When I was around 4 years old I had a phobia. I was really panicked about swimming and water.
My extreme fear of water landed me in swimming lessons. This was an attempt to lessen my fright and eventually learn how to swim.
I remember the day of my first lesson very clearly.
The swim instructor was very outgoing and friendly. There were a lot of kids splashing around, which felt intimidating. I refused to get off that first step. Anxiety pumped through my veins. I was perfectly intent on staying securely on the pool’s edge.
My instructor came over and asked me to come with her. I eventually agreed and grabbed onto her for dear life as she peeled me off of the pool’s edge.
She walked with me on her hip, bouncing us gently, into deeper and deeper waters. She reassured me every step of the way, “You are safe. You are ok. It’s ok, you can trust me. See, you are ok.”
I clung to her petrified. Then slowly gave in and began to trust that everything was actually ok and I was safe.
The game changed.
She grabbed me tight. She pulled me under the water without any warning.
Seconds felt like an eternity.. I wanted out, I couldn't breath, the rug had been pulled, anxiety turned into panic. I was horrified, stuck and helpless. I held my breath in the sheer terror, I squirmed trying to free myself to breath again.
Finally, she let me up.
I think I screamed. Probably for my mother’s arms. The nightmare was over. Or was it?
I look back and realize this woman had the fully fledged intention of showing me I could survive going under water. However, what was accomplished was the opposite. My fear and panic were now anchored in for life.
Without knowing it, my perception of the world shifted that day too.
“Adults are not trustworthy.”
“Just when I feel safe, the rug gets pulled.”
“Life is chaotic and unpredictable.”
“I’m not safe especially when someone tells me I am.”
These perceptions become the filters we see the world through. These perceptions often live beneath our awareness, until we unearth them.
“Adults are not trustworthy.” Not only does not serve me, it is not true. This unconscious belief wrecked havoc throughout my teenage years until I became aware of it and could heal it.
We take these with us, consciously or not, to keep us safe. The limit of them is that they eventually keep us small, keep us from blooming fully and keep us looping in predictable patterns.
Thinking back to a fearful experience you remember (one that is not overwhelming to recall), what beliefs did you take away from that moment?
Are these beliefs true today? Do you they serve you? What is the truth?
This is not only a process of pulling out the weeds in our unconscious beliefs. It is about planting new seeds. The truth does set us free.
By Laurel Elders, PCC
IICT Founder / Senior Faculty