The same thing always happens when I go to the beach. I have a panic attack. I know at some point I’m going to have to get into the ocean.
It didn’t bother me when I was a kid, but somewhere along the line I learned to hate, and then to actually fear jumping into a cold body of water. Nevertheless I always manage to do it before the end of the trip. There are three ways I go about it.
The first way is the best way. Just dive in. Once I put my head under I’m completely fine for the rest of the experience.
The second way is the worst way. I go really slow, feet, then legs, then splashing my thighs. It’s a long, lingering and painful way to get where I want to go. Eventually it’s worse staying out than being in! That’s a backwards, funny way to get there, but it works. Unable to stand it anymore, I finally just put my head under and I’m fine.
The third way is the way I usually do it. Long before I get to the water I notice my panic. I have several “tells” that clue me in.
I eat more than I should. I get sleepy. I’m foul tempered.
All of this is because there’s something scary waiting for me, an unresolved difficult thing I have to do. What makes it worse is there’s something wonderful on the other side. I actually love swimming and playing in the ocean, and I hate my own fear and hesitancy.
I do my best to notice what’s happening with myself, be present to my fear so I can make a decision about it, rather than have the decision be “made for me” by my inaction. As I said, I always end up getting in the water. The colder the day or the water is, the harder it is for me to think my way to the quick dip.
Of course these three ways to get into the ocean are the same as the three ways I go into any situation that scares me, any transition from the known to the unknown. I can dive in, I can wait until being out is worse than being in, or I can think it through and act.
While diving in is the best way to get in the ocean, it’s not the best approach to every situation. As you know, I recently signed a contract with a publisher. Diving into that situation might have been a very costly and unfortunate mistake, so I approached very cautiously until I knew that not signing was the worse choice.
Good to know there are different ways to approach scary situations. Better still not to mistake the symptoms of fear for something else. If you don’t even know you’re afraid, you can’t make a choice.
Got stage fright? Would you prefer to dive in, be dragged in kicking and screaming, or analyze your way out there? I’ve done all three!
Adam Cole is an author, educator and performer who blogs weekly on the subject of listening, creativity and artistry. He is the director of Innovative Approaches to Music, a comprehensive look at the benefits of music learning. To view more of Adam's work, please visit www.mymusicfriend.net