Confessions of a Claustrophiliac: Obstacles as a Metaphor, Part 4

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I like confined spaces. Heights... not so much my thing.

There is something so terrestrial, so telluric, about being low and tight along the ground, feeling the walls close and pressing in at your sides, focusing only on your rhythmic movements, and on the "light at the end of the tunnel".

I recently looked up the idiom, and here is its popular definition:

"light at the end of the tunnel":

Something which makes you believe that a difficult or unpleasant situation will end.

It's easy to experience this, all you have to do is intentionally create a difficult or unpleasant experience!  I have found that confined spaces work great for this, and that we can take the metaphor of the tunnel literally.  All we need is a tight fitting tube!

claustrophobia |ˌklôstrəˈfōbēə|noun

extreme or irrational fear of confined places.

I guess we all have our 'thing'.  For me standing on a ledge, high above the ground, looking down at what seems to be a swirling, miniature, model train-set landscape just doesn't get my fire lit. If I were going to take it a step further, I'd have to say I find roller coasters even less pleasant.

Confined spaces turn me on.  I don't know why, but they feel...  safe.  I feel in control.  I guess when everything else is shut out, and its just me alone with myself, with my heartbeat and breath, I feel very confident.  Put me on a rickety, squeaking cart speeding along an oversized vaudevillian erector set haphazardly assembled by transient carnies, and I just go to pieces.  I suppose I'm demonstrating a strong desire for control. I'm ok with that.

A few years back I had the opportunity to take part in On Point Tactical's Urban Escape and Evasion class (I highly recommend this excellent course if you too "demonstrate a strong desire for control"). There was an exercise in which we were handcuffed and thrown into the trunk of a car (ok, maybe not everyone's idea of a good time).  The goal was to access the black, steel bobby pin we had hidden in our hair or clipped onto our waist-band and then use it to pick the cuff's lock, freeing our hands.  Next we would pull the glowing emergency release handle - now standard in the trunks of all late model cars- which would pop the trunk open so that we could escape. We had been practicing this throughout the weekend - sans trunk and darkness - and had all developed a fairly high level of proficiency with the skill. The funny thing was, once they introduced the stress of the confined space and darkness, people just sort of panicked.  Their skill fell into the abyss of their now inaccessible higher brain function, as Fight, Flight, or Freeze took over.  The darkness of the trunk and the walls that felt just too close for comfort sort of swallowed up any hopes they had for staying calm.  Lucky for all, it was just a drill.

Just last week we experienced a 4.0 earthquake here in Maine, whose epicenter was just 8 miles from my home.  Now, I know that those of you who live perilously perched upon fault lines like the San Andreas are probably giggling to yourself, as a 4.0 isn't much more than a tummy rumbling where you are, but keep in mind I live in a place known for its tectonic stability.  It came as a tremendous surprise, especially given that I had never experienced this in New England.  It was a reminder that sometimes the totally unexpected makes itself known, and I got to thinking about the practical applications of some basic confined space training.  Imagine the unpredictable happening to you, an earthquake of significant magnitude perhaps, and being trapped amongst debris, waiting for rescue, or maybe having to effect a self-rescue.  This is not the time to come unglued!

The tunnel - which in this case is a length of 18" plastic culvert, available from construction outlets - is a perfect place to train yourself to remain cool as a cuke in less-than-open spaces.  The video below shows the basic movement through the tunnel.  For the sake of brevity it demonstrates just one exercise, moving forward while prone (on my belly).  I also regularly train going backward while prone, as well as forward/backward while laying supine (on my back).  Deeper levels of training are possible by sophisticating the exercise, adding the complexity of tying knots, manipulating tools, or doing other tasks requiring fine motor skills while inside the tunnel.

If you want to create your own "light at the end of the tunnel" obstacle, just make sure you have a good plan for getting your tube home!  That was an obstacle all itself!

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So the question remains:  Are you a claustrophile or a claustrophobe?

I'm looking forward to hearing from you,

~Daniel