.

One of the "ahah" things in the book, which perhaps you two already knew and which certainly she presented as frequently gendered, was the comment that women often didn't grow up doing lots of sports, so they don't have a lot of experience, but also for some reason think that the process should be easier. Sometimes smacking a person in the face with the obvious is exactly what that person needs ... like, "Hey, who told you this would be easy to learn?"

After reading this book, I went back today and rode a mellow mountain biking trail, and I definitely believe that the concepts in the book helped me - if only to identify what had previously been vague feelings with actual words and terms. Once I could do that, I could address the thoughts behind the feelings, instead of just knowing that I felt apprehensive or whatever.
I fully agree with everything above and have experienced what you are describing too.
 
#27
I really got into it.
  • Language –Mermer loves the mountains and skiing, it’s in her blood and bones, and conveys this passion in her writing. I thought it was poetic in many places. And also quite clever: the way she documented an account of teaching an obnoxious and irritating person was so irritating in itself, that I felt like skipping it.
  • Content – It was early in the book that I felt there was a lot to “get” and decided to read it again. I gave up constantly rewinding (audiobook) and just let the words wash over me. It was stunning how well she could express concepts. Example: "The blinding light of positivity has a well-defined shadow: it is negative toward negativity itself." – I played this sentence over like 10 times, dork that I am.
  • Valuable, relevant points and examples. One especially poignant example of one student who’d recently lost a sister to cancer--the take-away from the ski lesson was the fact/need to keep moving forward, on & off the slopes. I think that’s what we all must do, in life, facing difficulties. Another story was of the value of repeated practice – the example of the young snowboarders trying to nail a trick in the half-pipe – where the ski lesson students observed the kids & came to see the value & extent of the repetition. That was a good reminder/bolster to me. On the other hand, this reminded of someone years ago, who literally skied the exact same run all day long, from morning to end of the day, for all 5 days on a ski vacation at Steamboat, because he wanted to master perfect form. Ferchrissakes, I couldn’t and wouldn’t do that to myself, but who knows, maybe he ultimately became an expert skier.
  • It was interesting to read a ski instructor’s point of view, about the dynamics of personality, groups, skiing with peers, her personal stories.
  • It reinforced my own experiences and got me to think of how I might handle challenging conditions on the slopes. I've never allowed myself to be somewhere where I was completely incapcitated from fear. What would I do?
  • I liked this book because it blended ‘high concept’ (poetry, passion, philosophical thought) and practicality (be mindful, let yourself try, baby steps, don’t beat yourself up, evaluate the variables, cultivate a quiver of techniques and aids, and many of the other things raised in the posts here).
  • The ski analogy was great. I can’t say how the material would apply in other areas or activities, but that’s not saying that it can’t.
 
#29
A couple of old threads related to the book and fear when skiing in general.

2012
http://www.theskidiva.com/forums/index.php?threads/conversation-with-fear.14897

2011
http://www.theskidiva.com/forums/index.php?threads/does-fear-betray-you.11544/

When I read the book, it was very helpful for understanding how to help friends who had fears when skiing. Couldn't really related to the scenarios for myself until after the knee injury in 2012. Not so much for skiing, but for being active during and after knee rehab some points made sense.
 
#30
On 2nd thought, there was a time where I was incapacitated temporarily, but it was mountain biking down from the summit of Mammoth. I was so past the point of exhaustion, physically and mentally, that on the homestretch of the ride, which was relatively easy terrain, I started slipping out, crashing, and eventually I lost it altogether, emotionally.

The next day's ride was on a newly paved bike trail, all downhill. It should've been a piece of cake but I hated it. I've done that ride since, with better outcome, but not the first one.
 

bounceswoosh

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#31
Another story was of the value of repeated practice – the example of the young snowboarders trying to nail a trick in the half-pipe – where the ski lesson students observed the kids & came to see the value & extent of the repetition.
YES. I also took note of this section, and have actually observed it myself on the hill. And it came in handy for me today, when I decided to redo short technical sections of my mountain bike ride instead of coming off my bike, cursing, and moving on.

