Tag Archives: fear

Following My Fear

Simons Town Lighthouse

The grip of fear. It is something we all feel at times and it literally chokes the zest of life out of us and keeps us standing still in a thick bog of self doubt at times. Can you remember the last time you felt that way? Are you there right now? I certainly am.

It is the madness of my mind that one day I can be full of life and belief that anything is possible and then, the very next day, nothing is possible. Suddenly I am standing in a smelly, wretched bog of fear and my creativity has flown away into the distant sunshine. How does the mind play such tricks when nothing, absolutely nothing has changed to cause that fear to rise in the first place? That alone is a reminder of just how powerful a tool the mind is if we harness it correctly. It certainly is a master of chaos when left alone.

So, I am standing in the middle of my fear at the moment and, as the mud is seeping into my boots, I have been struggling to set myself free. I have been fighting against my fears, wriggling this way and that to get away from it in a fit of huffing and flailing arms and then giving up until I get my breath back. I have been feeling lost and unsure of which way to turn to rid myself of this state of mind.

But then it occurred to me this morning what the real problem is. Instead of allowing my fear to exist and following her to see why she is here I am fighting her. Since when did fighting get any of us anywhere other than into trouble?

I need to stop that right now. Instead of fighting my fear I am going to allow her to sit there quietly next to me and see why she is occurring in the first place. Fears are based on irrational lessons we have learnt at some point and, to our subconscious mind, those fears make sense. Perhaps by getting to know my fear instead of batting her away, I will set myself free. Perhaps simply by knowing that it is okay to feel fear, by allowing her to sit quietly at my desk as I write and watch as I show her an alternative life of joy and laughter, fear will in time settle down.

When fear loses its significance and power over me and becomes an acceptable, perhaps welcome, visitor I can transform her. I can mould her gently into something new that need not hold me back as I pursue my dreams in life.

 

Fear can become my friend, my way of knowing when I need to look deeper to heal old wounds.

Isn’t it sad that we allow our fears to hold us back instead of them being a tool of discovery and investigation? Each of us has fears, whether we choose to admit it or not, and we hold ourselves back from our true power and beauty in life by sitting in the shadow of fear. We all have dreams we didn’t pursue, talents and passions we thought were second rate and not good enough to be shared. How different would the world be if each of us allowed ourselves to shine and let fear fade away?
That is my work at the moment, allowing myself to reconnect to my peace and begin to shine again in my own small ways. I am starting with a healthy dose of play this weekend amongst nature, my favourite breakfast and a reminder that I am doing my best to transform. I am trying every day to follow my dreams fearlessly, I am trying to make a difference and it is okay that right now I feel a little lost as I stomp about in the bog.
Today I am going to sit in my mud pit of fear, eat my marmalade on toast and raise a big steaming mug of English tea to the sunshine. I am going to make it a comfortable place to be, hope the mud doesn’t ruin my clothes and see what the day brings.

Inspire Me

Endless Light and Love – Life is so ironic

Prose over Bros – Relax

Miss Centsible – Speak quietly to yourself

Totally Inspired Mind – Do It badly, do it slowly

Bourbon Tea – Hooray for play

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Winging It

As I write this I am sat on my sofa avoiding the midday heat and surrounded by the delicious scents of warm cinnamon, cardamom, butter, vanilla and gingery sugary goodness. I am paying close attention to the gas hob in my kitchen and wondering nervously if the heat has burnt the pan contents sat atop the hob or if these mouth watering scents means my random act of BAKING A CAKE IN A SAUCEPAN ON TOP OF THE GAS HOB is actually working.

Let me explain how I came to this…

I woke up yesterday and felt to bake a cake for my boyfriend. I wanted to do something nice for him and I pondered my options whilst I walked leisurely to the shop in my bright pink flip flops. The heat of the day slowly intensifying with the rising sun. I stepped up and through the creaking door of my local shop that lies nestled in the shadows of an old dusty church. The choice was limited but three sturdy orange carrots caught my eye and made my decision to bake carrot cake. I picked a handful of the finest walnuts I could see and tucked them into the basket with dates, spices, sugar and more.

