Facing Fears and Making New Decisions

So, today my girlfriend and I went swimming – and I actually swam (well sort of, I had to use a kick board, but still…). See, I’ve never been able to swim. I never learned when I was a kid, and I had quite a scary experience in water when I was younger, so I’ve just avoided it really. I don’t mind being in water, in fact I really enjoy it, and I even don’t mind being under water and can hold my breath for quite a while. I’m absolutely fine in a pool until I lose my sense of control. As long as I’ve got one foot on the ground, or a side-rail within grasping distance, I’m totally fine. As soon as I feel that weightlessness though, I start to panic and I have to put my feet down or grab the rail if I’m in deeper water. It’s as if something totally overrides my rational thinking, some survival mechanism kicks in and says DON’T DO IT! THIS IS BAD! YOU’RE GOING TO DIE!

It’s nonsense, obviously. That experience when I was younger no doubt gave me some negative anchor points when it came to pools. See, what happened was I was going down a flume in one of those big rubber rings; except I fell out the ring and it kept going, so I had to go the rest of the way without it. When I landed in the water, I went under the ring and couldn’t get out, which for a little kid – despite it probably only lasting a few seconds – was damn scary. Then when it came to mandatory swimming lessons at school, I just refused. Nope – my brain would say – that’s dangerous, don’t do it: you’ll DIE. This I suppose reinforced that belief I formed when I was younger, and there it has lay cemented somewhere in my subconscious, making me freak out every time I let go of being in total control in water.

I’ve had a few people over the years try to teach me to swim, but with very little success. I could never get past that point of just letting go. Until today. This was the first time I’ve been in a pool since I started on this whole introspective journey of uncovering my limiting beliefs, unpicking the threads of trauma, and developing more in to the person I want to be, rather than who I’m just being by default. It helped as well that Vivienne is very patient, and just gets how I work. She’s encouraging without ever being patronising, so it made the whole thing a lot easier.

There’s a certain block there as well – being seen as an adult who can’t swim. I do know a few people my age or older who can’t, and it’s fair enough, but they generally just resign it to ‘well I never learned so I’ll never be able to’. That’s only the case if you’re not willing to learn. As well, you’ll have to deal with being seen as an adult who can’t swim and the idea of people ‘judging’ you – which really, is just you judging yourself. Any notion that people are judging you is generally just a way of disguising that you’re judging yourself (and disguising it even to yourself – self-deception is a powerful thing).

I’m seeing more and more as I re-evaluate aspects of my life that there’s a sort of trend emerging. An event in childhood plants the seeds of some mental schema > this is reinforced through behaviour in adolescence > then it’s acted out and accepted as ‘the way things are’ in my adult life. It’s almost becoming predictable that when I notice some block in my now, that I can trace it back and see the thread throughout my life. Another side of this is accepting that your life isn’t merely the result of what has come before you. Truly realising this as a reality, rather than just a concept, was a breakthrough that I owe a lot of my progress to – so it’s likely going to come up again, in more detail than I can give it justice here. Walking to the pool I noticed myself evaluating in that way. I saw how X + Y + Z = where I am today, then I reminded myself: life isn’t purely deterministic. One factor weighs in heavily on this equation, and that is what are you going to do NOW? Sure, up until this point, this may have been the case; you can see the points laid out behind you that have led you to this exact moment; does that really predict your next step though? Of course not. The steps you lay out in front of you have as much influence, and that’s where you come in.

Facing fears is daunting, and not all of them are as straight forward as a fear of swimming. The thing is though, the same rules generally apply. When you start to break fear apart, you realise there’s often very little actually holding it together. Understanding where these things might have originated, and how you’ve cemented them throughout your life, can help you understand how they manifest in your day-to-day, and begin the process of seeing past these limiting beliefs and biases you’ve accumulated. Your horizons are broader than you could even imagine, so don’t let fear keep you in shallow water.

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