I was describing the book to DH today (he's been out of town for work, so we're just now catching up). I described the Robert and Jane types (was it Jane?), and before I even finished, he said, "Oh - so you're a Robert, and I'm a Jane." Bingo, although I hadn't thought to evaluate him. The funny part is his Jane-ness doesn't come up much of the time in skiing, because his comfort zone is so large there.
 

grlacey

Certified Ski Diva
#32
Last year I struggled with debilitating fear. The book was recommended to me through this forum. I got a couple of things out of it.

1. I am definitely a "Jane", I freeze up when I get stressed too much.
2. Narrow the focus - don't try to ski the whole mountain, just ski the next couple of turns.
3. Keep moving forward

At the time these things were very helpful to me. I am hoping this season that I will be able to use these tools to get at least some of my mojo back.
 
#33
:bump:
Although Mermer Blakeslee's book A Conversation with Fear is often mentioned in other threads, it's been a while since this thread was started. Anyone who has read it since 2016 have any comments?

This book is one of the few that I have in iBooks on my iPhone. I pull it up every so often to re-read a chapter or two. Not to much for skiing as for life in general.

For those with fear issues directly related to skiing as an intermediate, these Ski Tips threads might be useful.

Speed control for beginners/intemediate?

How to ski faster
 
#34
Found another old thread in Ski Tips that has good comments from Divas related to fear. The discussion includes suggestions from instructors. There is a video of the OP in Post #27 from the end of her third season, taken during a ski trip to Breck. She took a few lessons that trip, as well as during other trips. Had a very supportive BF who took the videos. They were from Chicago. Another video is Post #39 when she was following an instructor. Post #57 is a video taken in the midwest the next season, on different skis. The first few posts from Diva instructors are #34, #47, #54. The posts from the OP end on Page 4.

How do people get over the fear of going fast? - Dec 2013

Hello all,

I have been progressing greatly with my skiing over the last 3 years. I was 29 when I started skiing and never roller bladed or really roller skated much growing up. Moving while "standing still" was a new feeling for me when I started skiing. I can hockey stop, change turn radius to control speeds, and make parallel turns. In lessons I am somewhere around a level 6 according to my private lesson instructor in Breckenridge last year.

I am now trying to keep up with my bf but when ever I get the feeling that I am moving fast I feel the need to slow down cause I think I will be out of control. The great thing is that I can slow myself down by making tighter turns. I am so happy I am good enough now at skiing I never really feel out of control ever unless I am trying to ski faster. I however do not actually think I am out of control because I can slow myself easily.

As a result of me skiing slower my BF waits till I get a few hundred yards down the trail then he starts. He then gets a few 100 yards in front on me and has to wait for me to catch up. So on and so forth down the slope to the bottom. He even tries to ski slower and I try to follow his line, but once I get closer to his speed I make myself slow down. I really just want to be able to keep up with him so we can ski together a little better but I cant seem to allow myself to ski faster.

I am a good enough skier now to ski just about anything groomed I want. I just ski it at my speed, which I will agree is slow, but safe. My BF says that I am the only one at this point that can make me ski faster. He says its all mental because I look completely in control at all times. He is probably correct.

So do you ladies have any tricks or tips I can use to get over this fear. Has anyone else had this problem? Have others gone through this?

Thanks for your advice:
T
 

Mistletoes

Certified Ski Diva
#35
Just read through this thread - loved it! The videos the OP showed were really helpful too. I progressed this year and am always in control but maybe too much control. Like the slowest skier on the steepest run. The responses definitely provide some food for thought (longer/stiffer skis, using the edges more, rolling the ankles to get on edge)
 

liquidfeet

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#36
I've read Mermer Blakeslee's book three times - and taken copious notes. Needless to say, I like it. The book basically conveys the author's approach to teaching fearful skiers. This is not a rah-rah self-help book. It's a comprehensive description of one high-level instructor's approach to teaching skiers who are immersed in risk and feel fear because of that risk.