I was up early and eager to begin my baking this morning. As I live in Egypt I have been missing the feel of autumn. The red and burnished gold of leaves, the smooth brown curves of conkers. This carrot cake was to be my way of acknowledging the season. It would be filed with golden autumnal sugar, the rich warmth of cinnamon and a touch of cardamom to represent the Eastern spices of where I now live. As I walked into my kitchen I knew I didn’t have scales and would have to estimate the weights of ingredients using a cup and trawl the Internet for a conversion table. I approached the gas oven and despite my best efforts it refused to light. I tried over and over again but it just would not cooperate. I almost burned my thumb on one occasion as the gas flared up and lost the lighter down the back of the oven during another as it pinged out of my grip. I had to leave the room after another attempt filled the kitchen and me with gas that made my eyes sting and water. After ten attempts and a couple of minor gas flaring incidents I resigned myself to no oven. But at least I hadn’t passed out from gas fumes in the process.

By this point I had also looked up conversion tables from cups to grams on the Internet and sadly realised they are all different. I could find no converter that had an answer for each ingredient and each converter gave a different answer for just one ingredient. Oh.  I stared at my dream of autumnal baking bliss, of carrot cake heaven, and felt disappointment rising in me like a soggy undercooked bun. I had no scales and no oven but I desperately didn’t want to give up. I took one look at the gas hob, another look at my largest saucepan and thought

Oh what the heck, let’s wing it and make a cake on the hob

That idea was WAY OUTSIDE OF MY COMFORT ZONE. I don’t wing it when I do things that reflect upon my abilities, that others can bear witness to. I plan, prepare, worry, prepare some more, lose sleep and plan some more. I have, as do many of us, a fear of failure and of being exposed for the village idiot. I fear I am not as good as all that. So the idea of baking a cake in a pan on the hob, with no idea of quantities of ingredients AND for someone else would definitely be winging it and very far outside of my happy place.

At this point I should mention I am recovering from a recent illness caused by, I believe, too much stress from unavoidable outside circumstances but also due to my reactions and expectations of myself. I ignored my Intuition telling me to stop and rest until I literally had to stop and lie down for a week. Yesterday I decided I must listen to my Intuition more and let her guide me. Stop playing by the rules, stop expecting everything (including myself) to be perfect and wing it a little instead with more laughter in every day. I simply do not want to be the cause of my own exhaustion and illness anymore by ignoring my inner self. The world is a harsh enough critic without me adding to it.

I pondered this with a raised eyebrow, and eyed up the hob and saucepan. Could making this cake be the perfect opportunity to put my thoughts into practice and let my intuition guide me? I could listen to my Intuition closely and see if I could make a cake without scales or an oven. I have made plenty of cakes in the past (albeit with scales, a recipe and an oven) and perhaps my inner self might just know the way to do this. Could it be the perfect opportunity to practice letting go of certainty of success? The cake could come out as a soggy lump of undercooked gooey, burnt batter. That would be my failing but perhaps that is okay. I won’t die from it.

So my beautiful imagined day of seamless autumnal baking for my man had turned into an opportunity for some self-analysis, growth and letting go. Who knew an almost lethal oven, a lack of utensils and a willingness to put myself out there could be so therapeutic? No, me neither.

I took a very deep breath, reminded myself to listen closely to me and then winged it BIG TIME. I threw cups of basic cake ingredients into my mixing bowl and hoped for the best. I splashed yellow eggs in, sprinkled over what I felt would be a tasty amount of different spices and added plenty of baking powder. Surely some extra lift would be a good thing for my saucepan cake? I chopped up the dates enthusiastically and threw them in without considering quantity. Why not, we’re not playing by the rules here anymore. As I mixed the ingredients together lovingly I listened closely and my intuition told me it looked about right for carrot cake batter. I poured the hearty, orange flecked, walnut filled batter into my saucepan and promptly fell about laughing at how ridiculous this idea was. Yes it was also FUN. I was letting go, I was covered in flour dust and playing. I was learning to be me and trusting I am enough. I was also learning just how divine raw cake batter tastes. If only one could survive on cake batter alone as a healthy nourishing diet.

