Writer and blogger, Elaine Ambrose, recalls how a memory of a traumatic near drowning experience in her childhood, nearly scuppered her recent snorkeling vacation. I found her approach to processing her fear for healing hugely helpful.
She describes her memory vividly: “I remember flailing and struggling for breath before sinking slowly. I’ll never forget the feeling of sinking, weak and silent, to the bottom of the pool. I can still feel the rough texture of the pool against my skin. The memory makes my heart race. I have been in the water many times since, but the traumatic memory has never faded entirely. I admit that I am afraid of deep water.”
Recognise and handle your fears
Elaine Ambrose suggests that there are several ways to recognise and handle childhood fears, and these may help you deal with yours or empathise with others.
“First, acknowledge the fear is real. I can’t pretend the near-drowning never happened. The memories are embedded in my mind and can emerge any time I’m in deep water.
“You can also empathise with others who have childhood fears. Some adults are afraid of the dark; others have a phobia about dogs or spiders. Remembering your own apprehensions and experiences can help you understand and sympathise with them and stop others from mocking their anxieties.
“Seek help, if necessary. When fears become debilitating, professional counseling may be required to address and overcome the issue. Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome encompasses many symptoms, and a trained counselor can make recommendations for treatment.
“Your experience is part of your story. I survived the ordeal at the swimming pool, and I can use that successful reality to face other obstacles. Surviving an ordeal makes it easier to tolerate another one, like record snowfall.
Your fears do not define you
Elaine is convinced that her near-drowning experience is part of, but doesn’t define, her life. “My adult children have seen me face my fears by snorkeling and waterskiing, so they know I’m not too afraid to get back into the water,” she says.
As expected, the snorkeling adventure brought back the memories from 1965. But Elaine remained calm until the fear subsided. “I paddled on top of the deep water and gazed at the abundant, beautiful vision below. The brochures were correct; it was some of the best snorkeling in the world,” she concludes.
Facing your fears requires courage and often practical actions that take you beyond the potential paralysis. Sometimes it is simply to make a decision whose outcome is unknown; at other times, it is confronting someone whose words or actions have hurt you; and sometimes it is taking up the challenge not to live a mediocre life. This can help you live a fuller life as you take hold of all the promise that your second half holds. Be brave.