The palms of my hands were sweating, I felt sick and my feet tingled uncomfortably. I was aware those around me wanted me to clear the way but I wasn't sure I could move my legs. My heart raced and I attempted to regain control by breathing just a little slower. I was standing at the top of a slope on a dirt track and images flooded my head about losing my footing and tumbling and sliding down to a painful death.
When we signed up for the 8-day Annapurna Trek in Nepal in 1999, I told my boyfriend at the time I had a phobia about falling. He made the right noises but it soon became clear he hadn't really understood. So when I faced the situation above, his comment about the slope not even being that steep was less than helpful!
What was helpful, in this situation, on the narrow winding path round the mountains, crossing rivers, when ascending and especially on the descent, was our wonderful Sherpa and Guide, Tej, who carried my bag and held my hand. His strong Buddhist beliefs that permeated our discussions, clarity about what I needed to do (which foot to put where) and reassuring hand that held mine, in a professional hold, ready to catch me, made it possible for me to complete and indeed enjoy the trek. (Despite my crumbling relationship.)
Whilst we can learn coping strategies, when in the midst of fear, our clarity deserts us. If we can find a way to avoid moving forward, we will! A helping hand at that point is wonderful, a helping hand from someone we have had the benefit of getting to know and trust beforehand and who knows us and how we operate can make all the difference.
But, you might be thinking, surely it's not good to be dependent on others?
During my training with CoachU we were discouraged from using the term 'help' as it could be seen as dis-empowering. We know the resources we need to overcome our fears are all within. The help I refer to enables us to access those resources. Whilst our Sherpa advised me where to put my feet, I still had to put them there. As we went, I learnt something about trekking and about calming my panic, I was able to hold on less tightly. His job, and that if any good coach, was to facilitate and reinforce that independence, that's healthy help.
The thought that we have to do things alone is a mistaken one, often born out of past hurts. We are all interconnected. The helper might enjoy helping as much as the helpee benefits. Our Sherpa reported having a more interesting trip with our conversations and of course he got a big tip that helped him and his family. He had walked that path so many times before- I wanted to experience the landscape and the local people, his experience facilitated that.
There is a distinction between co-dependence, when we rely on another to meet our needs, and interdependence which is our natural state as humans living together in families and tribes. We do best when we co-operate and share. We progress the most when we learn from each other. This can be a direct exchange or facilitated by money however it is always an exchange of energy.
I'm really grateful that I kept a journal during the Nepal trip, I also made a beautiful album. It was a magical experience which was wonderful to re-live for this article . I'd love to hear your comments on any of the subjects raised.....