So, my ‘cake’ has been on the hob now for almost an hour and we are back to where I started my tale. I am sat on the sofa surrounded by the delicious scents of warm cinnamon, cardamom, butter, vanilla and gingery sugary goodness. I am paying close attention to the gas burner and wondering nervously if the gas has burnt the pan contents. I tell myself it is time to check and guess what….there is a cake in my pan! An actual cake. Sure it’s not perfect looking but it is definitely cake. This is a recognisable edible item, commonly referred to as food. I can’t believe it!

Or maybe I can? My intuition told me all along I could wing this and make it happen. My stubborn mind just refused to quieten down and believe.

After a minor skirmish with my cake in the pan, a knife and a fish slice (I lack utensils here) it came free from the pan and flopped onto a plate with a heavy sigh. Here is the cake in all her autumnal, slightly burnt, middle-stuck-to-the-pan glory. Isn’t it just perfect? I think so. Okay so it may be slightly burnt, wonky and missing a middle section but it represents a step forwards for me and it is gorgeous with plump edges. As the cake cools slowly on the plate by my side I am smiling.

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What seemed like a disaster, a disappointment disrupting my plans, turned out to be an opportunity for adventure, laughter and growth today. The unexpected turned out okay in the end. All I had to do was drop my self-expectations and rules, turn up with an open mind and be prepared I may fail. Choose to give it a go even though I felt out of my depth, wing it with a kind and forgiving heart, listen closely to my intuition and do my best. Perhaps that is all I can ask of myself every day? All any of us can ask of ourselves? Because, truth be told, I think we are all winging it at times and hoping our cake comes out perfect every time. We all have fears,  wish we were better at this, less of one thing and more of another. Do we hesitate and hold back from trying new things because of our perceived limitations?

How about we just stop beating ourselves with the whisk, take a leap and enjoy the ride, bumps and all? Trust ourselves and go for it. Add heaps and dollops of glorious extra frosting and enjoy the cake. Sit down and eat the cake, eat a lot of cake. And say to ourselves…I did my best and that is simply enough. Now pass me my cup of tea.

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Vulnerable & Free

 

“Reach out to me with your gentle heart. Let me see your sunshine and smiling face, your laughter and your glory. Let me hold your hand and enjoy the moments of celebration in life as we share a picnic on summer meadows filled with nature’s beauty. Butterflies kiss the air overhead with the beating of their wings. Let us laugh, recalling success and happiness as we find shapes and faces in the fluffy clouds passing by.

But let me also witness your storms, your failures and your fears. Let me sit by you through your moods and emotions, your darkness and your sorrows. Show me the shame sitting heavily in the palm of your hand that weighs down your limitless mind with thoughts of I Am Not Enough. Whisper in my ear the admission that you too have moments of insecurity, moments of not knowing which way to turn. That you doubt in tomorrow and hold your pain from yesterday. Don’t hide from me the tears in your eyes as you tell me you cannot go another step because it is too much. Let me see those tears. Let me understand all of you.

Let me share with you my cup of tea and be the gentle hand upon your shoulder. The soothing voice that tells you everything is okay, that you are okay. The warmth that tucks a soft blanket around your knees. The kindness that passes you the last biscuit from the tin whilst you curl deeply into the armchair. Breathe and know I am by your side. Watch the roaring fire as the storms in your mind fade away.

Let me be your friend. Let me see all of you and love every moment, every aspect of who you are. For what you see as character flaws and physical imperfections are what make you so very unique. Unique as a snowflake. Each one equally as vital, as important, in creating the beautiful hush of snow across our wintery world. Your vulnerability and shame that you think ought to be hidden away are what make you real. Show me your vulnerability and shame and you are showing me true courage. And with that open heart, that courage, the world and all her love will be yours.”

