Talk to anyone who engages in the Trad style of climbing and they will be able to talk to you for hours about having a good "lead head" or some other variant.
Unlike other forms of climbing, trad climbing brings with it maybe the greatest natural risk outside of mountaineering and ice climbing. In trad climbing, where you place you own gear to protect yourself from a fall, even relatively easy climbing can quickly become terrifying, say if you, climb to far above a piece of protection or you don't fully trust a piece of protection after setting it and moving on.
I have personally had some terrifying moments as I was forced to test a piece of protection as my fingers slowly slipped away from the rock, and I have even bailed off of doable climbs, covered in cool sweat and having to intentionally take deep breathes.
Why do it you might ask, why take a risk like that?
Well for me a least, the benefits outweigh the risks by a pretty high margin. When I have a good "lead head" it extends into the rest of my life. I am more confident, more desisive, better prepared to face difficulties at work or a home. One way of putting it is that I am better prepared to face change.
But I also knw what it's like to lose a good "lead head", I have hung on a rope and yelled down to a partner, "my head is all screwed up!" Losing a lead head can result from a recent fall, a long lay off from climbing, or maybe a failure in one's non-climbing life.
I haven't done much climbing in the last 5 years or so, and have been trying to get back into it. Strength wise I am maybe as strong as I have ever been thanks to a local climbing gym, but I have been struggling with getting my "head" back.
Maybe it's not a coincidence that I have had some rough times in the last five years. Things have taken a wonderful turn for the better the last few years, but I had yet to get my "lead head" straight.
I few weeks ago I led this beautiful climb, called Arch in the Gunks near New Paltz, NY. Although it is rated at 5.5 (a moderately difficult climb) it's the hardest thing I have led in years.
In the photo you can make out the roof of the Arch (hence the route's name). The climb goes up the center and then exits around a corner just below the tree in upper right hand corner of the climb, and moves right out onto the face below the tree.
There is really just one challenging move, a move that gets harder if you are taller. It's not that hard, but all you've got is a fairly crappy handhold as you move around the airy corner. It's this fear factor that makes it a bit more of a challenging climb than the rating let's on.
As I moved towards the hold, and readied myself to make the move, I felt that old fear bubble up to the surface. I took a few deep breaths and pulled through to the other side and into a more "comfortable position".
Again the move wasn't that hard, it was still pretty scary. After making the move though, something interesting happened, I felt my "lead head" come back!
Being, even momentarily in this place of discomfort, it allowed me to grow, to regain some confidence. I think being willing to exist in uncomfortable spaces is key to moving boldly forward.
Now, I will admit I am not ready to start climbing truly difficult climbs, but I am certainly ready to get on more challenging and fun routes. But what's more impressive is the effect getting some of that confidence had on the rest of my life. I was better prepared ready the challenges and the surprises and all the world had to throw at me.
I think this is echoed in the Gospels, as Jesus allows himself to be taken into captivity and eventually the cross. Jesus was very concious of his spiritual practice, constantly being willing to put himself in uncomfortable situations, whether with sinners or lepers or foreigners, not to mention his 40 days in the desert being tempted by Satan.
To be able to proceed boldly to the places we are called, we have to practice being uncomfortable, learning to push through the fear we might have, and on into the new reality offered in the body of Christ