A Random Pattern

Archive for October 16th, 2006

Afraid of sharks? Jump in the water.

Monday, October 16th, 2006

I went camping with a group of guys from our church last weekend. It was great, but exhausting.

Saturday morning I jumped in the lake for a swim. None of the guys thought I would actually do it. Several of them couldn’t understand why I would do such a thing. It doesn’t seem that odd to me, but I guess I am a little … different. :)

Now to the point of the story: the entire time I was in the water, I was locked in a mental struggle. Some powerful part of my brain alternately yelled, threatened, cajoled, and pleaded with me to turn around and get back on solid ground. The reason? Well, I might be attacked by sharks!

I can hear you now – “but sharks don’t live in lakes”, you say. Ahh, yes, but this thought did not occur to me until a few hours after I was done with my swim. Strange, no? Either way, when I was swimming sharks were not my only fear. The fear was deeper, more primordial, than that. At times I wondered if giant snapping turtles would attack my legs, or some other “unknown” animal would pull me under.

The fear was strong enough that several times I ceased my freestyle stroke and actually turned back to shore. Never mind the fact that there was another shore not that far in front of me – no, that “flight” instinct actually caused me to physically, unwillingly turn around. I even started back to shore a few times.

At times I switched from freestyle to breast stroke, since freestyle screamed “too much thrashing! You’ll attract their attention!” I can’t say I ever conquered the fear. I grew tired rapidly, and the shore looked further away. I decided to turn around and get back to land. Funny how it seems so hard to get away from the shore, until you decide you want to go back.

This took a toll on me physically. I was already not in great shape. In fact the reason I was out there was to start my swim training for a half-triathlon. Somehow fighting that mental fear actually sapped my strength. This only served to strengthen the fear, as I knew I only had enough energy to make it back to shore, and was sucking wind. “If something pulls you under, you’ve got no chance of surviving” my fear warned me.

Surely by now you’re wondering, “why did you go swimming if you have this strong fear?”  Good question.  :)  Would it help if I say I’ve had this fear for as long as I can remember?  In fact, when I’m swimming in a pool I often face this same fear.

Would it make more sense if I say that I love swimming?  No?  :P  How about this: I love swimming under water, much more than on the surface – and preferably with my eyes open.  Yes, even in pools.

So, why do I subject myself to this fight with such an irrational fear?  I don’t know the exact answer.  I do know that I’m afraid of heights, and insist on climbing up high whenever I have the chance.  I’m also afraid of the dark, though strangely not as much as I used to be.  Sometimes when it gets strong, I go stand in the middle of a room with the lights out, and close my eyes.  I suppose I’m more confrontational than I ever thought I was.  All I know is the fear doesn’t necessarily get weaker when I face it down repeatedly – but my ability to continue functioning through the fear gets stronger.

I suppose one guess would be that I don’t like being controlled by fear.   Care to offer your opinion?  Or confess your secret fears?  I can’t be the only one with a completely irrational fear of sharks, can I?