top of page

Going knowingly into the unknown- Adventure Psychology (Paula Reid – The Adventure Psychologist)

Having recently been part of ‘inspiring evening’ of talks (which I must say, I was privileged and shocked to be a part of), it dawned on me that the psychology of an adventurer is unique and complex. The stories that I listed to allowed me to imagine near on impossible feats, near death experiences and adventures that had been possible through sheer resilience and the old adage of ‘mind over matter’.

Before my slot, I was concerned as to whether or not I had included appropriate information. I felt anxious (yes, we all feel some sort of anxiety at certain points) about whether people would understand what I was on about and ultimately whether people would even be interested. This was because all the previous speakers had incredible stories that I could only dream of doing, but I could offer a lens through which to view these adventures could be viewed, a way through which a room full of adventurers could understand their motivations and how adventure impacts our psychology. This was how I reframed my anxieties and presented my talk to the audience.

In researching the area, it was apparent that adventure is something that is characterised by volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. This is something that contrasts purist sport psychology which is often seen as constant and performance is sought in fixed conditions. For many, the uncertainty is what characterises adventure, and this is often accompanied by fear (which may seem negative), but without these we do not have adventure.

At this junction, it may be useful to highlight that as much as these are some of the characteristics of adventure, there is a need to go knowingly into the unknown. In essence this means to be as prepared and as well versed as possible prior to embarking on an adventure. This is highlighted by an anonymous quote; “you can’t predict the future, but you can prepare for it.” This quote resonates even more in today’s society due to an ever increasing number of people taking up adventure pursuits.

This increase in adventurers may be as a result of the unknowingness of adventure, but it may also be due to the multiple physiological and psychological benefits that can be enjoyed. Some of the psychological benefits include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Improved motivation

  • Improved mood

  • Improved self-efficacy- challenges our “comfort zones”

  • Improved mindfulness

  • Improved subjective wellbeing

  • Lower stress levels

  • Sense of independence, reward, variety, etc.

With these benefits, there are also challenges associated with adventure psychology such as fear, lack of self-efficacy, failure and motivation, but as with most challenges there are often ways in which we can overcome them.

As with all work that I do, the foundation to overcoming challenges is creating an awareness and an understanding of these challenges. From here we can then begin to encourage best practice in relation to the upcoming adventure and perhaps even begin to integrate other psychological skills into the programme. This may all happen before the fact and crucially helps us in going knowingly into the unknown. Whilst in this relative unknown, it is vital to remain present and aware.

This is just a brief recap of my talk and I’d be more than happy to elaborate on anything in here if anyone has any queries, thoughts or even contributions!

bottom of page