 

As I read that passage I am reminded of the fact that we all have vulnerability at our core whether we care to admit that or not. Each and every one of us holds it deep in our hearts and tries to push it down alongside fear and insecurity. As humans we are inclined to only show the very best parts of us. The shiny, the incredible, the magnificent, the awesome. We hide the traits we see as less desirable, we hide our fears and longing for connection. We diet, we have surgery, we lie, we cut and dice away in the hope we can become someone else. Yet all we achieve by doing so is never truly answering the question

 

Who Am I?

 

Instead we perpetuate the belief I Am Not Enough.

 

Like everyone else I try to hide away my darkness and my vulnerability. I diet, I think I am not enough at times and it is an incredibly painful journey accepting who I am. But slowly I am being vulnerable, facing my fears and being All of Me. I am starting to realise I am as unique as a snowflake and equally as valuable as the next. Just the way I am.

 

So why do I mention this today? Because yesterday I had the privilege of being awarded a Versatile Blogger award.

 

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This is an award given by fellow bloggers as a sign of appreciation, respect, and support for their offerings to the blogosphere.  A huge part of my journey has been the discovery of my passion for writing and the creation of my blog. By writing I have found my voice and have begun to find my way back to me. Without writing I wouldn’t be where I am today and I certainly wouldn’t be expressing my vulnerability and facing my fears. I would still be hiding parts of me away.

 

As friends old and new have read my words they have shared their own fears, the ‘Oh me too. I so do that!’ moments and inspired me. I have become part of an online community that I adore and have found daily inspiration, laughter and support through the words of other bloggers. To think that my writing is a part of this community and is valued leaves me humbled and touched.

 

And who is the fellow writer that kindly nominated me for this award? The wonderful DaveCenker. Thank you so much Dave. It means the world to me. For those of you that are not already reading Dave’s blog, you are seriously missing out. His writing is powerful, insightful and uplifting when you need it most. His aim in life is to Inspire and Be Inspired and he does just that. Check him out today.

 

There are an agreed upon set of rules that accompany this award. You are asked to nominate up to 15 other bloggers to receive the award and you are asked to share seven things that people might not know about you.

 

So here we go. My seven facts, vulnerability and fears included.

  • I walked into my glass patio door last week. I had forgotten it was closed
  • I am addicted to granola and dry Bran Flakes. I eat them at least twice a day, every day
  • My greatest loves are eating, running, the ocean and her sharks, writing, red wine, inspiring others and books
  • I won a Care Bears colouring in competition as child. I can still picture the drawing, the pens and the prize cuddly bear vividly. Precious memory.
  • My greatest fears are emotional intimacy, realising my potential, dying alone, having my wings clipped and waves.
  • I sleep on my stomach, spread out like a starfish
  • I am 34 and I have a bear called Hugs. He is awesome.

 

Now for my nominations for the Versatile Blogger award. These are blogs that, whether they know it or not, are much appreciated by me. Some I have known for a while and some are new to me. Their writing and images bring sunshine to my day, inspire and encourage me when I need it most. Thank you.

Bucket List Publications, Cupcake ‘n’ Sunshine, Talinorfali, The Snazzy Turtle, Leap Like A Frog, Morning Story & Dilbert, The Better Man Project, You Can’t Hide The Spark, Forest Four The Trees

 

Come fear. Take my hand

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As she touched the keys of the piano lightly her fingers trembled. She was painfully aware of the people around her, felt the weight of their passing conversations press down upon her hunched shoulders as she took a deep breath. She let her hair fall around her face as her eyes darted across the keys wildly. She was unsure if she could remember the piece her heart wanted to play, unsure of the depth of touch needed for the keys to sound, unsure if she had the courage to just do it. She turned her head slowly to the left and peeked through her hair, as if waiting to be caught as an imposter and told to leave. She caught site of families and couples deep in conversation and felt fear rise in her throat and quicken her pulse.

