The basic abseiling procedure is: Tie on, learn how to control your speed, back up to the cliff edge, and hang your heels out into space. Then just lean back, tilting slowly over your feet, so your ass is in outer fucking space and your feet are now in front of your face.
It turns out I fear ropes. Intellectually I understand that, if I fall, I'm tied to two ropes and I'm definitely not going to die. I probably won't even get seriously bruised. But I find it hard to make that shift, to go from "I'm confident on this cliff edge" to "I'm trusting my life to this rope."
I got to the cliff edge and couldn't lean over. No way.
So I practiced leaning back on the cliff top, so that I plant my feet and just... sit down. I couldn't even do that. I cannot trust the rope, there's no memory in my life that says "The rope will save you." All my memories of ropes are in Boy Scouts where I couldn't tie a knot to save my life.
So I thought maybe I could climb up from the bottom. I got about 8 metres up the cliff face and discovered that I was out of convenient handholds. Perhaps I could have proceeded on a risky course, but - and this is the crucial bit - I didn't trust the rope. I was basically stuck, and had to go back down.
Near the bottom I intentionally put myself in a bad position, 3 metres up, where I basically had to rely on the rope. I still couldn't do it. I hobbled down a bit, and tried again.
Finally, a metre off the ground, I leaned back, put my ass in deep space, and trusted the rope.
I didn't die.
So I did it again, a metre up, just to be sure.
Well, that's one fear on its way to being conquered. Baby steps.
Much thanks to Matrix and his endless patience - I reckon he spent an hour talking me through it. "Just lean back..." "Yeah, it's not the concept I'm stuck on, it's the execution!"