Do you have counterphobia?

Do you hide from your fears, or seek to confront them so you can overcome them? For many professional climbers, it’s the latter: “As a climber, I know I will be afraid, but the key bit is that I approach that fear and try to overcome it.” Psychologists call it counterphobia.

That’s one tidbit from a story that the BBC has on climbing Mt. Everest: Death in the Clouds (Rachel Nuwer, 9 October 2015). It mentions other theories about what motivates people to climb the world’s highest and most dangerous mountains: bragging rights; checking an item off a bucket list; the pursuit of adrenaline; getting away from existing responsibilities; compensating for emotionally troubled relationships; and a desire to exert some control over one’s life. In other words, “because it’s there” isn’t the end of the story.

Obviously there are significant differences between climbing into altitudes that feature something called “the death zone” and snowboarding, especially snowboarding done at lift-served mountains and hills with elevations of less than 12,000 feet, which is where 99-plus percent of snowboarding takes place.

Still, snowboarding does present us with opportunities to avoid our fears, or to confront them. That’s true of the novice, but also the advanced rider: Do I take on this slope that’s steeper than I’d like it to be? Should I follow my friends into a mogul field, or take an alternate route? There’s no simple answer for everyone, but the point is simple: Snowboarding can be as much of a mental and psychological challenge as it can be a physical one. When and where to accept a new challenge is up to you.

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