 

Fear told its familiar story of not being good enough, of it being better to give up now than expose oneself and be judged on ability or lack of

 

Fear told her it was better for the music that was deep within her soul not to be heard, for it was no good and was not worthy of listening ears. She would be laughed at. She pressed middle C lightly as her hands shook. Perhaps she could just play quietly so no-one would hear but she could at least ease the ache inside her that longed to make music. She breathed again, looked to the right and saw two smiling faces; her friends cheering her on silently with warmth in their smiles and glasses lifted in congratulation at getting this far. Little did they know her terror. Fear tightened its grip around her throat; her fingers moved away from the keys as she began to convince herself it was better to just leave it, forget her dream of performing and leave it for someone else to play.

 

But then another voice spoke; that of courage and of not giving a damn anymore about being judged

 

Just play for crying out loud, just play and set your soul free. You know this is your dream and it doesn’t matter whether you get every note wrong. Yes, stepping outside of your comfort zone is frightening, fear has a strong hold at times but it doesn’t matter.

 

It is not yours to judge yourself and your ability. It is your job to just do it and explore the magic outside of your comfort and security. The adventure is yours for the taking. Just close your eyes and play

 

So she did just that. She pulled her feet forwards and pressed the pedals with a familiar tenderness. It felt like coming home. She poised her long fingers above the keys and breathed deeply. She breathed in courage, she breathed in fear but most of all she breathed in her dreams and passion and, as she exhaled, she began. It would be a lie to say she hit every note perfectly. A lie to say she was a concert pianist when clearly she wasn’t. But she played with passion; she laughed out loud at the bum notes and giggled as her friends moved closer with their glasses of wine. They listened with smiles and kind heckles to try and distract her further. If she could have stepped back and seen herself she would have witnessed one of her greatest dreams coming true.

 

She had embraced her fear, let it sit on the stool beside her and shown just what she was capable of when her mind set her free

 

She stopped. She played again and then confessed she also had a dream to sing. She had wanted to perform all her life but had never quite found the courage to be properly heard. Never quite found the courage to be so vulnerable as to let her voice be heard.

With strength, a quiet satisfaction and pride at having played in public, she later sang her friends a song. It sounds so simple, as if it took nothing but the act of opening her mouth and letting the tune out. But it took so much more than that for her. Yet again she had to master her fears of failure, of being judged and remind herself of the beauty of play. Of how desperately she wanted to be heard. She paced the room as she considered if she could in fact sing – did she sound terrible? Should she sing quietly? Or perhaps let go, sing from the depths of her heart and pour her soul into her voice?

 

It didn’t matter how she sounded for at least she was willing to try. And so the voice of courage spoke up once more

 

She took that deep breath, closed her eyes, let her shoulders fall and sang as if there were no tomorrow. She soared to the highest notes of a soprano voice and to the lowest tones in the depths of throat; with runs and pauses she held her tune and finally let her voice be heard. The exhilaration was next to none. The freedom of expression was exquisite and when she let her last note out and opened her eyes she found her friends silent. With tears in their eyes they told her they couldn’t believe she wasn’t doing something with such a voice. And with that one performance and those kind words an evening of song and acoustic guitar took shape.

 

And so began a journey whose next chapter is unknown but will surely happen because she let herself be heard

 

As I sang those songs and played the piano during that day last week I felt incredibly vulnerable. I was reminded of how strong fear can be and how easy it is to just walk away from new experiences, walk away from that vulnerability. It is easier than trying something you believe in. I very nearly didn’t perform and I am thankful I found a voice louder than fear that stopped me from giving up. The moment I stepped outside of my comfort zone, stopped judging myself and recognised nothing mattered other than giving it a try, I set myself free. And you can do the same for whatever it is you believe in.

 

Fear will always be with us in one form or another but it doesn’t need to stop us. The key is to learn to master our fear, let it sit beside you and just be.

 

Show fear the magic that can happen when you take its hand and lead it gently towards your dream. It isn’t easy but the rewards are worth every shaky moment when your hands tremble and your pulse races. The rewards of self-belief, of courage, of just being who you want to be are incredible. Even when you hit the bum notes and have to start again, just as I did. Even when you completely forget the line to the song and make it up as you go along, just as I did on more than one occasion that day.

