Tuesday, 4 November 2014
One day, in the summer holidays, I took my five year-old swimming. He was under-confident and clung to me, having lost all the confidence he had gained in his swimming lessons, before the summer holidays began. Then the alarm for the 3-minute warning of the wave machine sounded. He panicked, began to shiver and asked me to take him out of the water.
"It's OK to be scared", I told him. He tried to pull me towards the shallow end, but I held him tightly, and stayed where we were. I decided to use this as a mindfulness opportunity. "I can feel how scared you are. What is it that worries you the most?" He replied, "being pushed over by the waves". So we had something to work on. "That's a possibility. You're scared of the danger, aren't you? That's OK, we can work with this, too. Are you still feeling really scared?" He nodded. "That's OK. But you know that right now, it is safe for you to feel scared, because I am here and I won't let you get into danger." He began to loosen his grip around me. I empathised with his feelings, naming his emotion (fear), and together we accepted the fear. As the wave machine began swirling the water around, he had already acknowledged that he was scared, accepted his emotions, and been given a safe space to experience it. When he accepted that his fear would not be realised, he relaxed a bit.
At this point, I moved a few paces deeper into the water, the waves colliding around us. He allowed me to do this, and I asked him how scared he was. "Not as much as I was" he said. Then he asked to get down and go under the water with me. We submerged ourselves for a few seconds, holding hands, before resurfacing. He was jubilant: "I did it!" He suddenly found his confidence, and he directed me to the shallow end, where we jumped over the waves together. His moment of fear in the past, replaced with fun and confidence.
I have used this sort of technique for all sorts of moments where fear is the thread of the situation. In all cases, once the fear has been acknowledged and accepted, the process of overcoming it can begin. Fear will remain as long as it is unexplained, or unidentified. By tapping into the fear and unravelling it, it can be overcome.