I'm writing this because I think it's possibly useful to other people to see a perspective that they may never experience personally. I know from my own point of view there are many experiences that I've benifited from where other people describe situations that I would never have been part of in my life.
Whether it's useful to you or not, I don't know. I hope it doesn't sound like boasting I've just tried to keep it to what I know without the superlatives even though there's a lot of life out there to enjoy.
I should say that I decided to do this while I was watching ski videos on youtube. I found one created by Salomon called Tempting fear. If you search youtube for "Salomon Freeski TV S6 E07 - Tempting Fear" then you'll find it.
While I was watching it, in awe at what was being done. I found that amongst the awe was understanding. I understood "where he was coming from". The words he uses are incredibly familiar even thought his experiences are far more extreme than my own.
I spent a lot of my life going rock climbing and things like that. I've been in a few places where it felt a bit tight. But because I know so many other people who do the same thing it's something that we compare and we laugh about because that's how it is.
Some people refer to these pastimes as adrenalin fuelled. The people who refer to them as that don't really understand them. Yes if you are abseiling something big for the first time there are some who whoop and make a big thing of it. But climbing where there's an element of fear is more the controlling of adrenalin and keeping down those stress hormones by making it in to something that you just do. If you let the adrenalin loose you burn your energy and reality really does get warped. I'll try to describe a burst of adrenalin later.
The mindset is one of adventure. You might be climbing something that many people have done before but right here, right now today is when you're doing it and the weather and rock conditions are what you have to deal with. I have an anecdote for that:
One sunny day I was with my wife and a friend climbing near Swanage. We all abseiled down about 120 ft to the foot of the climb at sea level, I guess it's odd for some to find that abseiling is a way to go down a rockface to start a climb and not just a thing in its own right like they do in outdoor centres. Once there I climbed up on the pointed end of the rope while my wife managed the belay. On the way up I put protection in the cracks and clip the rope in so that if I fall then hopefully the protection won't fall out and I will only fall 10-20 feet or so and not come to much grief. Anyway I got to the top and second up was wifey, then my mate Dave came up last. There was a rock at the top that overhung a bit and I walked on it, Janet walked on it and as Dave stepped off it the rock fell away. About 2 tons of sea clif fell down to where we'd all been at the base of the cliff. You really never know what's coming with rocks.
We then went and climbed something else that looked a bit more robust.
All these things are a matter of controlling fear. A process of habituation, where you get used to the situation. And you get used to taking responsibility for your own and other people's life. It sounds pretentious but there is no other description.
There is fear. Then you put it in perspective and take a view of it. Rationalisation and acceptance are words that we use as therapists but it's only when there is extreme potential associated with them that they start to mean something a little more tangible. Remember the context that we're in here. I'm not saying it's more or less important than the acceptance that many clients go through related to other circumstances. In this context the extremes are lets say pretty tangible.
The adrenalin thing...
I was once climbing something about 40 feet high on some Yorkshire gritstone. It's not the height that makes thing hard. It had a bulge in it and as I pulled around the bulge my harness fell off. I've no idea how, it's never happened before or since but I was on a rockface halfway around a crux move and I had no protection at all. Panic and you fall off. Couldn't go down because of the slight overhang and the difficulty of reversing the move. Couldn't wait for my mate to dangle the rope from the top because it was too hard and it was taking too much energy just to hang on. Couldn't jump off because the boulders below were real bone breakers and so uneven that.... well you get the idea. I had to go up because otherwise I was scr**ed. I went up and although there was no panic there was adrenalin and I can recount that it makes you a lot stronger and small holds seem a lot bigger. I know that because my mate made me go and look at it all again, the holds that I experienced as massive and the moves that were easy changed perspective when the adrenalin was gone. Adrenalin can be useful, but if you rely on it all the time then you will run out of energy. Adrenalin warps all the senses, touch, sound, exertion, time, smell. Those who tread that adrenalin line too often are real nutters, it's a safety mechanism and not a way of life. It's a drug like no other and one to be used sparingly.
It feels like I've rambled around the point a bit but the point is this. People who are used to being in situations where they habitually control fear and also control the release of adrenalin can be a little hard to fathom because what we see as extreme, they do every day.
Listen to their stories carefully and you'll get a handle on how to measure their reactions to your questions.
What you regard as a high level of fear could be something they are really used to. They aren't just putting a brave face on it they really are like that. If you want to characterise it then read some of the information about a man called Bill Tilman.
Listen to their stores carefully. I know I've said that before. If you don't listen then you will miss the bits that matter the most to them, it will be wrapped up in a laugh or a smile. The bits where they really need help will be the bits that you might regard as common place.
They often aren't used to describing emotions. They keep them in check along with the fear and their sense of humour generally keeps their mind safe. When their sense of humour fails they have trouble.
They are self reliant. If they've come to see you then they really need help. They tend not to understand why they can't just tough it out as usual. They have had to face one of their biggest fears in reaching out and asking for help so in some ways you're half way there.
Don't be surprised if you don't get it to start with. Imagine for a moment someone at the top of a 500ft coastal stack (rock pillar). They climbed all the way up. They know that their journey is only half done. They went prepared for that.
I've helped a few people like this. My stories are tame compared to theirs but we communicated and I'd like to think I helped.
Another thing to bear in mind is that it sounds like a male trait but I've met and talked with plenty of females who are wired this way too.