 

S today I encourage you to do something that is outside of your comfort zone. Go and take a deep breath and open the door to one of your dreams and just try.

No matter what happens I promise you it will be magical simply because you had the courage to try

Judgement Tea

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I met an unassuming, quiet girl this week during my working day. She wasn’t feeling very well throughout the trip to sea and she lay at the bow of our boat under layers of clothing and towels. She was mostly fast asleep all morning, curled up small and unresponsive to me trying to assist. I didn’t spend a great deal of time with her – knowing she wouldn’t want to talk when she felt so seasick. She appeared to be your regular young girl on holiday with her boyfriend, perhaps straight out of university, and I left her in peace to rest.

I met a confident, gentle, well spoken Asian lady this week during my working day. She was on her honeymoon and she joined our boat for the day with her husband. Whilst the other guests onboard couldn’t decide whether to go shark diving she was the first to volunteer and she calmly got ready with her husband by her side,  slid into the cage and they enjoyed their first dive with a beautiful white shark. I admired her confidence, her ease at being the first to volunteer without hesitation on what was a cold and foggy day. She was tranquil in a situation that most people find challenging at first if they have not dived with sharks before. I assumed she must be a regular diver with plenty of experience; she had the grace of a mermaid.

I meet different people every day in my work, from all walks of life and they come to spend time on our boat for many reasons. Part of the joy of my work is getting to know these guests, hearing their life stories and being inspired by who they are. Everyone has a story, absolutely everyone, and it is a privilege to be able to listen to their stories when they decide to share them and take home their words of wisdom and apply them for my own growth.

I love sharing my knowledge as their guide on our marine safaris but I wonder if they realise they also guide me?

So, these two guests I mentioned earlier…When we returned to the harbour I escorted our group to the shop for mugs of tea, hot chocolate and coffee. Hands were warmed around colourful mugs; steam rising to soothe cold cheeks as it had been a brisk morning in the elements.  I was afforded more time to get to know the guests as they shared their excitement at seeing the sharks and other wildlife. I asked the quiet young girl if she was feeling better now that we were ashore. What followed was a conversation in which she explained to me she was visiting Cape Town to investigate moving here in the next couple of years and because she was celebrating opening her first school in Tanzania.

She is from Italy and has spent the last few years working in Tanzania with local underprivileged children and one day decided to build a school for them. She has funded it herself, built the school, obtained the teaching materials and books from overseas, will be teaching the children and is training the future teachers. She has achieved this on her own, overseas, away from family support and her school is opening next week.

By the way, she is 24 years old.

She had the good grace and honesty to laugh and admit that most people are surprised when she explains what she has achieved. She knows she looks like every other girl her age, dressed in the latest cool clothing, and hanging out with her peers. Yet one day she woke up and decided she wanted to create a school so she did it. Without any prior experience or qualifications to do so. I was speechless at how she had a dream, a BIG dream, decided that it would happen and made it so. She didn’t tell herself she couldn’t do it, she didn’t give up and she didn’t expect others to make it happen for her. She just took one step at a time, tackled each hurdle with confidence. Her walk turned into a run and now she is considering where to open her next school.

Remember the confident gentle honeymooner that was first into the cage? As we talked about how much she enjoyed her cage diving experience her husband gently took her in his arms and told me this; with an incredibly proud and loving smile upon his face and in his eyes:

His wife only learned to swim four weeks ago. She was terrified of water, absolutely terrified and throughout her life she had only been able to go calf deep in water before having a panic attack. She literally fell apart mentally at the thought of going into water but she wanted to overcome this fear so she could cage dive with her husband. She wanted to give him this gift with all her heart and so she spent time with a coach in the final weeks before her wedding, learning to swim and overcome her fear. As if pre-wedding preparations and stress were not enough, she took on this challenge as well. It turns out that on our boat she was terrified, she didn’t want to get in the water at all and she felt her old familiar panic rising at the prospect of not only being in deep water but also with a shark nearby. Yet she did it without a word of complaint or hint of nervousness to the guests and crew around her. She did it, she loved it and the look in her husband’s eyes told me everything I needed to know about overcoming your fears and about true love.

