The mind doesn’t like stress and will engage in thought processes designed to escape that stress. Often, these thought processes seem reasonable, but they have an ulterior motive of evasion. Many climbers have discovered this tendency of the mind. My first glimpse of it was many years ago as an intermediate climber in Boulder, Colorado. I was working my way through the climbing grades until I was able to climb 5.8s regularly. I wanted to push into 5.9s and had chosen one called Curving Crack on Castle Rock in Boulder Canyon. I was poised at a subtle stance below the last 15 feet, saying to myself, “I don’t think I can do it.” My mind told me to give up, but for no real reason I moved on anyway. Without thinking, I began stemming, laybacking, and jamming my shoes in the crack. I placed a nut and continued. The climbing was strenuous but doable. Stemming seemed to give me stability, and before I knew it, I pulled over the top.
At the time, I couldn’t believe it. I had felt quite certain I could not do the route, yet I had. I would later realize that almost every climber has had a similar experience. When you dissect these experiences, you find that your mind creates conceptions of situations that you haven’t yet engaged. Since the situation is unknown, these conceptions are not based on fact and often are false. Consider the magnitude of this realization: Your mind gives you false information prior to engaging a new situation. This false information is essentially a lie.
Realizing that your mind lies to you is a bit unsettling, to say the least. But how could it be otherwise? How can your mind know something before you actually engage? It can’t, and this realization is the beginning of understanding how your mind works.