I know Mermer. She is a teacher who focuses intensely on her students in order to deal with each person individually. She watches both how they are skiing and how they are handling it emotionally, and teaches each person accordingly. I've never encountered another instructor/trainer who focuses so totally on each skier in a group setting. I've had enough experience in group clinics led by her (I've attended four one-week-long events where she was my group leader, plus had some one-on-one coaching) to say this with assurance. While other teachers of her technical caliber often teach ski technique to the group as a whole, Mermer teaches individual people who happen to be in the group. Personal feedback is her thing. Fear and technique are both her focus.

She has come up with innovative ways of dealing with fear based on her analysis of how people deal with it - while skiing. She also has specific ways of teaching skiers who have deeply embedded bad habits (skiers who need remedial work, or corrective teaching), and of teaching skiers who have neither fear nor bad habits but seek to build more advanced technical skills (people on a developmental trajectory not needing correction or purging of bad habits). These three groups (fearful students, students with bad habits, and students on a developmental path) need different teaching approaches. Mermer has ways of dealing with all of these, and talks about the differences to her instructional groups.

Mermer tends to think independently. She's not an "orthodox" thinker. By that I mean that she thinks out of the box. She's deeply respected within PSIA despite this fact, or perhaps because of that independent thinking she does. She has served as a PSIA Demo Team member, a racer, an instructor, a trainer of instructors, a PSIA examiner, a Demo Team selector, and I'm sure other stuff I don't know about.

I highly recommend the book for anyone who teaches skiing to adults, and for those who are trying to deal with their own annoying or inhibiting fears.
 
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#37
I've read Mermer Blakeslee's book three times - and taken copious notes. Needless to say, I like it. The book basically conveys the author's approach to teaching fearful skiers. This is not a rah-rah self-help book. It's a comprehensive description of one high-level instructor's approach to teaching skiers who are immersed in risk and feel fear because of that risk.

I know Mermer. She is a teacher who focuses intensely on her students in order to deal with each person individually. She watches both how they are skiing and how they are handling it emotionally, and teaches each person accordingly. I've never encountered another instructor/trainer who focuses so totally on each skier in a group setting. I've had enough experience in group clinics led by her (I've attended four one-week-long events where she was my group leader, plus had some one-on-one coaching) to say this with assurance. While other teachers of her technical caliber often teach ski technique to the group as a whole, Mermer teaches individual people who happen to be in the group. Personal feedback is her thing. Fear and technique are both her focus.

She has come up with innovative ways of dealing with fear based on her analysis of how people deal with it - while skiing. She also has specific ways of teaching skiers who have deeply embedded bad habits (skiers who need remedial work, or corrective teaching), and of teaching skiers who have neither fear nor bad habits but seek to build more advanced technical skills (people on a developmental trajectory not needing correction or purging of bad habits). These three groups (fearful students, students with bad habits, and students on a developmental path) need different teaching approaches. Mermer has ways of dealing with all of these, and talks about the differences to her instructional groups.

Mermer tends to think independently. She's not an "orthodox" thinker. By that I mean that she thinks out of the box. She's deeply respected within PSIA despite this fact, or perhaps because of that independent thinking she does. She has served as a PSIA Demo Team member, a racer, an instructor, a trainer of instructors, a PSIA examiner, a Demo Team selector, and I'm sure other stuff I don't know about.

I highly recommend the book for anyone who teaches skiing to adults, and for those who are trying to deal with their own annoying or inhibiting fears.
Wow, what an amazing opportunity to have been able to ski with her so many times!! She sounds like a very gifted instructor.
 

jmfd84

Certified Ski Diva
#38
Thank you for bumping this thread, @marzNC ! I hadn't heard of this book - and it sounds like exactly what I need to read before next season. When the student is ready, the teacher appears and all that. :smile:
 

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