We are so much more than we appear to be to the world around us and first impressions, whilst important, can be so misleading. They are subjective and based upon peoples’ own experiences in life and their own judgements and expectations. They are a trick of the mind and only a tiny flavour of the depths we all hold.

I never would have known from the demeanor of those two guests that each would have such a story to tell. I was wrong about them and these two people left a lasting impression.

The stranger in the street, your colleagues, your loved ones, the people that pass you by as you walk your life. They are where the real magic lies, where you can find everything you need to encourage and inspire you if only you truly see them without judgement. Let them in just the way they are and listen with your heart rather than your subjective mind.

As I left work that day I was reminded just how important it is that we all hold back from judging people if we are to let them in. Not only when we first meet someone but throughout our time together. To really get to know someone, to let them truly touch our hearts we must let go of our expectations and our own history. Only then can we see the real person, hear the real story and go home to share it with others. Go home and cosy up with a mug of steaming tea, a smile in our eyes and the phrase

You’ll never guess what happened to me today

Hypno Me Happy

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Look into my eyes, look into my eyes, you are feeling veeeeery sleepy…..I decided to have some hypnotherapy sessions recently to conquer my fear of removing my scuba mask underwater. My brain mistakenly believes that if I remove my scuba mask whilst underwater I will die. No half way house, no ‘I may be uncomfortable but I will survive’. Nope, my brain believes no mask will result in sudden death. My brain took great pleasure in showing me exactly how it will react when my mask is removed during my latest scuba diving holiday. I had planned to practice removing my mask to become more comfortable with it on this holiday and with a very dear friend of mine. For those of you that have followed my blog, you will know I am moving overseas in 43 sleeps and part of my plan is to qualify as a scuba diving instructor. I want and need to get comfortable diving without my mask on and, being me, I am going completely over the top with preparations rather than just trusting it will be okay on the day. I have already spent a day in a pool with my old instructor practicing taking my mask off and that went well. I have sat in the bath and filled my mask with water from my pink elephant watering can whilst I relaxed with the bubbles and that went well. I survived; I definitely didn’t die suddenly on either occasion. My brain now believes that being underwater in a swimming pool or bath and removing my mask is not a problem. But the ocean…..whoa that is entirely different apparently.

My diving holiday mask moment went something like this. My dear friend and I went diving, the scenery was stunning and we had great visibility. We went deep and I got narked almost immediately – for those of you that don’t dive, it is a condition that leaves you feeling quite ‘drunk’ underwater and it isn’t particularly conducive to diving well and safely. I was narked and quite frankly couldn’t have cared less if I sank to the bottom of the ocean. I was giggling away to myself, could hear music in my ears and really had very little idea of what I was doing. We went shallow to ease the symptoms and pottered about looking at the beautiful reef and did our safety stop at the end of the dive. I was feeling tired by this point from being narked and my friend kept making me laugh with various underwater impressions from films we have watched together. Some things just make me giggle and I couldn’t stop laughing and flooding my mask with water.  In the end I had to face away from said friend so I could regain some form of control and sort my mask out. I must have been confused from laughing so much, as I turned towards him and thought he gestured for me to try taking my mask off. He knows all about my mask fear.

