Friday, January 20, 2012

Extinguishing a Fear

Happy Friday, y' anyway, I don't consider myself a fearful person in general. Cockroaches, rats, snakes, spiders, flying, heights, public speaking, intimacy...all fine by me. But today I'll talk about one I do have. The earliest time I can remember being underwater was when I was four. I somehow, I forget how, got into a part of a pool that was deeper than I was tall, and so under the surface I went all of a sudden. Tremendous fright ensued for the seconds until an adult helped me out. I can still visualize the scene even now.

I took a few swimming lessons later, but they didn't take, and I never learned as a kid to conquer my fear of going underwater. Whenever I tried to, my respiratory system would get weird and chlorinated water would shoot up my nose and I'd start panicking. Even when my mind wasn't afraid, my muscle memory would be and the whole experience was really uncomfortable. So I'd almost never try. Wasn't the end of the world, but it was embarrassing to not be able to do what others were doing. I've never jumped off a diving board in my entire life, for example. As an adult, swimming occasions are rare unless you seek them out, but this issue has gotten no better - I still can't go underwater comfortably. My working assumption (excuse?) for a long time is that it's been an involuntary physical reaction. Which it is, but the physical dimension of it shouldn't close the door. It's irritating, but not catastrophic, and if I can learn to breathe and not tense up at the wrong time, well, maybe I can overcome this. And it would mean a lot to me to do so - I think anytime you beat a fear, you're bound to feel empowered. So I say I've had enough of this crap.

Some fears are complexes that require a more nuanced approach, but this one's simple - just practice sticking my face underwater in a controlled environment until I get a handle on the breathing and the psychological component of the reaction is weakened. Tonight after work, I put my face underwater in the bathtub ten times, for ten seconds at a time, opening my eyes, doing it at different points in the breath cycle, etc. A few misfires, wasn't comfy by any means, but I got through all ten times and feel uplifted now. Do it every day, a little more each time, and I expect I'll have it sussed eventually. That'll be cool.

1 comment:

  1. Ah, fear of swimming. Same here. Rather, a fear of not swimming, I guess. I had an embarrassing experience during a work picnic where I went into the lake to retrieve an errant volleyball. I ended up a little deeper than I anticipated and lost my footing. Since then, I feel very apprehensive about going into water.