Ted Hesser, sports habit fights depression

‘Chains of Habit’ explains how outdoor sports can curb inner demons and fractures

It all starts with an ancient saying and a child talking to his grandfather. Two wolves are fighting, one represents goodness, joy, positivity, empathy, love, and kindness; the other represents greed, jealousy, and fear. The child asks the grandfather which wolf wins…. And the grandfather replies: the wolf you feed. The short film ‘Chains of Habit’ revolves around the nuances of this powerful native metaphor, taking us into the emotional and psychological depths of alpinist, ultra-runner and visual creative Ted Hesser, explaining how physical exertion can limit and counter depression.

Icon Collection Juventus

“I had learned about the two wolves metaphor during a shooting in British Columbia, it seemed perfect for portraying and explaining depression. It’s an inner experience, you feel that something is feeding that bad wolf and you can’t be in control of it…. This idea resonates inside me when I’m depressed, it’s like there’s another actor inside the room. That’s why I need to do sports – to run and to climb. ‘Chains of Habit’ talks about the importance of sport and the physical dimension to regain control of what you feel is slipping away. Endurance activity is the most valuable and healthy tool for creating this displacement. It is essential and healthy. It is not like drugs or other self-destructive practices that, too often, end up trapping people in emotional and psychological distress.”

The relationship between the mountain and this documentary filmmaker/athlete speaks the language of love and intimate exploration of human foibles. Raised by Grand Teton National Park, Hesser refers to this element as a safe place where he has built his working reputation, and where, most importantly, he has shaped and is continuing to shape his own identity.

“The mountains immediately gave me confidence and are still helping me to form a true sense of me. In my college days I was fortunate enough to study overseas and be involved in some great documentary expeditions. I was not a high-level athlete and I was an immature photographer, but being alongside phenomena like Cory Richards motivated me to improve: from that point on I became much more serious about what I was doing. At the same time I fought depression on a private level. Both climbing and running played a key role in this battle. ‘Chains of Habit’ wants to describe this role, which became pivotal during the pandemic, when isolation had dragged so many other people into dark places and no one talked about the value of physical activity in limiting and repairing the damages. It is an extremely personal film, a multidimensional production that involved my heart and mind.”

‘Chains of Habit’ will be one of the featured films at the ONA Short Film Festival in Venice, where Hesser will not be able to be present due to his immanent fatherhood, which is further altering his relationship with life. A new chapter in which sports continues and will continue to play a key part.

“A child makes you reflect on many things. Lately I’ve been working on myself the best I can, there’s a little fire that drives me to try to be happier, calmer and more present. So many people don’t understand that when you’re depressed it’s really hard to focus on other people – you don’t have enough energy. I’m realizing that I can’t take care of someone else unless I learn to take care of myself first. I am meditating, eating well, doing therapy and physical activity. I want to be the best version of myself for my son. His birth will most likely not allow me to be in Venice for ONA, but I hope my short film will help people gain strength and inspiration for their struggles. ‘Chains of Habit’ is meant to be a positive message, one of many, that can help all of us and our daily battles.”

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