I was feeling brave, I could do this, I could so do this. I whipped my mask off and looked straight at him. For a fraction of a second it was all good, I had done it, I had actually not died from taking my mask off in the ocean. And then it all went wrong. I panicked; oh I panicked and looked like such a chump. My poor friend had hold of me at the waist as I hyperventilated. I kicked like an angry child who’d had her sweets taken away, looked at him pleadingly (at least I think it was pleading, maybe it just looked like insanity?) and wheeled my arms around as I tried to explain to him in sign language that I was going to die, I had no mask on. Sudden death would occur if I was not removed from the water at that very moment. Being the lovely calm chap that he is he didn’t let go of me as I bolted for the surface. Not that I noticed or cared. I was so far beyond reason it was ridiculous. We made it to the surface, I cried. We made it back to the boat; I cried again. He tried to reassure me it was no big deal. I cried some more and, in a high pitched unintelligible voice that sounded somewhat like a seal, I stated I was going to be the worst diving instructor ever. Ever. Another friend then wandered over and asked if it was a good dive, I cried some more and resumed the high pitched seal impression. I am an ADULT….seriously not cool. I think I failed to mention that my dear friend that I was diving with is someone that I, well, how can I put this? Oh let me be honest…I would like him to think I am awesome, cool, gorgeous, intelligent, basically one super cool chick that he would like to have in his life. Evidently after that performance he is more likely to think I am demented and insane.  And sadly he will be reminded of that if he reads this. Also, it turns out he wasn’t gesturing for me to take my mask off underwater at all anyway. Marvellous.

I don’t particularly want to go through that kind of embarrassment again, so I am pursuing any means possible to get over my fear and have booked myself onto a course of hypnotherapy. I genuinely believe that my mask fear and my willingness to understand and overcome it will give me compassion and make me a great scuba diving instructor in due course. Come the day I have a nervous student who can’t get their head underwater, who has a panic and a wobble of confidence at times, I will be able to help them through it to achieve their dream of becoming a diver. I am hopeful that hypnotherapy will be an incredible experience I can share with my students. And so far it has been just that.

I was so nervous when I went for my first introductory ‘chat’ and I sat there meekly on the chair hoping she couldn’t read my mind and that I wouldn’t blurt out too much information. To be honest, I was expecting the therapist to look like Mystic Meg and have the voice of Alice In Wonderland’s Caterpillar ‘Whooo…are….you?’ I expected to be made to look into her eyes, cluck like a chicken when commanded to do so and then be back in the room in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. She was actually a normal person, there was no looking into eyes and I have not yet clucked like a chicken. What I have done is spend an incredible couple of sessions learning all about fear management, how to reduce anxiety (Lordy knows I need to master that one) and have had a kip on a comfy couch and retrained my brain in the process. I discovered that I am totally aware of everything my therapist says when I am lying on the couch and the sessions appear to work. I haven’t yet delved too deeply into my mask fear, as she is easing me into this gently. However I do feel relaxed, calm and can visualise removing my mask underwater without my pulse going through the roof. That is a good start.

The part that is baffling me though is the appropriate etiquette for when one is being hypnotised. How am I supposed to behave when being stared at whilst lying on a couch? How should I look? What should I do? Being stared at is generally un-nerving for most people and I am not a fan of letting anyone ever see me sleep (in case I dribble a lot). As such, I find this situation quite difficult and way outside of my comfort zone. I just can’t figure out what I should be doing. I have given this a lot of thought and have taken to spending a large portion of my time on the couch trying desperately to keep still and to ‘look’ hypnotised. Yes, that is correct, I try and look hypnotised as I don’t want my therapist to think I am doing it wrong. It is ridiculous. So far I find my right leg has a mind of its own every time I am on the couch and I fight a weekly battle to try and stop it from lashing out at my therapist as she tells me to relax. Apparently involuntary twitching is normal when under hypnosis. Still, kicking her in the face would seem excessive. I also worry that if my breathing speeds up she will think I am coming ‘out’ of being hypnotised. To combat this problem, I have started holding my breath for as long as possible so that I look like I am breathing slowly due to being so relaxed. The only trouble is that I then feel a bit short on air at times, my heart starts racing and I need to suck great lungs of air in surreptitiously. Not easy to get away with in a silent room when you are trying to look appropriate. Oh, I also don’t dare swallow either in case that isn’t supposed to happen – which doesn’t help with trying to prevent dribbling. An hour is a long time not to swallow…After going through this malarkey for what seems like ages every session I usually give in and relax from sheer exhaustion. I can’t help wondering that if I relaxed sooner it may be even more beneficial.

But on the other hand, what if I relax too much and let out an almighty fart? Then I really will need therapy.