Fear of the (un)known

Its no surprise to you by now that I am a little bit of a coffee addict.  I tend to relate my life story to the process of making the most glorious nectar of the gods from bean to cup and how there is a strange parallel that can be drawn from this highly complicated and creatively ingenious process.  My second office is the local Starbucks that is across the road from my clinic, which is currently where I am composing this post.

However, this isn’t really about coffee… more about conversations I’ve had over said beverage and just how important they are.  Over the past few years I’ve learned a LOT….that might actually be an understatement.  I’ve always had a small interest in the field of psychology, in particular sports psych, simply because of the clientele I see on a daily basis.  It wasn’t until my recent life implosions that truly birthed this new desire to explore more into the way we are wired as humans; why we think the way we do, why we are so different in our personalities, how we interact with others etc…

To be honest, it wasn’t until I was completely vulnerable with a good friend that I really became aware of this new train of thought.

I love watching my kids swim.  The way jumping into a pool or lake can immediately put a perma-smile on their faces.  The laughter, the fun, the opportunity to simply enjoy quality time with them or just observe the beauty of their young innocence is overwhelming!  Personally, I’m not a huge fan of swimming, but that’s my own lack of self confidence that even at thirty-six years old, the slight embarrassment of my rocking ‘Dad-Bod’ seems to still cause a hesitation to go shirtless in public…don’t judge, I’m a work in progress!

In conversation with a client, who is a swimming instructor, we were discussing the difference between teaching kids versus teaching adults how to swim.  In her experience,  instructing her adult clients was much more of a challenge then teaching kids.  The difference comes down to fear.

Fear of the consequences

Fear of the lack of confidence

Fear of the known

I’ve witnessed this with my own kids.  Having five of them, I am acutely aware of the liberties a child with no fear can have around water, when fun is the only thought that their innocent and still developing brain comprehends at the moment.  Only until they begin to experience the consequences of an inability to float or remain head above water  does the fear begin to cause hesitation.

It’s the fear of the known or the possibility that something bad can happen that causes a crippling anxiety and paralysis.

So back to coffee and conversation…

I’ve learned there are three possible reactions to the art of being vulnerable an sharing our story with others.

  1. Our struggles, hurts, anxieties, worries etc, will be too much and push others away
  2. Our vulnerability will strengthen and deepen a relationship
  3. You will learn more about yourself then you might want to!

Unfortunately I’ve been on the receiving end (a few times) of relationships gone sour thanks to being vulnerable and open with those I thought might understand or be able to help.  There are individuals in our lives that only see skin deep, who can’t get to the heart of our experiences and won’t have the ability to or the desire to jump in the deep end with us for fear that we will pull them under.  This could be because they are not good swimmers themselves and have a fear of drowning or have had their own past experience of jumping in to help save someone and being dragged to the bottom.  Although sometimes not their fault directly, in most cases (in my cases), people were only willing to step in the shallow end and try to encourage from a distance, or felt I was a lost cause or too far gone already.  Based on my experiences in the past few years, this doesn’t help… when in full panic, drowning, hopeless, hurt and unable to catch a breath.

For those reading, who may not be suffering, could I encourage you to not be afraid to get wet?!?  It might be uncomfortable and seem dangerous, however, I can tell you with absolute truth, that those you are supporting (whether it feels that way or not), do appreciate your willingness to jump in.  And if they don’t, that is their own choice and is not on you to bear that responsibility.

For those reading, who may be suffering, could I encourage you to not allow those experiences of lose and despair to discourage you from continuing to call for help?!? Will you be so bold to attempt another conversation? To continue to seek out those who can help, who although may not understand, will be empathetic and lend an ear and the friendship you so desperately need!  There is the very real possibility of finding deep meaningful friendships and relationships with others when we are vulnerable and transparent.  We are truly able to determine true friendship when they are willing to jump in the deep with us and be exactly what is necessary in our time of need.

I will be honest, I have found that the act of vulnerability has become easier with time.  In fact, I just met with a friend tonight over coffee to just be real and open.  And the more I talk to friends about my struggles, the more I write them down, the more people reach back.  We all need each other, we all experience times where life becomes overwhelming and we feel like its impossible to keep our head above the water.

So be open, be real, be vulnerable.  Trust that there are others out there that will come along when you need them.  Reach out, don’t lose hope and trust the journey.  If you feel you have no one, if you’ve lost all hope….please remember you can text 7058682616 – even if we don’t know each other, I’ll be happy to lend an ear.  Coffee and conversation are two of my favorite things.  I may not have all the answers, I may not be a psychologist or life coach, but I can be a friend.  We all struggle, don’t do it alone!

Until next time…be well

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